AC Milan have fired Vincenzo Montella as manager, ending a 16-month stint as leader of the Rossoneri. His replacement is club legend Gennaro Gattuso, who takes charge for matchday 15 against Benevento, and who is now responsible for salvaging and turning around Milan’s season.
First, a moment of silence for Montella.
Montella did what many agree was a good job with very little in the 2016-2017 season. He led Milan to sixth-place finish in Serie A, clinching the Rossoneri’s return to Europe for the first time since 2014. The attack was led by Carlos Bacca and was revitalized by the loan of Gerard Deulofeu. Mario Pasalic, Matias Fernandez, Jose Sosa and Leonel Vangioni were frequent starters. The revamp of Milan’s roster only came after the end of the season and the opening of the transfer window. In other words, he did well with little, and then was handed a lot and expected to do similar.
Montella was handed enough new players to build an entirely new starting XI. With those players, capped off by Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, Montella was also handed the massive expectation of “Champions League or bust.“ Some even considered Milan Scudetto favorites.
That roster and those expectations are FAR different than those that he signed up for. Regardless of the new ownership and administration meeting with Montella and extending his contract, Montella was given a roster that was coming off a 7th place finish. One transfer window later, driven by an influx of foreign investment, Montella had a roster that some thought should get Milan into the top three almost automatically. All these players who had never played together, combining for the youngest Serie A team, and little time to gel together, were expected to seamlessly turn into Real Madrid and cruise into the Champions League.
To take Montella to task a bit, he did have the summer with most of these players. The formations and positional assignments have been questionable at times. Milan have not used the same lineup twice. How should players gel together and build consistency when the same players never play in the same shape? Milan never showed improvement outside of the Europa League from the beginning of the season until the 0-0 draw with Torino. Some promise, some stagnation, plenty of mistakes, missed opportunities, and simply performances that were not enough.
To give Montella credit, he led Milan to their first trophy in years: a Supercoppa Italiana in Doha over Juventus. A memory his players will never forget, as they raised the trophy over their rivals. A moment that many fans thought was only the beginning of a massive turnaround under a young manager.
Unfortunately, it was not to be, and Milan’s coaching carousel, which has claimed Massimiliano Allegri, Mauro Tassotti (interim), Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic, and Cristian Brocchi (interim), now adds Vincenzo Montella to the list.
Gennaro Gattuso is now Milan’s manager. He will take the step from Milan’s youth system to helm the first team, and has prior experience coaching with Pisa, Palermo, Sion, and OFI Crete.
I am never a huge fan of mid-season coaching changes. I think it throws the new manager into hot water right away, with no time to adapt to the squad or learn what tactics would work, what players work best where, etc. If Gattuso is meant to be a stop-gap, fine. But I do not want him to be hung out to dry should he not turn the team into a Scudetto contender (they aren’t).
I don’t want another club legend’s reputation hurt because they took the chance to manage the team that loved them. I don’t want to move another Primavera coach to the senior team just to not retain him, or fire him, and have to replace both. I don’t want another coach to be given the job after a firing, and then HE gets dismissed after not having enough time to properly get the squad in the right place.
If Gattuso will be replaced with a full-time replacement in the summer, and he knows that he will go back to the Primavera, fine. If he is the long-term solution, fine. Marco Fassone made it sound like Gattuso was, at the least, the best option available. This is, of course, because a high-profile manager like Ancelotti would not come in the middle of the season.
Milan have plenty of pressure this season already. All the money spent by the new ownership on revamping the squad, coupled with the new ownership’s loans, mean that Milan need to make Champions League if they don’t want to have to sell a couple pieces. That has now doubled, because Gattuso has to step in as the interim and attempt to right the ship. In one sense, he has nothing to lose, just be the influence in the locker room to galvanize the team. On the other hand, you just took the pressure, doubled it from Montella, and threw it on Rino and making it his problem to solve, in about 2⁄3 of the season.
I really hope this works out. As a fan, I want to see my club succeed. I have great respect for Gattuso and want to see it turn out well for him too, and I don’t want the club to be in financial trouble. Thankfully, Rino has the best stretch of games one could ask for to start the job: Benevento, Rijeka, Bologna, and Verona. This lets him get his team warmed up before the bigger teams start showing up again in the return fixtures of the league.
Montella did a good job last year for Milan. Unfortunately, this year just did not work out for him. He left with class and respect and deserves that respect in return from the supporters, to whom he gave hope and something to cheer about last year. This year is different, as he experienced and as we have experienced. It is now the Gattuso era. Hopefully it lasts longer than that of his last few predecessors.