In the summer of 2010, Leonardo was fired from the club due to poor form in the last few games and apparently a fractious relationship with Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi. Milan began the hunt for a new coach while stressing that they would need to cut costs and would not be making any major signings. In the end, Berlusconi could not resist as he brought in Ibrahimovic and Robinho; from Barcelona and Manchester City respectively. And the new head coach that would lead them was: Massimiliano Allegri of Cagliari.
The announcement left many fans all over the world saying “Who?” and they would not be wrong. Cagliari had pulled off some good results, but never qualified for the Champion’s League, or Uefa Cup, with Allegri. Yet Milan vice president Adriano Galliani heralded his ‘excellent credentials’ and wonderful team-building abilities. The truth was that Milan had brought in an average coach who had a team that managed to stay in the Italian top flight for a few years on a cheap salary.
And now, two years later, Allegri has done truly nothing to alleviate the criticism pointed at him. Yes he did bring Milan their first Serie A title since 2003, but that was more the work of Calcio superman Zlatan Ibrahimovic than it was Allegri’s skillful management of games.
In fact his management of games has been anything less than skillful. Throughout the season he made questionable calls in terms of tactics and playing personnel. The team was demolished by newcomers Tottenham in the Champion’s League and they barely were able to win the Serie A. In truth if it were not for Ibrahimovic’s one-man heroics, as well as the shambolic defending that came as a result of the gung-ho approach of Leonardo (who had crossed city lines and joined rivals Inter Milan), then Milan would not have won the Serie A.
The Serie A championship was seen as a personal victory for Galliani who claimed this was justification that the appointment of Allegri was an inspired one. But the following Serie A campaign was not the same. As Ibrahimovic suffered some early problems, Milan started to slip behind their rivals. In truth they did come back, and even held a 5 point advantage near the end, but this was once again the work of Ibrahimovic rather than Allegri.
Once again his management was called into question as his top defender Thiago Silva was surprisingly called into the starting line-up in a match against Roma, even though he was freshly recovered from an injury. What confounded everyone more was that the game was just three days before an important first leg Champion’s League quarter-final against defending champions FC Barcelona.
In the game warm-up Thiago Silva pulled up with an injury and was ruled out of that game as well as both legs against Barcelona. Surely risking your best defender before the two biggest games of the season against the best club in the world would be something most coaches would never do? Earlier in the round of 16, Allegri almost lost a 4-0 advantage to Arsenal in the first HALF. He even named two goalkeepers to the substitutes’ bench; an absolute no in soccer.
Allegri’s continued belief in playing Bonera is one of the most baffling decisions by any head coach. Bonera has never been, and will never be, a world-class or even good defender. He always seems to commit very costly error and his tackles and pace have been slow and not effective. By any elite team standards, he should be the absolute last resort for a head coach in the back.
Milan’s maiden game of the 2012-13 Serie A season was an example of this, and what is more confusing is that Allegri left Cristian Zapata on the bench and paired Bonera and Yepes. Later on in the match he replaced the energetic Robinho, who was having a good game and one of his only players who was threatening the Sampdoria defense, with Urby Emmanuelson. Emmanuelson went on to have little effect on the proceedings as Sampdoria defeated AC Milan on their return from relegation.
The Milan board is also to blame for their horrendous start to the season since their cost-saving techniques over the last few years have left them with a shadow of a great team. The board cannot hope to realistically challenge for the Serie A title against a great Juventus side, while the Champion’s League is also impossible to reach, when they sell so many players and are left with a squad with the likes of Bonera in central defense (again why is he even playing?) and many other players playing with little to no drive or creativity.
This team lacks in creativity in the final third, pace in the back, clinical strikers, and so on. The problems are too numerous and the blame cannot fall on Allegri for not being able to challenge for the title. He must be blamed for the terrible form and tactical decision that he has done in the last few years, but if Milan should find a new coach the objective should be to reach a Champion’s League spot and keep generating income from that. Even third place is a stretch but the team does have enough talent that it should not be losing to the likes of Sampdoria and Bologna.
If Milan’s financial situation has become so dire as claimed, then the club needs to invest into its club networking system and start buying players on the cheap that will develop into supestars, much like Udinese’s model, but the difference should be that Milan should not begin having a reputation of being a selling club. They need to embark on a major rebuilding program that they should’ve started after the Kaka sale in 2010, but instead they bought the ‘quick fix’ that is Serie A master Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He is gone and so in the world’s best defender so now it is time for the board to stop with the claims of Milan’s past greatness and move on figuring out how to make Milan an elite team again. This all should be headed with a realistic timeframe from the board as well as a new coach, because Allegri should not be coaching a team of Milan’s standards. He is an average coach that is coaching a very much average team.
About the Author
Written by Mahmoud Ghellai