Signed on as the heir apparent to departing forward Mario Balotelli, Jeremy Menez arrived in Milan on a free transfer after his contract with oil-fueled French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain ran its course. As a false 9, he was never expected to do the brunt of the goalscoring; Fernando Torres and Giampaolo Pazzini, the club’s two out-and-out strikers, were meant to take care of that. Instead, poor form from Torres coupled with Pazzini’s virtual non-existence in the first-team setup brought Menez to the forefront of the offensive line. Becoming the focal point of the Rossoneri attack, his immediate impact captured the hearts of Milan supporters who were at first skeptical of the chances of his success in red & black.
Despite a certain selfish streak, Menez maintained a constant high level of play, regardless of if he was scoring goals or helping create them. Blistering pace and some of the best footwork in the Italian top flight aided the Frenchman in getting past slower opponents with ease, crafting scoring chance after scoring chance. A sure upgrade on Balotelli, Menez brought with him none of the on-and-off the field shenanigans and all the striking talent. Just as capable a penalty taker as his predecessor, Menez’s ability with the ball led him to be constantly fouled by clumsier defenders, unable to cope with his skill within the box. Not one to shy away from embellishing clear contact, this less-than honest aspect of his game has fortunately not consumed him entirely, as he is perfectly able to score brilliant goals like this and this from open play.
Sixteen strikes later, Menez has become a symbol of light in the midst of yet another campaign of mediocrity for one of Italy’s most successful clubs. Playing up top or on the wing, he has demonstrated a consistency in high performance not seen in Milan for several years. Even the arrival of Mattia Destro from Roma in the winter which pushed Menez out of a full striker role did not diminish the Frenchman’s impact, and on multiple occasions he singlehandedly won games for Milan when the rest of the team was lost in its own failure.
Is Menez wasting valuable productive years of his career at a club that looks like it won’t get any better for the next few years? Probably. Although he is a sure in for a start with the Rossoneri, he is not getting any younger, and doesn’t have too many years left with his sublime pace, which constitutes a major part of his game. With his ability, Menez could have gone instead to teams challenging for trophies. Successful wherever his career has taken him, his reinvention as a fully capable striker has only added to his attractiveness as a cheap, effective, and versatile player. Somebody who can man positions anywhere from attacking midfield to either of the wings is quite a valuable asset, and Menez could be a prized addition to various title contending teams.
Menez could easily earn more, achieve real success, and not be embroiled in a cycle of disappointing league results should he opt to leave Milan. With his value boosted with a phenomenal Serie A campaign, the 27-year-old could command a nice transfer fee for Milan and continue his time as a player at a much better team. Indeed, Frenchman-loving Arsenal FC are rumoured to still be interested acquiring the forward’s services after missing out on a chance to sign him last summer. With Menez seemingly yearning for Champions League football, the club, which has several of his countrymen currently on its books, could prove to be an attractive destination for the former PSG man.