Serie A 2016/17:Milan is a city befitting of greatness - will their football teams oblige soon?
Will the two Milan clubs make their long awaited return to the Champions League this season?
Milan is the most stylish of Italian cities, a place immersed in culture. There is something unique about famous places in the country whose languages derived from Latin. Paris, for example, is known the world over as the city of love; Venice is the floating city and Rome is the home of Catholicism. Everybody knows the history of Milan, the fashion capital of the world.
Naturally, this city in the far North of Italy is notorious for its beauty. When walking around the streets, there is a real sense of history. But fashion is not the only industry intertwined in this remarkable place and football plays a vital role in everyday life.
A city steeped in Footballing history
The city’ two clubs, steeped in memories as glorious as the ground they stand on, are, however, struggling to live up to their gigantic reputations right now, but Inter and AC Milan are on the long, troublesome road back to the summit of not only Italian but also European football.
Between them, these two institutions of the game have won 36 Serie A titles, 18 each, and 10 European Cups. AC Milan, known the Rossoneri because of their famous black and red stripes, have been more successful on the continent, enjoying success seven times, but Inter, or the Nerazzurri (blue and black), won theirs most recently, under Jose Mourinho in 2010, as part of the first treble ever won in Calcio history.
These clubs are as different as they are similar, and their rivalry is as heated as anyone but unique in so many ways.
Single-city derbies are nothing new. England, Scotland and Spain are more than used to watching the closest of neighbours lock horns. But when the Derby della Madonnina is on the horizon, there is a different sense in the air. Hatred is an obvious feeling in these games, but in almost every other clash in a single city, one club has the upper hand.
Celtic and Rangers meet in Glasgow for the Old Firm Derby on Sunday whilst playing at completely different standards; when Manchester City face Manchester United, they do so on a level playing field thanks largely to their mega-rich Middle Eastern owners and for many years, Atletico Madrid faced Real Madrid without a hope in hell of avoiding defeat. Milan and Inter have, for the most part, have been locking horns as equals, whether that be at the top of Serie A, or like right now, as part of the chasing pack.
The beginning of the fall
So many players have pulled on the shirt of both with varying levels of success. They share the most remarkable of stadiums, too. The Giuseppe Meazza, or the San Siro, befits the grandest of stages, but both clubs have fallen from their perch, more or less at the same time. Mourinho’s exit, just after their Champions League success in 2010, was the beginning of Inter’s collapse, while the free transfer of Andrea Pirlo from Milan to Juventus a year later signalled the start of their demise.
Both clubs have endured other issues which have also contributed, but losing Mourinho and Pirlo impacted them in the severest of ways. Milan had just won the Serie A when then boss Max Allegri cast Pirlo aside. He was 32, but he had plenty to offer and the pair, ironically, reconciled at Juve and enjoyed more success together. But his exit was the tip of the iceberg, and Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi decided to break up one of the most successful, long-standing squads in their recent history.
Over the ensuing years, the likes of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, genuinely world-class players, have been sold and not adequately replaced.
Mourinho left Inter for Real Madrid, and their club’s hierarchy has made mistakes of their own since. A lack of stability and poor management have not been able to halt their slide. Coaches have come and gone and Stefano Pioli is the tenth man in the last seven years to sit in the dugout.
A return to glory?
Neither Milan or Inter have played in the Champions League in three years and they have not looked like returning anytime soon. Pioli and his opposite number, Vincenzo Montella, are, however, putting the building blocks in place, and with both clubs under new ownership, perhaps there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Eleven games remain in this Serie A season and a return to the elite competition is not out of the question for both. Inter, in particular, have made strides, and signings made over the last couple of years, such as Geoffrey Kondogbia from Sevilla, Ivan Perisic from Wolfsburg and Joao Mario of Sporting Lisbon, have outlined their ambitions. Currently sixth, six points off Napoli in the final Champions League qualification spot, they host fifth-placed Atalanta on Sunday. A romantic end to the season is in sight.
Milan are one place and one point behind and on a run of five games unbeaten, including four wins. Trips to the Juventus Stadium generally don’t end well for anyone other than the home side, but the Rossoneri will go to Turin on Friday night in confident mood. Carlos Bacca has eleven goals to his name this season, and Giacomo Bonaventura has been in excellent form. Manuel Locatelli and Gianluigi Donnarumma, both teenagers, are the future of the club, with Locatelli modelling his game on one Andrea Pirlo.
Could he emulate his hero and bring this great club out of a slumber?
Finally, for these the most unique of rivals, good times could be returning. Milan is a beautiful city, one deserving of two football clubs that mirrors the life it breathes. Champions League football is to those clubs what Fashion Week is to the city and the sooner they return, the better.