"Coaches are like wives, though. He has found another and has abandoned me. But I am a lucky man because I found Montella and he is the best." Spoken like an ex that claims to have moved on, but really hasn't moved on, Sampdoria's President Massimo Ferrero added a little bit of intrigue to to a usually routine fixture, as Sampdoria are set to arrive at the San Siro to play Milan on Saturday night.
In the summer, Mihajlovic's contract expired with Sampdoria, and instead of re-upping with the Blucherati, the Serbian coach chose to accept Milan's offer to become their manager. Ferrero was clearly disappointed, and why wouldn't he have been? Mihajlovic did a tremendous job with Sampdoria last season, as he guided them to a place in the Europa League qualifiers, and instituted a defensive system that gave up the fifth fewest goals in the Serie A, with a 19-year old kid at the heart of it.
Ferrero tried to replace Mihajlovic with former Sampdoria goalkeeper Walter Zenga. The move was generally panned at the time, as Zenga was seen as a step down from Mihajlovic, rather than as the man who could make the fans of the Blucherati forget about the coach that has "abandoned" them. Zenga got off to a horrendous start; in his debut behind the bench his side were spanked 4-0 in the home leg of their Europa League qualifier by Serbian side FK Vojvodina. Despite a decent start to the Serie A season with a win over Carpi and a draw against Napoli, Zenga quickly lost control, and Sampdoria went on to collect just 12 points in their next 12 games, culminating in Zenga's sacking after a 2-0 loss to Fiorentina on November 8th.
Ferrero then shot for the stars and hired one of the most sought-after names available in Vincenzo Montella. Montella made a name for himself at Fiorentina, and began to generate whispers that labelled him "the next big Italian coach", but following a falling out with ownership, Montella was left without a job when the Serie A season began. The intrigue in the Montella hire comes from the fact that he is so different than the man who led them to success last season, he being Mihajlovic. It will be interesting to see how Montella transforms a team that relied on their defence to get them results to a team that plays an attacking, attractive brand of football in the the mould of his Fiorentina teams.
While Mihajlovic's time at Milan thus far has been a roller-coaster ride, we are finally starting to see signs of the defensive structure that made him such a hot commodity during his tenure at Sampdoria. In their last five games, Milan have only given up four goals, and this improvement in defence has resulted in a steady climb up the table, where they currently sit in seventh place.
Sampdoria clearly miss Mihajlovic. That much is evident from their place in the table. But can Montella be the man who finally allows Ferrero and Sampdoria to forget about Mihajlovic and move on? Only time will tell.