It’s been 12 years since their last European Cup win and eight since the last Serie A title, and Milan fans are wondering if this long trophy drought will end anything soon.
For those who have followed the Rossoneri during the Berlusconi era, success was almost a given, as between 1988 and 2011, the club won eight Scudetti, five UEFA Champions Leagues, four Intercontinental Cup/World Club Cups among a plethora of other honours. However, in the last eight campaigns, just a SuperCoppaItaliana triumph have given the tifosi anything to cheer, and given recent results, it maybe some time yet for any more trophy celebrations at the Piazza Duomo to occur.
Telling the fans overused cliches like “Patience is a virtue” and “Good things will come to those who wait” etc…will not be very popular, not in this fast paced, “everyone wanting to succeed now” culture that we live in currently.
However, the truth is, the fans must be realistic right now, as the new owners and management look to fix the mess of the previous ones.
Elliot Management and CEO Ivan Gazidis have set out very clear objectives for the club moving forward and have entrusted former playing legends Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban to lead the club.
One of the main plans involved finding a permanent solution to the stadium. Recently, we learned that Milan and city rivals Inter have agreed in partnership(they can work together), to build a brand new stadium, moving on from “La Scala del Calcio” they have shared since 1947.
The new venue is slated to open in 2022, but the Mayor of Milano firmly put the brakes on the project. He stated decisively “the San Siro will remain until at least 2026.” This is in connection with the Lombardy city winning the rights to host the Winter Olympics that year, so we will have to wait and see how that plays out.
Sport and politics erm…can’t seem to be separated…
Secondly, the economic situation at the seven time European champions has been precarious at best and the new owners have to arguably make that the priority. Under Berlusconi in the latter years of the media tycoon’s tenure, the club were forced to see stars such as Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva sold.
Then when the Chinese Consortium, led by Li Yonghong took over, they spent somewhat irresponsibly and all the signs of “We are so rich” now seems like a nightmare, instead of a dream. It led to the club initially being banned from Europe last year, however, after the intervention of Elliot, they were able to get the club re-instated. However, something twice is not always nice, and the club have failed to meet their UEFA Financial Fair Play requirements. This time though, they decided to forego the Europa League for the next year in order to balance the books.
The third plat of what seems like a “Master Plan”, is to reinvest in young players, so basically no more superstar signings, no more grandiose presentations like Ronaldinho’s in 2008, no more “triple handshakes”, hello FASSOBELLI! Interestingly enough, il Diavolo already have a core of young players, such as Giglio Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Franck Kessie, Lucas Paqueta, Krzysztof Piatek etc…that the team can build with moving forward.
However, one such player that was in this category that has since been sold, and I STRESS sold, was 21-year old striker Patrick Cutrone. The Milan youth product was sold to Premier League team Wolverhampton for, what in my humble opinion was a paltry sum of just 18 million Euros plus bonuses. Surely, he was worth at least 30 million!
On a plus side the rumors of the club actively looking to sell “Giglio” have died down, but with still some time left in the continental transfer window to go, Milanisti won’t rest easy until the door is slammed shut.
Looking to add quality players to a team that is not in Europe is difficult, but the club have added a few pieces that could prove very valuable in the present and future. These include left back Theo Hernandez from Real Madrid, Empoli pair Rade Krunic & Ismael Bennacer center back Leo Duarte & forward Rafael Leao. The club has been heavily linked with Atletico forward Angel Correa, but his reported 50 M Euros transfer fee has so far proven a price the Rossoneri can’t match.
At least the club have confirmed their new manager in the form of Marco Giampaolo. He may not be a household name and he may not attract any big headlines, but his tactics should be able to get the best of this group. His system of playing a 4-3-1-2 should allow the best of Milan’s young, but unfulfilled attacking talent in the final third to thrive. The likes of Paqueta, Suso(who has been used as a Trequartista), Hakan Calhanoglu and the strikers, should improve under the Swiss born tactician’s style.
At his previous post at Sampdoria, the 52-year old was able to revive Fabio Quagliarella and raise immensely the likes of Lucas Torreira, Omar Colley, Joachim Andersen etc…and he will be looking to do the same at Milanello.
On Monday 8th of July, the new man at the helm had his press conference before an expected room full of journalists, waiting for their chance to get their questions in and “headline snippets.”
There was one quote that seemed to garner most of the headlines and it was “Heads up and let’s play football.” He mentioned the story about how he got the call from Maldini as he was about to set sail to Croatia with friends and answered questions on a variety of topics. From transfer and rumors of transfers, to specific players to not playing in Europe.
However, what struck me the most about his presser, was how calm, jovial and full of optimism he was, at one point gently touching both Maldini and Boban, almost as if he was hoping to receive some of the positive winning mentality from the Milan greats.
Let’s see if it has any effect.
Remember though, I mentioned the word patient in the headline of this piece, and it will take time for the manager’s philosophy, partly influenced by a certain Maurizio Sarri, to be fully integrated into the club that has gone through eight managers in the last five and a half years.
We must remember, the club went 44 years between Scudetto wins, a club that was relegated twice in the early 80’s and a club that as recently as 1997 and 1998, finished 11th & 10th respectively in the league. However, and I can’t drive home this point enough, Milan has always came back to being a big player in Italian, European and world football, because this is AC MILAN.
Milan tifosi were patient during those times and in this period in the club’s illustrious history, it’s just “one of those times” that it has to overcome. The club needs it’s fans now, as it needed them then, and maybe this can help “Have patience because everything is difficult in the beginning” and make no mistake about it, Milan are indeed at the beginning of a new era.
Celebrations at the Piazza Duomo maybe on hold for now, but the true fans will be there when they resume.
By: Vijay Rahaman