Greetings fellow Milanisti! I wanted to take a break from the usual discussions about whether Balotelli is a rotten apple and whether Allegri is the right coach for Milan so I wrote this fanpost.
We have now experienced the first half of the so called “year zero”, the start of a new project that, according to Silvio Berlusconi, in three years time will see us back at the top of European football. What have we seen so far and lies ahead? These are the questions that I will discuss in the following.
As this fan post will include some predictions about the future I will be forced to rely on some assumptions on the development of our players. This is really not something I like to do as football is an unpredictable game and you never know who will make it to the top or fail somewhere along the way (just ask Pato). I will also have to make some assumptions regarding how our management will act. This I like even less as B&G have shown time and again that they will promise A but do B. But, alas, predictions about the future of a football team are not possible without making some assumptions.
The summer of 2012 and the beginning of a new era
The player exodus last summer was a hard blow to the team. We lost the two biggest stars of the team, Silva and Ibra, and we lost our Senators. The only decent signing in the first half of the summer was Montolivo, a player with great potential but also a player that did not have the superstar status of Silva and Ibra. Cassano felt betrayed by the management and forced Galliani to let him go to Inter. In the last weeks of the transfer market we managed to sign a couple of decent players but none of them could compare to the players lost.
The management told us that we had to balance the economy and that the offer from PSG for Silva and Ibra was too good to refuse. They also promised that this would be year zero and the beginning of a new project. Milan would invest in youth and infrastructure and in three years time return to the top.
The player exodus was painful but necessary. Milan had run a large deficit for years and Berlusconi was no longer willing to cover our losses. With FFP approaching, the economy had to be adjusted to become more sustainable. This could have been addressed earlier as the reasons for the deficit (long, expensive contracts awarded to older players, signing players on free transfers and thus paying them high salaries, extravagant signings like Ronaldinho) had been there since the Champions League victory in 2007 and even before that. But I’d like to avoid dwelling on past mistakes and instead look to the future.
Investments in infrastructure and the youth sector
Since last summer we have seen investments in the awful pitch at San Siro and an overhaul of the dreaded MilanLab. We are already seeing the results of this as there have been significantly less injuries this season and the eyes are no longer sore from watching San Siro in January. The reduced number of injuries can also be attributed to a younger squad and, since January, the absence of Alexandre Pato. Hopefully we will see even better results in the coming years as a result of the investment in Adidas MiCoach Elite System.
Our youth teams have consistently developed decent players like Matri, Astori, Paloschi, Antonini and Abate but have since Maldini failed to develop a true Campione. This will hopefully change as Galliani have repeatedly stated that “we used to buy Campiones but now we will make them”.
Recently, Galliani, Allegri and the youth coaches had a meeting where the strategy for developing our young players was discussed. It was decided that Milan will draw inspiration from the Ajax and Barcelona academies and make all the youth teams play a similar style of football as the first team. While this would mean that the 4-3-3 formation will be the formation of choice for our youth teams, a decision I do not agree with, I think that it is a good idea to have the youngsters play the same formation as the first team.
Another development in the youth side seems to be that Milan are now willing to pay large sums for very young players, players like Hachim Mastour. While the result of this type of transfers is yet to be seen it is at least an interesting development and a testament to Milan’s investment in youth.
The winter mercato
During the winter mercato it became obvious that the management wanted to stick to the promise of buying young players. Three of the four players that Milan bought were under 23 and two of the players played in Serie B. I personally think that it is a very wise decision to invest in players from Serie B. It is a tough league so the players need to be strong physically and mentally, players bought from Serie B will have easier to adapt to Serie A and finally, players from Serie B will already be accustomed to playing and living in Italy and thus will need less of a transition period than players bought from outside Italy. We also know that there are many talented youngsters in the Serie B, just look at Verrati and Insigne who, just a year after moving from Serie B are making an impact in their new clubs.
Once again, the management delivered on their promises and also demonstrated that they know the value of older players in the squad. Galliani is an expert in finding good veteran players in the bargain bin and Zaccardo is a type of player needed in a squad filled mostly with youngsters. My hope is that he will become our next Yepes.
Current players and future transfers
Our squad now consists of 28 players excluding players on loan. Allegri have consistently stated that he wants a squad of 25 players plus three goalkeepers so those are the numbers that I will rely on in the following. As 4-3-3 seems to be the way forward, I will use the 4-3-3 formation as the basis for my analysis.
Abbiati, 35 years, Amelia, 30 years, Gabriel 20, years.
Our current problem in the goalkeeping department is that we have two decent keepers but lack an exceptional. My hope is that we sell Amelia who have not proven worthy as a first choice keeper in a team like Milan and invest in a keeper that hopefully will be immediately able to become the first keeper (I hear that Consigli’s contract expire this summer). We renew Abbiatis contract with one year in case the new keeper fails to deliver. The summer after this, Abbiati retire and we can hopefully promote a keeper from the primavera.
As much as I love Yepes, it is time for him to retire. Unlike Gianfranco I actually want Mèxes to stay. I hope that we buy Zapata in the summer (and I believe that we will) and I hope that Salamon will get some playing time once he is back from his injury so the club can decide whether he should stay with the first team or be loaned out. I also hope that the club will invest in a talented CB (Astori or Ogbonna comes to mind but there are others as well). If we manage to sign a good CB during the summer we could start the next season with a central paring of Zapata and the new CB, Mèxes and Salamon/Zaccardo as first reserves and Bonera hopefully remaining on the bench. With three decent CB’s it will also be possible to play a three-man defense if the situation requires it. While it would be no Nesta/Silva partnership, I think that it would be good enough to challenge for the Scudetto and a quarterfinal in the CL (provided that we manage to hang on to third place). If Zapata, Salamon and the new CB develop nicely I believe that we will have a strong defense, capable of challenging the top clubs in Europe in one or two years.
After having complained about our fullbacks for years I, amazingly, do not consider it a position to be prioritized in the summer mercato. I would love to see Vilà get some playing time to allow the club to make a decision about his future. If he doesn’t satisfy the club then he can be sold and we can rely on our other four fullbacks. Constant, De Sciglio and Abate can rotate on the fullback positions and Antonini, as much as I love the guy and his twitter feed, will hopefully remain on the bench. If worst comes to worst both Zaccardo and Bonera are able to play as fullbacks. Santon is a dream but I think the money is better spent elsewhere. With these fullbacks I think we will be able to compete for the Scudetto and even in the later stages of the CL.
Massimo Ambrosini, 35 years, Nigel De Jong, 28 years, Sulley Muntari, 28 years, Antonio Nocerino, 27 years, Bakaye Traoré, 27 years, Mathieu Flamini, 28 years, Riccardo Montolivo, 28 years, Kevin Prince Boateng, 25 years, Bryan Cristante, 17 years.
As Galliani have said that Cristante will be promoted to the first team I added him to the list. While I hate to admit it, it is time for Ambrosini to retire. Traoré haven’t really been given a chance but as we already have so many players with similar playing style he should be sold. A younger player can fill his roll of coming on late in the games. I believe that we desperately need two players to the midfield, a pure DM as a replacement for Ambrosini and a creative midfielder in case Montolivo is injured or if we want to play two creative players in the midfield. At the moment, it is hard to say which midfielders except Traore that should leave as Muntari, Nocerino and Boateng have all underachieved and as Flamini, whom I would gladly have gotten rid of last summer, is suddenly starting to play well. We also have Urby that will return from his loan spell with Fulham this summer. I guess we will see during the latter half of the season who deserves to stay.
This is actually pretty easy! Bojan can return to Barcelona and play horizontal passes and fall down as soon as someone touches him with Messi and the others. I really don’t see any reason for Milan to pay for Bojan to stay. I also believe that Robinho, as much as I love him, should be sold. Bojan will be replaced by Saponara and Robinho can be replaced by Paloschi whom I hope we will get back from Chievo. That leaves us with an attack consisting of El Shaarawy, Balotelli and Niang and Saponara, Pazzini and Paloschi as reserves. Admittedly, this means having three CF competing for one spot and only three wing-forwards competing for two, but Balotelli can play on the wing if necessary. In case of a severe injury crisis Boateng can do a decent job as a winger. This would mean that no money has to be spent on the attack and we will actually be able to spend money from a Robinho transfer, as well as his high salary, on other positions. This leaves us with an attack that will be competitive for several years and, if our players keep developing, an attack that will make us able to compete for the CL trophy.
While 2012 was a difficult year for the Milanisti, I, at least, am starting to feel positive about the future. If the management continues with the current plan I think that we might very well be on our way back to the top. But there are still some worries.
First, we need to qualify for the CL. If we don’t, it will be difficult to attract players in the summer and it will really hurt the clubs finances.
Second, while Barbara Berlusconi has promised that we will no longer sell our star players I am not so sure that I trust her. I fear that, if we can’t resist offers from richer clubs, we will end up like Porto, always selling their best players. I would hate to see that happen. As it currently stands, other clubs are considering us a selling club. I don’t want Arsene Wenger even looking at El Shaarawy and I don’t want Spaletti to believe for a second that Abate is for sale unless the club says that he is. Signing Balotelli was a good statement from the club but I want to see more.
Third, we still need our own stadium. Luckily, investment in a new stadium is excluded from the FFP rules so if Berlusconi wants to invest in an arena it will not affect Milan’s ability to buy players. The question is if he can afford such an investment in the current economic climate. If we want to keep up with the competition from the other big clubs, however, a new stadium is a must.
I hope that you enjoyed reading my thoughts about the future. I wish you all the best! Forza Milan!