Valter Birsa: Under the Radar

The devastating news came in swiftly and without any warning: Bakaye Traoré would be traded to Genoa for some midfielder called Valter Birsa. After losing so many beloved players last summer, now we were swapping a cherished 27 year-old midfielder with a 27 year-old winger that we didn’t even know. Or did we? It seems he is actually a familiar foe, he has just always flown under the radar.

A quality player but without the ego... I'll take one of those, please!

The 27 year-old Slovenian International got his youth career start close to home at nearby club ND Bilje and then as his talents shone through, he transferred to Primorje and even got 1 senior appearance for the club. At the tender age of 17, he transferred to Gorica, where he scored an impressive 26 goals in 61 appearances for the club over two years. As a midfielder.

He may be popular with the ladies back home, but he doesn't let it go to his head

His impressive feats there gained the attention of League 1 scouts, and so in 2006, he was signed for Sochaux. Only he was unable to repeat his scoring feat there, scoring only 8 goals in 66 appearances in 2 1/2 years’ time. So he was loaned out to Auxerre for the second half of the season. Despite only one goal (albeit vs. Lyon) in 15 appearances, Auxerre opted to make the loan permanent, and he spent the next two years with the club. It was likely in 2010 in the Champions League matches vs. Auxerre that Milan first crossed paths with the player.

He's familiar with Milan... as a Champions League opponent

He had played for the Slovenian U21 team, but was also the youngest Slovenian player to receive a callup for the senior national team, too, at the age of 18. He had scored a couple of goals in qualification leading up to the 2010 World Cup, but he also scored a goal against the United States on the world’s biggest stage that year in South Africa. Slovenia of course have never won a World Cup, and actually currently sit in fifth place in Group E in qualifying, so aren’t likely to be at next year’s World Cup, either, barring a miracle. But for a country of about 2 million to be currently ranked 45th worldwide tells me that they aren’t a joke, either. Birsa has 63 caps for his country in the past 9 years, including a start against Albania on Friday, so he’s no slouch. He just seems to have flown under the radar.

He's also met a few of our players in Serie A

But back to his club career, he moved from France to Italy in 2011, signing for Genoa. He struggled to make the starting lineup, however, and earned only nine appearances. So last season, he was loaned out to Torino. There he still struggled to fit in with only 14 appearances and 2 goals on the season. He played against us again in Serie A, but flew under the radar.

He knows our next opponent well, too

Enter the Galliani-Preziosi zone. Traoré wasn’t exactly happy at Milan, and Birsa didn’t necessarily want to go back to Genoa. But then Genoa didn’t want Traoré, either, and intended to loan him out to Olimpiakos. However, Traoré’s entourage failed to negotiate an appropriate deal for their star client with the Greek side, and the whole deal looked doomed. Enter Antonini, career Milan player and purveyor of the best PFW of any Milan player on Twitter. He wanted playing time, something Genoa was more prepared to offer the 31 year old. Birsa needed a new club, and was a good option for Milan to have when playing wide. So just as it seemed the whole thing was turning sour, BOOM. Birsa was a Milan player.

He's been to the San Siro with his buddies Petagna and Saponara

The question remains as to whether or not he will get playing time under Allegri. At the age of 27, Allegri cannot claim age as a problem, he should be in his prime. But with the new flurry of trequartisti flocking to Milan and Honda expected to add to the ranks in January, it is less likely that he will play the 4-3-3, which suits Birsa better. It is ironic that our infamous number 10 just left Milan, as Birsa wears the number 10 for Slovenia. But at Milan, he was wise enough to choose the number 14, and that decision alone speaks volumes about him. I like this guy already.

He's already gotten comfortable on the Milan bench

So the question remains, I suppose, of whether it is better to sit on the bench at a club like Genoa or sit on the bench at a club like Milan. Despite a bloated squad size, with some of our midfield options, I suspect he just might get playing time, and I for one want to see what the guy has in the tank. He certainly has some quality, but doesn’t seem pretentious in any way. Sometimes, those are the best players. The kind who fly just under the radar. Welcome to Milan, Birsa!

This post inspired by the music of Weezer

Valter Birsa: Under the Radar Valter Birsa: Under the Radar Reviewed by Elaine on 4:00 AM Rating: 5
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