French defender Philippe Mexes joined AC Milan from Serie A rivals Roma back in 2011, since when the 32-year-old has had mixed reviews from the Rossoneri faithful.
He has often been a frustrating figure in their backline, lacking in consistency. Indeed Mexes has often been described as a “loose cannon,” which certainly hasn’t been far from the truth. The Frenchman has picked up an incredible 41 yellow cards and seven reds over the course of his Serie A career.
In the last few weeks though, Mexes has won plaudits in an average AC Milan side, who find themselves lingering in eighth position.
In the opening weeks of the new campaign, AC Milan were shipping a bundle of goals. The Rossoneri’s thrilling 4–5 win against Parma certainly emphasised that. It was embarrassing for an AC Milan side who have historically been a benchmark in defending, not just in Italy, but in Europe as well.
Mexes’ first start for the Rossneri didn’t arrive until November 8, in a 2–2 draw against Sampdoria. In all the previous nine Serie A fixtures, he was either on the bench or completely dropped by Filippo Inzaghi. The coach preferred to juggle between Alex, Daniele Bonera, Adil Rami and Cristian Zapata for the central defensive positions — a decision which hardly paid dividends given that the side conceded 13 goals from those nine games.
Since starting in that game against Sampdoria, the Frenchman has started in every league game, with AC Milan conceding just two in five games. His presence in effect marked quite a remarkable turnaround.
Mexes has in fact proved himself to be an important component in Inzaghi’s side, finding form and consistency in an AC Milan team which has serious defensive frailties. Mexes proved his importance most recently in the 0–0 draw against his former side Roma, as he was awarded man of the match.
His recent performances have even led Adriano Galliani — who at the start of the season looked to offload the French defender — to praise Mexes’ professionalism and application.
“When he’s been called upon, Mexes has played very well,” Galliani said to acmilan.com
Not so long ago, AC Milan boasted of the likes of Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva in their defensive. Those days are now way behind however and the Rossoneri have now to work with the personal at hand.
From the current centre-backs at their disposal, Mexes is the most experienced in Serie A and perhaps — although not technically the best from the defenders on paper — the sole, veritable leader on the pitch AC Milan possess in terms of defence.
His organisation and presence in the team has shone right across the team and certainly has had an impact on the players’ confidence around him, in particular new goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
A consistent back-line has been missing from this AC Milan side in the opening months, with Inzaghi often shuffling the pack and unable to settle on a central defensive pairing. One thing is certain however, Mexes must remain in the heart of that defence.
This article was originally published for ForzaItalianFootball.com