AC Milan have always prided themselves on getting a bargain when they delve into the transfer market and if they can sign a free agent so much the better. However, for every Thiago Silva who cost €10m and was sold to PSG for €42m, there has been a Fabricio Coloccini, a Mario Yepes and most lately reported Manchester United target Philippe Mexes; players who have failed to live up to the best traditions of the famous red and black defence that has boosted the names of Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, Alessandro Nesta and of course the aforementioned Silva.
In fact, Mexes once claimed that Nesta was his role-model, but while the Italian will be remembered as one of the coolest and unruffled central defenders of the modern game the Frenchman has forged a reputation as something of a hothead, prone to some astonishing lapses of concentration.
His seven years at AS Roma were coloured by plenty of petulant incidents which at times cost his side dearly such as verbally lashing out at a fourth official following a red card at Brescia which cost him a three-game suspension and two needless yellow cards in a Champions League exit against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Although his temperamental outbursts and heart-on-the-sleeve approach, which garlanded seven cards during his time in the Italian Capital, may endeared him to certain elements of the Giallorossi fan-base they overshadowed spells of solid and dominant displays in the heart of the backline.
A move to Milan which prides itself on its players setting a good example on and off the pitch failed to cure his inability to reclaim calm in a pressure situation.
He was handed a three-match ban for a punching Juventus striker Marco Borriello, who had been a team-mate at Roma for a year, during last season’s heated title-chasing league encounter.
That suspension came at a period when he could have used the game time under his belt to good purpose, having spent most of the season recovering, firstly, from a ligament operation carried out before his free transfer and then surgery on a hand injury.
It was that ligament damage and subsequent long recovery that really set him back, coming as it did a year ahead of his 30th birthday when he had made it clear he wanted to end his time in Italy with a league title.
Defending champions Milan seemed to offer that possibility and a €5m salary to go with the silverware, but that extended period on the sidelines all but did for what had been limited pace while a bulkier physique seemed to take something away from his technique.
He was caught dwelling on the ball on a few occasions in the run-in to the end of the campaign when he replaced the injured Silva to partner the imperious Nesta, as the league title slipped away to Juventus.
The knock-on effect has been a downgrading of the Milan squad, with big-earners Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva already sold on, leaving Mexes next in line to be offloaded as the club go hunting in the bargain basement to match their reduced spending power.
A less than flattering Euro 2012 proves that Mexes is on the wane, and surely the last thing Alex Ferguson needs is an ageing defender prone to mistakes. He might be desperate for cover, but surely not this desperate?