AC Milan: Are the fallen giants on the rise again?
When people talk about the greatest clubs to have ever graced this beautiful game, you simply can't ignore the red and black giants of Milan. With 7 UCLs, 18 Scudettos and an overall of 50 club honours, it is easy to understand why AC Milan is widely recognized for its rich history. Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Kaka, Marco van Basten, Andriy Shevchenko are few of the greatest ever players who have donned their beautiful jersey.
Milan's first period of dominance occurred majorly in the 50s and 60s, with club legend Gianni Rivera being instrumental. The rosy times were followed by a period of misery when they were relegated to Serie B due to the Totonero scandal and went on a bit of a lean patch. That proved to be only for a short while though as a mid-80s investment saw them acquire the services of legendary manager Arrigo Sacchi and the Dutch trio of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, and Frank Rijkaard.
The investments, added to the already rich Italian contingent bore fruit as the Rossoneri achieved exemplary success across all areas of football. Sacchi was replaced by Fabio Capello and Milan fans were treated to great successes which continued under Carlo Ancelotti in the 2000s.
As all good things must come to an end, so did Milan's virtual stranglehold on Italian football as it came crashing down at the same time as the infamous Calciopoli scandal that took a toll on many top sides. Even though the impact was lesser than expected on Milan, they could only manage one Scudetto win post the scandal. To add to their agony, they have had to witness their fiercest rivals Inter and Juventus have streaks of continuous success.
The main cause of their fall from grace was the major instability in the financial aspects of the club. The owners were in substantial debt and struggled to both run the club and sell it. This was accompanied by a clear lack of planning and indecision, both on and off the pitch where quality players were let go and replaced by mediocre and inefficient ones. The club was also hurt by the retirement of their legends, leaving gaping holes in the squad. Managers came and went like a bolt of lightning.
Present and future
Even though the final league table standings don't show it, Milan has been reassuringly improving in the past two seasons. Replenished by new owners, AC Milan have been quick off their feet to snap up young and promising prospects who can turn into really valuable assets if given the right amount of polishing and guidance, in just a short time.
They have attempted to re-energize the squad with youth and cleared out players who were average at best and well past their thirties. In Suso, Krzysztof Piatek, Lucas Paqueta, Franck Kessie, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Ricardo Rodriguez and Patrick Cutrone, they have a plethora of options to exploit the opposition. They are flowing with fresh blood and are expected to create havoc in Italy, provided they are managed efficiently both on the field and in the transfer market.
After an improved, if not good season under club legend Gennaro Gattuso, Milan has turned to the services of the impressive ex-Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo. The Italian was instrumental in achieving Sampdoria's best table finish in more than 4 years and his tactical astuteness was there to be seen.
Giampaolo's Sampdoria team produced some fascinating football to go with some major upsets, that included the 3-0 thrashing of Napoli, beating his current employers and their season's highlight of defeating the champions comprehensively. He majorly favoured the 4-3-1-2 formation. With more than sufficient capabilities, it remains to be seen if he can emulate the past successes of his predecessors and bring back lost glory to the club.