On May 23rd, 2007 AC Milan’s ageless wonder captain Paolo Maldini lifted the UEFA Champion League trophy in Athens after they defeated Liverpool 2-1, laying to rest the demons of the 2005 Champion’s League Final. Kaka incredible form in the competition not only left him top scorer of the Champion’s League, but also would give him the FIFA World Player of the Year award. The Milan starting eleven that day was the oldest in Champion’s League Final history, and Paolo Maldini the oldest ever to play in it at 38 years and 331 days old.
It showed as the next year the AC Milan team failed to register any meaningful impact in the Champion’s League and their fifth place finish ensured they didn’t even qualify for the Champion’s League, with them having to suffer the indignity of playing in Europe’s second-tier club competition; the UEFA Cup. Carlo Ancelotti was removed as head coach and Leonardo was promoted in his place. Even that was not enough, and in the summer of 2009 Perez’s spending spree brought star midfielder Kaka to Real Madrid for a world record 56 million pounds.
The club clearly did not plan for Kaka’s departure from the club and failed to properly invest in the squad with the money from the purchase and AC Milan were not able to win any trophies the next year. Leonardo was removed and Massimiliano Allegri was appointed in his place; a surprise choice by many. With the club was still in dire need of reinforcements they secured the signings of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Robinho; the later two in the last weeks of the transfer window as what was praised by Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani as a ‘heroic’ intervention by Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi. In January they also signed Antonion Cassano, Mark Van Bommel and Urby Emanuelson and went on to win their first Serie A title since the 2003-04 season. With further signings such as Phillipe Mexes and Taye Taiwo signed in the summer, it was believed that AC Milan had finally turned a corner and would be on the rise again. It proved to be a false dawn.
Their demise began with the same summer after they had won their Serie A title and inexplicably released Andrea Pirlo. They believed that his ability to influence to pitch from deep was waning and renewing his contract was not seen as a priority. Juventus saw their opportunity and snatched Pirlo on a Bosman transfer and a reinvigorated squad with a hungry and fresh Andrea Pirlo in the engine room went on to pip Milan to the Serie A title, while remaining undefeated the entire season. Pirlo further made Milan rue their mistake by leading Italy all the way to the Euro 2012 final while his run of form had some people even calling for him to be a Ballon D’Or contender.
Milan were then left to finally feel the consequences of continually keeping their aging players without serious investment in younger players as first team players such as Mark Van Bommel, Clarence Seedorf, Massimo Oddo, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluca Zambrotta, Gennaro Gattuso, and Alessandro Nesta all left the club or retired while Alberto Aquilano and Maxi Lopez returned to their parent clubs from their loans.
While these departures were significant for the team, the incoming arrivals of Sulley Muntari, Riccardo Montolivo, Bakaye Traore and Francesco Acerbi and the loan deals of Cristian Zapata and Kevin Constant meant that the team would not be too weakened for the new season. A large bid from Paris-Saint Germain for star defender Thiago Silva was turned down and he signed a new long-term contract in what was another ‘heroic’ act by Silvio Berlusconi.
Then a few weeks later, a massive bid for both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva was accepted and Milan were suddenly devoid of their two world-class players. Pazzini was brought in to help in the striker department but he is not a genuine goal threat without good and constant service. Milan’s strikeforce now compromises of a constantly injured forward (Pato) and an inconsistent winger (Robinho). If Milan were to sell for big money, why reject the huge PSG bid for Pato in Janurary? Surely he was more replaceable than Ibrahimovic due to his medical history.
Milan’s midfield is still short of ideas after Pirlo’s departure. Ambrosini still has some years left though he cannot be considered a sure-fire starter, with his injury past also a major factor in this, Nocerino is an excellent industrious player but he is not creative enough for Milan. Mathieu Flamini also has an injury-riddled past, while Milan will be without the services of Sulley Muntari for some time due to his knee injury. Ricardo Montolivo adds more steel than guile to their midfield as well. Therefor it will be on the shoulders of Kevin-Prince Boateng to be the creative force on the Milan team, and even he has had problems with hamstring injuries. Milan are trying to bring Kaka back, but even this won’t paper over the cracks.
The defense is suddenly very thin without Silva and Nesta as Mexes’s lack of pace was exposed in Euro 2012, and while Zapata may prove to be an excellent purchase and Acerbi may prove an excellent signing for the future the back-ups consist of Mario Yepes and Daniele Bonera; hardly world-class stoppers by anyone’s count. The fullbacks consist more of converted wingers than actual defenders as Luca Antonini only impresses in some games and Djamel Mesbah’s best games came as a left winger rather than left fullback.
It is like the Kaka sale all over again, Milan sold their top stars in order to balance the books but don’t appear to have planned for their departures once again. Galliani loves to remind us of Milan’s storied past and bulging trophy cabinet, but perhaps he needs to be reminded of the mistakes as well.
About the Author
Written by Mahmoud Ghellai