For almost seventy minutes, Carlos Bacca had waited. AC Milan were taking on Carpi and, as the darkness of a late-April evening descended on San Siro, the two sides were playing out a drab and uneventful game that would eventually end 0-0. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the Colombian is not a player who drops deep in search of the ball, and the Rossoneri have rarely asked him to track back and help out defensively.
This has often led, as it did on this occasion, being an isolated and frustrated figure as he watches his team-mates struggle to overcome even the most mediocre of opponents. It was then that Coach Cristian Brocchi decided to make a change, telling Jérémy Ménez to prepare himself to enter the fray.
The fourth official's board signalled the switch, and upon seeing his number 70 was the one being called, made his way to the touchline looking thoroughly unimpressed. Fixing his boss with an incredulous glare, Bacca left the field without ever acknowledging his French team-mate and immediately went down the tunnel towards the locker room.
According to Italian TV station Mediaset, he didn't stop there, promptly getting in his car and leaving the stadium before the match had even come to an end. The player apologised his actions a few days later but, while Brocchi dismissed it as “just an outburst” and insisted it helped the squad to resolve a number of other issues, the entire episode arguably serves as a perfect metaphor for Bacca's Milan tenure.
Joining the club in a €30 million move from Sevilla – where he had won back-to-back Europa League titles – he gave up guaranteed Champions League football to join a club who had failed to qualify for Europe at all. Believing that the Rossoneri would be resurgent under Siniša Mihajlović, the 29-year-old arguably outperformed expectations in his first season on the peninsula, but he would spend long periods waiting for service just as he did in that stalemate with Carpi.
His final tally of 18 league goals was the third-highest in Serie A, but both men who netted more did so after being handed far more opportunities to score. Indeed, while Bacca averaged just two shots per game according to WhoScored.com, Gonzalo Higuain's record haul of 36 goals came from a staggering 5.2 shots per game and Paulo Dybala took 3.1 on his way to 19 goals for Juventus.
Simply put, when Bacca was given a sight of goal, he was deadly. Each of his strikes came from within the penalty area and he is not the kind of player seen chasing a lost cause down the channels behind a full-back. Yet at Sevilla, Unai Emery had him pressing defenders and working to turn defence into attack and it perhaps with that in mind that the striker has begun to once again attract attention from the Premier League.
“You never know about the future, it's in God's hands,” Bacca told the Calciomercato website last month, but that has not stopped one side from stealing a march on their rivals by lodging a bid as the season came to an end. “There was an offer last week from West Ham which was rejected so we must wait,” his agent Sergio Barila confirmed to The Guardian before admitting that Milan’s ownership situation complicates matters for his client.
“Carlos is very happy in Milan because it is a very big club and he has enjoyed his time there so far. But they will not play in European competition next season and that could be a problem. At the moment Carlos is training with the national team for the Copa América and it is likely we will have to wait for the new investors before anything can develop.”
Liverpool – who were interested in Bacca before he moved to Italy – have also been mentioned as a possible destination, with the player one of few valuable assets available to the Rossoneri as they look to once again rebuild after years of financial mismanagement. Silvio Berlusconi is reportedly in talks with a Chinese consortium who wish to buy the club, and it is unclear if players would be allowed to leave before any deal is completed.
The bid from West Ham was believed to be in the region of £15 million and Milan will understandably hold out for a greater return if they are to part with their leading scorer, with a strong showing in the Copa América Centenario likely to be a major boost in achieving that aim.
So until then, Carlos Bacca continues to wait. For the ball, for Milan to be sold, for a return to European action, for a chance to score yet another goal.