As another football (soccer) season nears its end AC Milan fans are realizing that their beloved club is at a cross roads.
For years financed and saved by billionaire Silvio Berlusconi the financial excesses seem to have ended for the said owner. Expectations however have not and as much as the fans are entitled to demand a continuation of the previous spending ways to compete not only in the Serie A but also in European leagues (Champions League and its wealth) it is up to the owner to do as he wishes and if he is unable or unwilling to do so to consider selling the team.
The major issue and complaint is more than just the (lack of) spending however, it is how the club is run day to day and how the motto of ‘the most successful club’ (in terms of number of domestic and European trophies won) is used as a justification that the team can remain successful. The club is also notoriously stubborn in remaining loyal and to hold on to some players whose best days have passed. Some of those players have high wages which is not helping in these days of restrained spending. At the same time some highly useful assets have been sold (Kaka to Real Madrid) and the threat of further departures (Pato to any one of Chelsea and Real Madrid), to ‘balance the books’ remains.
The 2009/10 season brought a new and inexperienced coach, following the departure of the sometimes maligned but mostly successful Carlo Ancelotti to Chelsea, in Leonardo. The former player who had been at the club as a scout and major negotiator for South American transfers since 2002 was thrust into the coaching position and showed a great deal of intelligence and calm not only in tactics and formation but in dealing with the meddling management and owner wanting to not only dictate lineups but to demand wins despite an aging and weakened squad. Of course there was stubbornness from the coach in insisting on an attacking 4-3-3 formation that resulted in an (early) exit from the Champions League at the the hands of this writer’s least favorite team, Manchester United and an almost as embarrassing wipe out by one of this writer’s other least favorite teams, Inter Milan, in the league. Both teams exploited the team’s weakness and tactics’ naivety to counter attack and kill any chance of a good result.
Recent days have seen reports, not officially confirmed, that the said coach Leonardo might leave because he is being pushed or otherwise and he has admitted to a rocky relationship with the owner. The future of the team is even further in question, the owner is thought to be searching for a yes man type of coach and as mentioned may be tempted into selling Pato and others for even more cash. The squad meanwhile is depleted because of injuries and that has not helped the team when it almost seemed like they may even have a chance at the title this season. This exasperated situation has come despite the daily rumour mill linking highly useful players like Milos Krasic (from CSKA Moscow) and Edin Dzeko (from Wolfsburg) to Milan but it seems unlikely the money for such transfers will be made available and even if they are the team requires more depth and defensive help as well.
It is perhaps time for a new ownership, one that knows the value of investments. It is not necessary to go into a Chelsea or Real Madrid type of spending spree but a more intelligent yet sustained approach at presenting a team worthy of the traditions and value of the club, incidentally one that is still among the top earners in the world. One can name players who perhaps should be let go and others that would serve the team well but above all else this team has the wealth and power to remain among the elites of Europe and the world, if it wants to.