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Matías Silvestre: The Defender Next Door


Often we look around for the very best option, looking near and far for the right person, never realizing that person is right under our very noses. But sometimes, circumstances dictate that we don’t even have time to look near or far, and thus naturally find the most obvious answer. This seems to be the case with our emergency defender purchase this summer, when from diagnosis of Bonera’s fractured kneecap to the loan deal of his replacement took less than 48 hours. But I am really starting to think that our dire need for a defender was a blessing in disguise, since we were forced to look at the defender next door.

It's okay, you're on the proper side of Milan now.

Matías Silvestre was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and began his club with Argentinian giants Boca Juniors. Having spent his youth career with the club, he debuted with the senior team in the spring of 2003 and stayed there through January of 2008. During his time with the club, he made 63 appearances and scored 6 goals.

His transition from Argentina to Serie A was a traditional one, going on loan in 2008 to Argentinian Sicilian side Catania. That first half season was tough for him, having not found favor with Baldini, the coach at the time, so he only made 5 starts and 11 total appearances. Still, he was offered a permanent deal with Catania in the summer. It was former Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga who replaced Baldini and had faith in Silvestre. And his faith was rewarded. He helped Catania avoid relegation that season, then had the most appearances of anyone at the club the next season. That season and the next two seasons saw Catania consecutively break their record for the most points they’d ever had in Serie A. Along the way, he made 118 appearances and scored 7 goals for the club, 6 of which were in his final season with Catania, when he wore the captain’s armband.

Captain and a goalscorer... can he regain his form from Catania?

From there, he truly became the defender next door, as he crossed the line to rival club Palermo. Despite an injury, he still made 29 appearances for Palermo and scored 5 goals that season. Between 2010-11 with Catania and 2011-12 with Palermo, that made 11 goals, the highest for a defender in Serie A for those two seasons.

Next season, however, he moved to Inter, and we have often seen what that does to a player’s career. He did rather poorly, with only 9 Serie A appearances for the season plus 11 more in the Europa League and Coppa Italia for Inter for a total of 20 appearances in all competitions. And to add insult to… well he sustained an injury in April which saw his season end earlier than planned.

Maybe the form had something to do with that godawful kit he was wearing?

But Daniele Bonera’s misfortune became his fortune, and once again, he crossed the derby line and came to AC Milan. In addition to Milan paying a loan fee of €1m for the season, there is a €4m buyout clause in his loan. And I suspect if he plays as well as he is capable of, the club will gladly pay it for him to stay on past this season. At the age of 28, he is a relatively seasoned center back, dependable and experienced, and with 18 career goals on top of everything else. That’s 17 more career goals than the man he is meant to replace.

Then there is our history of rescuing Inter players and bringing out the best in them. Which, if that is the case, then we may have some competition for a starting center back. That would be a lovely problem to have. But that’s not all, he has also played at right back, so we have another flexible defender should injury require his use there. And at 28, he is experienced, but not as old as Bonera, Zaccardo, and Mexés, so maybe a better fit than originally thought.

On a scale of 'better than Bonera,' he definitely exceeds expectations

Sometimes it really is true that what you need most is right under your nose. I like to think that this is the case with Silvestre. While most of us were dreaming of established center backs with giant price tags, he was right across town, a decent defender at a reasonable deal, but with experience and hopefully a return to form that will make us wonder why we ever looked elsewhere. I really do hope that he will prove to be the defender next door that surprises us all. Benvenuto a Milan, Matías!


This post inspired by the music of Enya