AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso believes Jack Wilshere would grace any league in world football.
The Arsenal midfielder will line up against Milan this evening as the Gunners look to build on their 2-0 first leg victory to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Wilshere’s future at the Emirates Stadium remains in doubt after manager Arsene Wenger insisted “nothing has changed” in negotiations over a new contract for the 26-year-old.
The England international can leave for free when his current deal expires in the summer, with reports suggesting he has been offered a lower basic wage.
Links with a move to Juventus have developed in recent months and, with discussions at an impasse, Wilshere is already free to talk to foreign clubs.
Gattuso revealed he has been a fan of Wilshere since he broke into the Arsenal side in 2008, while he himself was still at his peak in the heart of the Milan midfield.
“I remember when I came here to this stadium in 2012 and he was just a kid,” he said.
“I think he can play in any league. He may not be super-fast, but he has got great skills and is super-tactical. He has good ball circulation — when he gets the ball he knows exactly where to send it.
“He knows exactly the right pace and can change the pace of the game. He can play central midfield or a little bit further up.”
Gattuso, 40, went on to compare Wilshere to a more continental style of football.
“He had a few physical problems but he has got a great talent,” said Gattuso.
“He can still express a lot and give a lot. I don’t know how it is going to end up with his contract but I have always admired his qualities.
“He is a very different sort of player — he has got the personality of English football but with the qualities of a Spanish player. Two different cultures and I like him a lot.”
Wilshere has re-established himself in the Arsenal first team this season after years of injury torment and a campaign spent out on loan at Bournemouth. Despite becoming an integral part of Wenger’s side in recent months, the 26-year-old has yet to agree a new contract, with reports suggesting the offer on the table is for a lower basic salary than his current deal.
Due to his history of injuries, it is claimed any new deal will be heavily incentivised based on appearances and, after Wenger said contract talks would open last December, Wilshere said after the 2-0 Europa League win at AC Milan that the situation was at an impasse.
Asked if he had anything to say on his contract wrangle after Wenger claimed the ball was in the player’s court, Wilshere replied: “Not really, no. Things have changed since then. All I can tell you is that we are no closer to sorting anything out.”
Wenger offered a different take on the issue when speaking ahead of tonight’s last-16 second-leg meeting with Milan. “On my side, nothing has changed,” he said.
“I don’t know, but Jack will be free at the end of the season. We make a proposal to him, I want him to stay and my desire is to see him linked to the club for the future. I hope he will do it.”
Wilshere could get a chance to bolster his World Cup prospects when Gareth Southgate announces his England squad today ahead of a friendly double-header against Holland and Italy.
Milan are staring at Europa League elimination despite being heavy favourites for the first leg in Italy last week.
They went into the game having not lost since the turn of the year and with a run of six clean sheets, while Arsenal went to the San Siro on the back of four straight defeats.
First-half goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey set the Gunners on their way to an impressive victory.
Gattuso will now look to the example set by his predecessor Vincenzo Montella, who he replaced in November, after his compatriot led Sevilla to a famous Champions League success at Manchester United on Tuesday night.
“I watched the game,” said Gattuso.
“I’m really happy for him (Montella) and his staff. It was a great game in terms of technical quality and they deserved the result.
“Our teams, in terms of characteristics, are similar. But we need to be careful because Manchester United didn’t play their best but we know our opponents are very tough. I hope we can do the same as what Sevilla did.”
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