I took this International break to once again recharge my own batteries from what has been my single most demanding week as a Coach. On Tuesday the high school team I am involved with was dropped from the CT Cup 2-1 in overtime by a team that was subsequently disqualified for you using a suspended player, but nonetheless our season is over with the tears of the Seniors and the thoughts of what could have been. Next year we will return 9 Juniors to the starting eleven, and the team will be poised to avenge this loss, but it doesn’t make this moment feel any better. From this misery though comes the news that I have been invited to take the next step in my coaching education with the US Soccer Federation, as well as an interview with a local academy, and for that I am extremely pleased, so as I contemplate my future in this game, I can’t help but consider AC Milan’s.
The Rossoneri have begun to communicate the plans to rebuild and rejuvenate the squad. Discussions have begun to return players such as Paloschi, Astori, and Albertazzi; while in the meantime purging the veteran players that are considered surplus to need in the rebuilding process. This is not always easy, as teams to full of youth, such as Wenger’s Arsenal, seem to lack the guile needed to win big games, while aging teams such as Bayern Munich seem to lack the stamina and strength to meet the rigors of a long season. Milan have always found a way to balance this, but as many of us will agree have been on borrowed time since the CL success of 07, but the purge is nearer than many of us think.
A handful of veterans are nearing the end of road on this Club with contracts expiring in May. Dida, Pirlo, Rino, Nesta, Ambro, Kaladze and Favalli are in the final months of their Contracts while Oddo, Zambro, Dinho and Seedorf are close to a year out as well. Sending all these loyal soldiers on their way seems like a team chemistry implosion and losing the veteran presence at the club may be suicide, but there are certainly some moves that can be made to set this team up for the future. I want your thoughts as well, but my ideas are as follows:
The first group is a list of untouchables that MUST remain with the club, and frankly it is far shorter than even I anticipated. There really is no equal for a healthy Nesta and the value he brings to the table on defense extends beyond what he does on the pitch. His partnership with Silva has been excellent and playing two youthful and exuberant CB’s comes with negatives, and therefore a veteran is a welcome addition to teach, but also to provide grit. The only other player on the list is Ambrosini. Why Ambrosini you may ask? Because his fight for the cause has never wavered, he has never demanded first team football, and has always had his head on square for the team and team alone. There was a time when those accolades would be heaped on Rino, but at this point it is plainly evident that he does not get on with Leonardo, and when he is on the pitch he doesn’t have the rounded skills that Ambro brings to the table. It pains me to say it, but for me Rino’s heart and soul left the Club when he flirted with Bayern, and though he arguably had the best season of any player pre-knee injury last term, his attitude towards the Club is no longer what it once was.
Pirlo is also short of the list, Leo likes the 4-3-3, and frankly if done right I doas well. Pirlo is no longer the type of mid needed to make this system work. I love his contribution and his history with the Club, but at this point we need a box to box beast at CM in the mold of Micheal Essien. My vote is for Asamoah of Udinese, Mikel of Chelsea, or Mariga of Parma, who in the end lends more to making Leo’s system a success. Pirlo and Rino to Chelsea for Mikel is starting to look like more and more attractive by the minute, and the least Carletto can do to satisfy everyone at the table.
Sadly the rest of the list can go. There are rumors that Dida and Favalli will part ways with the club come January, good riddance. These two moves can open the door for the potential arrival of players like Ranocchia or Bonucci from Bari, and for a new GK to be groomed behind Abbiati, who will return to first team football shortly, such as Marchetti or Castelazzi, and yes I am being optimistic with these names, but the financial windfall of cut wages should be enough to make Milan a force in the transfer market with the pursuit of quality young players.
It still leaves a bit to be desired at the outside backs position, but frankly the talent in this position is a bit shallower than people are willing to notice. If you stop for a moment to consider the best players at the position: Ramos, Cole, Maicon, Evra, and Alves; these are all players that would cost a heap of money, and frankly would be like luring Maldini away from Milan. The best bet here is to push the issue with Abate and Antonini and promote from within the Club. I am not familiar with many of the names from the youth squad, but if you consider the wealth of wingback talent historically nurtured at AC Milan: Maldini, Panucci, Costacurta, and Tassotti, it cannot be without reason to think that this player SHOULD exist. If not, then versatility is the next big thing. A LM or RM with a penchant for defense can be easily pulled back alla Janks, or more recently Abate. No matter how you look at it, this position is and will be continue to be the biggest challenge for Milan and many of the other clubs looking to bolster this position.
Now it is your turn…