Silvio Berlusconi continues to be the biggest problem for Milan as the club attempts to return to its winning ways.
Despite being a former long-serving (albeit scandalous and controversial) Prime Minster and the current leader of the Forza Italia party, Berlusconi has not been diplomatic in his speech when it has come to his club. (Come to think of it, his tenure as Prime Minister was plagued by many a political gaffe, so this isn't surprising.) Milan's owner has always spoken his mind, without any regard for the repercussions.
In his latest outburst, Berlusconi was visiting children at a therapeutic center in Trivigliano, a 4.9-square-mile commune in the Province of Frosinone, according to Football-Italia. The children there had met with the Milan players while they were in the area, claiming a 4-2 win over newly-promoted club Frosinone on December 20.
Berlusconi used the opportunity - which, again, occurred at a CHILDREN'S THERAPEUTIC CENTER - to troll his own club.
"I know that you met the Milan players on Sunday before the Frosinone game. I hope you told them how to win," Berlusconi said to the children, according to La Gazetta Dello Sport. He also told the children they are lucky to have their coach, a priest named Father Matteo, seemingly suggesting he is a better tactician than Sinisa Mihajlovic.
Under Mihajlovic, the Rossoneri are in sixth place through 17 rounds in the Serie A with 28 points, four points adrift of fifth-placed Roma. While Sassuolo still needs to make up a game with Torino and could leapfrog Milan by two points, Mihajlovic has at least managed to amass three more points in 17 matches than Filippo Inzaghi did at the helm last season.
Three points is not a massive difference, and Mihajlovic deserves some blame for Milan's wasted chances against Carpi and Verona. However, the Rossoneri have been visibly better under Mihajlovic, as Inzaghi proved better suited for the Primavera job he had done so well. Mihajlovic is perceivably on the hot seat, given Berlusconi's comments. Such a situation is wildly unfair to the Serbian.
Of course, this is a common trend recently among Milan coaches. Leonardo only lasted one season. Massimiliano Allegri got the benefit of Milan's bargain deal for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho. Inzaghi got the boot - although deservedly - after a single season.
The biggest question mark among managerial decisions continues to be Clarence Seedorf. When Allegri was let go, Seedorf returned to see out the second half of the season. Milan won 11 of its final 19 matches, moving from 11th to eighth, but Seedorf was still fired in favour of Inzaghi. Things seemed to be going in the right direction. The man known in his playing days as "The Professor" looked to be turning Milan around. So why fire him? Berlusconi's impatience set Milan back again.
Now, he is angered that Milan is in sixth after spending what he claims to be 150 million in the summer. Milan's additions actually cost about 85 million, and it's not necessarily Mihajlovic's fault expensive signings like Andrea Bertloacci have yet to reach their true potential with Milan.
Players are improving, however. Alessio Romagnoli has been better in recent weeks. Andrea Bertolacci has shown he can be a difference-maker in the midfield when healthy. Carlos Bacca can find the net. These signings will be crucial in the second half of the season, but Milan needs to bolster aspects of the club that may not be deep enough right now.
To Mihajlovic's credit as a tactician, he has not stuck to one way of thinking. When the 4-4-2 was not working, he switched to a 4-2-3-1, and Milan began to play better football. Circumstances have led him to revert to the 4-4-2, but that will probably change again soon. Do not forget Mihajlovic is also the man who made the risky move to start a 16-year-old, wide-eyed goalkeeper with a dream. So far, that move has paid dividends, as Milan would probably be in a worse position if not for Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Most importantly, Mihajlovic has what only one Milan manager since Carlo Ancelotti has seemed to possess: the overwhelming support of the locker room.
Giacomo Bonaventura appears to be Milan's de facto leader at this point in time, though Riccardo Montolivo still bears the armband. He has been arguably Milan's top performer this season and seems to command the respect of his teammates. His word carries weight, and his review of Mihajlovic is glowing.
He said the following to Premium Sport:
"I may never have had such a rapport with a Coach, especially from a human point of view.
"Of course, when the team needs to be driven, he knows how to be mean. He has great qualities as a person and he tries to give us his tactical imprint.
"The work we're doing is right and I believe it will lead to results. We thought we'd do something more, but we really are united and we fight together to achieve the highest result."
Former Milan players are in favor of the Serbian boss, as well. Alessandro Nesta, in particular, is a fan of Mihajlovic. The inaugural coach of Miami FC, a new club in the North American Soccer League owned by Milan legend and Nesta's former teammate Paolo Maldini, said the coach has not necessarily been the problem, but Milan's rapid recycling of coaching can be.
He said this to the Gazzetta:
"Mihajlovic is the right person for this Milan, he's tough and he knows how to do his work. I hope they don't sack him.
"Milan can recover and fight for the Champions League, the team isn't bad. They can aim for these positions.
"They need to change mentality. If you have less money than in the past, you have to be careful and not mess up a signing."
That seems to be the long and short of it, doesn't it? Milan's issue has been a lack of finances - an issue that begins with Berlusconi - which has led to curious, cheap signings, from Taye Taiwo, to Kevin Constant, to Cristian Zaccardo. It also forced Milan to sell prominent stars, like Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. Milan has tried to improve by bringing in former prominent players on loan, such as Fernando Torres, Mattia Destro and Alessio Cerci, but to no avail. Impatience has also been an issue. Prominent players in Europe now, like Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Matteo Darmian were once Milan players who showed promise, but were not given proper time. What could have been with Riccardo Saponara?
It certainly does not help when the players Milan is forced to bring in due to its circumstances are then criticized by the owner who is responsible for those happenings. Speaking to the same group of children Berlusconi criticized Mihajlovic to, he criticized several current players.
"Alessio Cerci? Kevin-Prince Boateng is better," Berlusconi said. "As for Cristian Zapata, I don't know why he's playing."
So who is really the problem: the coach, the players, or the owner?