As the world’s Milanista continue to figure out what direction we are taking as a club and at the same time trying to guess how things will pan out for us by the season's end we have witnessed a rising level of angst amongst the tifosi that would give even a Zen master a tummy ache. There has been a sudden break from the acid indigestion afflicting Milanista due to Balotelli’s arrival and it feels like his arrival has acted as a lighting rod for some relief, with enthusiasm now rippling through the Red & Black half of Milan but I feel that even with this new addition we should keep things in perspective.
I’m not going to bother to list all the players who left over the summer and don’t wish to labour it but want to remind myself and readers as to what brought us to a season where we seemed to break all the wrong kind of records bearing in mind we finished 1st and 2nd in the last couple of season. What lead to a team losing most of its former & current stars and future mainstays all in one fell swoop? Who lead the club into shooting itself in the foot? Why would ANY club apparently sabotage itself with such seemingly ruthless efficiency? (Hint: its got nothing to do with Allegri).
"An average age of 105", "It’s a retirement home" and the like have been constantly banded about and thrown with scorn-like malice by neutrals and Milan fans alike as the club appeared to hold onto its last golden generation. We watched on as names like Gattuso, Pippo, Pirlo, Kaka, Seedorf, Nesta & the evergreen Maldini were routinely supplemented with the likes of Emerson, Mancini, Ronaldo & Dinho to name a few well known but worn out faces joining our ranks over the years.
It was called "Operation: Papering over the cracks" and admittedly it was true but with "hindsight" the club was keeping the spine of the team that had won so much intact and simply adding peripheral players around it. When you consider how bad things started off this season it wasn’t an all too crazy way to do it to be honest as it seems like Milan suffered a total collapse since the summer exodus (aka Operation: Remove Spine). Bzzzzzzzz!
I can recall over the years that there were fierce debates on the old Offside over who we should dump, be it Seedorf, Pirlo or Gattuso etc. I got involved to, going as far as to raise doubts over the venerable Alessandro Nesta when questioning the logic of keeping an ageing centre back with a serious back problem. In amongst all the furore was our host Gianfranco, calmly pointing out that while its ok to remove a piece or two from the Milan Jenga Stack the last thing you want to do is "clean house" unfortunately, it appears that Via Turati never received the memo, facepalm.
All teams have a transitional phase or cycles but the one thing that most will appreciate is that we got rid of the old guard BEFORE bringing in true replacements. Now this may not have been the smartest move in hindsight and yes somewhat odd for a team that has consistently been synonymous with near constant success but I for one am happy that it has happened because it had been a long time coming. It may help if you view this self inflicted wound as a removal of a sticky band aid whereby it was necessary to rip it off in one quick go and get the pain of rebuilding out in the open. Yes it was long overdue and yes the fault lay solely with the management but I’m happy to bear this especially now that we seem to have started on the road to truly rebuilding.
This brings us neatly onto the next problem. The team is yet to nurture a true nucleus, a core of players who know exactly what the other is doing on the pitch and can instinctively tell where any given team member is without looking, not to mention the lack of a true leader out there. Now, there isn’t a single one of us outside of the Milan Boardroom who KNOWS what the long terms plans are, all we can do is try to interpret the buying & selling of certain players, comments from Allegri, Galliani, Berlusconi and former players to try to piece together a semblance of a plan but it’s akin to reading tea leaves so lets take a look at what we do know:
- The club has implemented a policy relating to players over 30, its already proven by Cristian Zaccardo’s signing that its not set in stone but at least shows that the club will be far more ruthless and less sentimental when our "new batch" become silver haired Senatore
- The club has slashed the wage bill with the departures of Ibra & Silva and implemented a salary cap of 4 million (excluding bonuses)
- Pippo is now coaching for us. Let me repeat, Pippo Inzaghi in now coaching at Milan! Who better than one of the worlds greatest ever poachers to sniff out and hone the killer instincts of Milans current crop of kids and turn them into ice cold killers on the pitch?
- Youth is the future! We have signed Hachim Mastour, Riccardo Saponara & Bartosz Salamon and already have De Scig, Bang-Bang-Niang & SES in the 1st team.
"Our club has, in the last year or so, completely re-organised costing and investments," she continued. "It was about rationalisation, and various sacrifices were needed, not just in terms of player salaries but also about re-positioning the brand, Milan were the first club to choose to organise their accounts and balance the books. Thanks to this strong decision, we can only stand to benefit with our stars of the future, and still also be able to make some important acquisitions."
Sounds abit rich considering that she cost us 20Milly in the failed Pato-PSG sale but willing to look the other way on this if it means we wont be making anymore mistakes like that!
It’s quite evident that we are no longer papering over the cracks and whether this march to youth is due to a genuine belief in younger talent or being dictated by budgets (or $500 Million fines) it doesn’t matter, its happening! The only thing I can make out at this moment is that we have cause for optimism but realise that we are still a way off from having a genuine "spine" of a future team. This leads to another issue, the squad was truly stripped & gutted over the summer and we have far from rebuilt every dept. With a roster of Pazzo & Team Mohawk we are sitting pretty with strikers and in theory have locked in our strike force for many years to come but that still leaves question marks hanging over the other sections of the squad. Regardless of whether you are into bulldog midfields or yearn for super slick technical football we are still to truly develop a squad for the future. Currently it looks like a bit of a mish-mash of players due to the likes of Nocerino & Prince still misfiring, we can only hope Saponara is as good as advertised and gets 1st team football over the coming seasons. We need a solid CB to compliment De Scig & Constant and now that the mercato is closed means realistically, this is still one summer away unless Salamon is the answer to our feverish prayers but like I said about Saponara we will have to await his introduction into the squad to find out.
Me personally, I’m beginning to see a "project" where as others may simply see Milan scrambling blindly from one random signing to the next, the thing is either way only time will tell if this is all a random chain of events or a coherent strategy. It will take time, not this season for definite and maybe not even the following but I’m pretty confident that the green shoots of change are already emerging, we might have to be patient during the growing pains. A 3rd place finish this season or not I think we have reason to be optimistic for the future!