After qualifying for the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League tournament with a 3-0 victory over Bologna on Sunday, many critics of Milan criticised the club’s celebration of qualification. Even some Milan fans turned their nose up at Milan’s qualification.
However, right now - Milan are in no position to scoff at a trophy and the prestige that comes from success in Europe. What’s more, the Europa League winner qualifies for the next season of the UEFA Champions League.
Milan’s qualification has been seen as something that isn’t good enough - and when you take Milan’s collapse from third place in Serie A to sixth place, that criticism does have valid foundations. However, we must remember something - Milan have not been in Europe for a number of seasons, and Vincenzo Montella stated that qualifying for the UEFA Europa League was his goal for the season. That goal has been achieved.
For legends like Maldini, Gattuso, Inzaghi, Maldini, Pirlo, Baresi, Cryuff and icons like Seedorf, Kaka, Ibrahimovic - would the UEFA Europa League be enough? Of course it would not. However, Milan are a far sight away from the Champions League and the glory it brings, plus they do not nearly field the same calibre of player as they did when they lifted the European Cup on a number of occasions.
What does the UEFA Europa League offer to Milan? Well - it comes with the prestige of European football. That along with Milan’s own prestige should allow Milan to reel in some players who may have turned them down. It also allows Montella to have some more game time - he can rotate the squad, experiment and find out what works with his new team. It obviously offers a route into the Champions League, but also a chance for success and not just in Italy, but in a competition viewed the world over. It offers Milan a platform.
So, as for the Europa League, when we consider Milan’s relative history, it is more than good enough for now. Next year, it might be good enough if Milan move a place up. However, when Milan are aiming to finish higher than fourth in the next few years, expectations will need to rise and anything less than a Europa League win or Champions League qualification could be considered a failure. We also need to take the truth of the Serie A into account. There are a number of teams set up better than Milan, with better players and better prospects. Milan need to work hard to better them in the coming years, and while they might mock the ‘fall’ of Milan for celebrating the ‘lowly’ Europa League qualification - they certainly haven’t felt the same highs as Milan, who have lifted the European Cup seven times.