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Powerhouse clubs looking to rebuild next season - AC Milan

An in depth look at AC Milan, one of Europe's most storied and successful clubs, and what they need to do to be competitive again.

31 May 2016, 10:45 IST
Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi has seen AC Milan slide down the Serie A alarmingly

While the Madrid clubs battled it out in the San Siro for football club’s most coveted prize, the senior hierarchy of AC Milan, one of the world’s most storied and prestigious clubs looked on. Silvio Berlusconi, the eccentric and enigmatic owner, Barbara Berlusconi, his daughter and joint CEO and Adriano Galliani, once the mastermind of this glorious club all sat together and watched Real Madrid win their 11th Champions League Title.

Watching a Madrid derby in a stadium that has seen a resounding amount of European success must have pinched, but the truth is that they have to take the responsibility for the crisis at the club.

It’s easy to forget that Real Madrid are the only club in Europe that have more titles than Milan, who at 7 Champions League trophies and 11 final appearances have had a magnificent history in the competition.

Also read: Silvio Berlusconi's firm offered €700 million for AC Milan by Chinese consortium

Modern football doesn’t have much place for nostalgia and sentiment though, and with the wads of cash that now traverse through the English Premier League, La Liga’s swashbuckling football and recent dominance and even the German clubs making deep runs in Europe’s premier competitions, Serie A needs to keep up.

The troubles that plague AC Milan

Juventus, have cantered through the last 5 Serie titles and have undoubtedly become one of the powerhouses of European football, but the decline of the Milanese clubs has cost Serie A dearly, both in terms of prestige and UEFA coefficient points, in the race to get back their 4th Champions league spot, something that a couple of good European campaigns could still help wrestle back.

Milan’s decline has been very systemic, endlessly frustrating for their fans it has to be said. Berlusconi was once a visionary and everything he touched seemed to turn to gold, from appointing to the relatively unknown Arrigo Sacchi as manager to promoting Fabio Capello from youth team coach but it’s the opposite that holds true now.

Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi, both Rossoneri icons were handed the reins without any substantial managerial experience and they were both sacked not too long into their tenure. Sinisa Mihajlovic didn’t last long either but what has damaged results most of all is the constant sense of pandemonium and confusion surrounding the club.

Apart from appointing inexperienced managers, the team has been in a constant state of flux. No coherent vision has been passed on from the senior management of the team, and this has resulted in no particular playing identity or even enough time for a true sense of grit and resilience to build within the team.

Ricardo Montolivo
Riccardo Montolivo has not lived up to expectations for Milan 

Players have streamed in and out, talented youngsters like Saponara and Suso (now thriving at Empoli and Genoa respectively) have been brought in, only to find themselves in and out of the team without any time to settle.

Veterans like Fernando Torres and Juraj Kucka have also been brought in but hardly given the space to settle or had clearly defined roles to really succeed. Stephan El Shaarawy was let go in the summer, and then handed over to Roma in the January market because the club apparently wasn’t going to play a formation that suited him, only to later change to the 4-4-2 and the 4-3-3, systems that were later crying out for a player of his speed and trickery.

Andrea Pirlo was denied a long term contract, only to initiate an era of unparalleled success at Juve while Riccardo Montolivo, a player who’s been terrible in recent times and is often heckled and jeered at the San Siro and on social media has just been handed a new 3-year deal.

There have been a plethora of issues, and the fact that Milan were overtaken by Sassuolo in the last few match-days of Serie A spoke volumes about how a club with much lesser resources but organized well with a clear footballing philosophy can thrive.

Important decision for AC Milan to make

Milan stand at a very critical juncture now, in serious talks with a Chinese delegation interested in taking over the club that could initiate a new era of success at the club or continue the last three years of mediocrity and fall even further behind Europe’s best clubs. Here are the factors then that I think will determine one of Europe’s most prestigious club’s future:

Scouting Network: There was a time when Adriano Galliani was the most brilliant sporting director in the game. He had his contacts, was (perhaps still is) a terrific negotiator and had an eye for the best upcoming players in the game.

In a world that wasn’t attuned to modern technology and elaborate scouting systems, he was the king. But now, in a time that a multitude of clubs have set up scouting networks, Milan really need to follow suit.

Manager: Milan don’t have the time to continue their hit and trial method with coaches. The club really needs to hire someone who’s been in the thick of management for a while, is tactically sound and knows how to motivate the players.  

Unai Emery would be a great option and the club would need to move soon to appoint him. Christian Brocchi could yet become a great manager in the future but the club isn’t in a position to take a chance with him yet. 

Transfer Strategy: The squad isn’t as bad as the league position would suggest but it does have issues. The positives are that with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, M’Baye Niang and Jose Mauri, the team has some talented young players to build around.

Add Luca Antonelli, Christian Abate, Carlos Bacca and Giacomo Bonaventura to the mix and you have 6-8 players who could hold down a starting spot in the first team for next season as well.

But the other first team positions really need to be filled in from the transfer market. A quality center back to partner Romagnoli, a midfield dynamo to interchange with Kucka and a playmaker to kick Montolivo out of the first team are the absolute priorities. A young winger/attacking midfielder with pace and flair is also essential. The transfer targets must be in tune with the new coach’s requirements and playing ethos, otherwise, it would be futile.

Business Aspect: The commercial aspect is hard to ignore as well. The club must make further forays in the Asian and American markets. The potential is there, Milan have millions of fans in China and so revenue streams must be tapped in these markets.

A new stadium has been on the agenda for a while, and even if this isn’t fulfilled, revenue from the San Siro and adjoining areas must be maximized.  

Milan must move forward with a clear vision and footballing philosophy that does justice to their jersey, their fans patience cannot possibly be tested any further. 

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