May 072020
 

The 2002-2003 Champions League season featured two group stages. The first featured eight groups of four and the second four groups of four comprising those teams that finished top two in the first group stage. Milan finished first in the first group stage with Deportivo second followed by Lens and Bayern Munich. The draw for the second group stage pitted Milan against the Real, the defending champions, Borussia Dortmund and Lokomotiv Moskow. In the first match Real visited the San Siro and Milan’s starting line up was:

Dida, Kaladze, Costacurta, Maldini, Simic, Gattuso, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Rui Costa, Shevchenko, Rivaldo

Real’s star studded team featured all of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul, Roberto Carlos. But Real hadn’t impressed in the first group stage and only managed nine points in a group with Roma, AEK Athens and Genk.

The stage was set for a big game that was opened by one of the best long distance assists. Rui’s time at Milan has started with injury and would not be as impressive as he was at Fiorentina but his class was evident and shone in this game. A pin point assist from inside Milan’s half led to the opening goal in a game that would finish 1-0. Shevchenko’s big game mentality was evident and had him scoring one of his most confident in taking on the ball and beating Iker Casillas in Real’s goal with ease with a low accurate shot.

Milan would lose the return in Madrid (3-1 with Rivaldo scoring Milan’s sole goal) but finish first in the group. The team would go on to beat Ajax, Inter and finally Juventus via penalties to win the Champions League that season.

 Posted by on May 7, 2020
May 012020
 

The 2006-2007 Champions League was to be a form of redemption for Milan. Beating Liverpool in a final not so long after the Istanbul debacle was relief of sorts for its fan, the team and its history too.

Milan didn’t blow teams away in the groups stage. The team did finish first but lost twice in a group H that featured Lille, AEK Athens and Anderlecht. The first knock out stage was only won 1-0 (aggregate) against Celtic. A bigger win came in the quarter finals when Bayern Munich were conquered 4-2 in aggregate.

Kaka had scored many and was in form. Manchester United would be the semi final opponents with the first leg in Manchester. A not so great early sequence led to Dida, in Milan goal, unable to save and both a deflected and diverted ball was credited as a Ronaldo goal. Kaka opened Milan’s scoring with an early touched that fooled Edwin van Der Sar in the Manchester goal and made it 1-1. Few minutes before the half the Brazilian gave Milan the lead. He took on a long pass and ran towards goal on the left side, three defenders converged on in attempt to stop the solo counter. Kaka danced between them and with both a touch and a low header beat Patrice Evra, Gabriel Heinze and Darren Fletcher and finally van Der Sar. The former two collided and all in the stadium witnessed a magical goal. The lead would not survive as Wayne Rooney would score twice. The return provide some dose of magic to set up another final versus Liverpool.

After the match Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester’s legendary Scottish manager, called Kaka one of the world’s best two players and tried to sign him more than once.

Extended highlights in the video below and the goal itself starting at 4:35.

 Posted by on May 1, 2020
Apr 272020
 

The 2012-2013 Champions League featured Milan in a tight group stage with Malaga, Zenit and Anderlecht. It was late November and match day five with all teams still with a shot at the top two spots. Milan traveled to Belgium with the following starting line up:

Abbiati, De Sciglio, Mexes, Yepes, Constant, Nocerino, De Jong, Montolivo, Boateng, Krkic, El Shaarawy

With Pato, Robinho and Pazzini all on the bench

Certainly not vintage Milan at all and the first half passed scoreless but early in the second the game changed. El Shaarawy scored early and the match seemed headed for an 1-0 away win but a Montolivo central freekick led to Milan’s second goal. The freekick was taken on by Mexes. The Frenchman lifted the ball with his chest and proceeded to shoot hard with an acrobatic bicycle kick from distance. The ball looped down into the far side beating Silvio Proto in goal for a 2-0 lead. Pato scored an added time goal after Tom De Sutter had made it 2-1. The 3-1 win allowed Milan to finish second and move to a first knock out stage encounter against Barcelona.

 Posted by on April 27, 2020
Apr 232020
 

Match day one of the 1996-1997 season had Verona visiting the San Siro. Milan had won the scudetto the season before and Fabio Capello had departed to Real Madrid, for what was to be a short stint. For what would not be the first time Milan had brought in a Cagliari coach to replace Capello. Oscar Tabarez started his Milan tenure starting the following 11

Rossi, Galli, Costacurta, Maldini, Panucci, Albertini, Desailly, Boban, Baggio, Weah, Simone

At the half it was Verona ahead by one goal but the second half exploded with a Simone brace and a late goal where Weah took the ball straight from a long Verona corner to ran and dribble past defenders before beating Attilio Gregori with a low shot. Baggio would add a later fourth for a 4-1 win.

The big win wouldn’t reflect on the season as Tabarez wouldn’t even last the calendar year and a Sacchi return is an unsuccessful one as Milan end the season in 11th place.

 Posted by on April 23, 2020
Apr 192020
 

Milan had just won the scudetto for the third time in a row. Barcelona’s so called dream team had win the La Liga for the fourth time in a row, the latter three by the smallest of margins. It was Capello vs Cruyff. The pre-match was dominated by Barca’s overconfidence and Cruyff’s boasting about his team’s attacking play vs the so called defensive Capello and Italian style.

Baresi and Costacurta were suspended. Marco van Basten was injured and the Dutch trio era was nearing its end. Due to overconfidence – and partially limits on foreign players – meant Michael Laudrup was not even on the bench for Barca.

The game didn’t go as Spanish team had hoped. Barca didn’t get many chances on the ball and their attacks were often broken up with Milan flooding forward instead. One such play led to the first goal. Boban broke up a Barca play which allowed Savicevic to beat Pep Guardiola and Miguel Angel Nadal and run towards Zubizarreta. His shot was half diverted to Massaro who easily shot in to open the scoring.

Three more impressive goals followed in what Cruyff later characterized as “It was not that we played badly, it was that we did not play at all.”

The 1994 Champions League final finished 4-0 and went down as one of the most historic football games of all time.

 Posted by on April 19, 2020
Apr 152020
 

As leagues around the world try to come to terms with the Coronavirus pandemic a return date is always on the agenda. These possible dates are and will need to keep being revised as new information arrives. Public health and measures to protect it dictate the future of the suspended seasons and to some extent football itself.

Milan have meetings planned with other Serie A teams and the league to see if overseas based players can return to Italy or can at least start to prepare more rigorously for football. For example Athletic Bilbao in Spain had brief plans to return to individual training this week but had to abandon it. Many others talk of early May return to training for a late May football but that seems optimistic. There are plans to restart the English lower tiers in early June but that may be impossible too. All these plans are for behind closed doors games so in no way football is going back to normal in the near future.

FIFA has proposed to extend contracts that would normally end on June 30th every year until the 2019-2020 seasons are concluded in each country. This would also affect the transfer window dates and depending on how far into the future seasons do end football’s growth and the growth of eSports in 2020 and beyond too.

Football teams big and small depend on revenue from transfers. Many who are already reeling due to suspension of games will have only one remaining lifeline, revenue from transfers. But how will transfers look and will it possibly be a very brief window instead of the usual late June to early September dates? Will players become cheaper or not? No one knows for sure but interestingly transfer rumours are continuing at a pace that may surprise some.

Arguably Milan’s case is more precarious than most. In the midst of a yet another rebuild with whispers that the wage bill will need to be drastically lower there is lots to do. The latest seems to be concentrated on Sandro Tonali arriving from Brescia and Milan sacrificing any or all of Gabbia, Pobega and Plizzari to get the sometimes combative but highly rated young central midfielder. Paqueta has been rumoured to leave after a disappointing recent time. Money from his exit may be needed. Gaetano Castrovilli is a mentioned indirect replacement. Ibra may leave after being unimpressed by the state of the team before the lockdown. If he does go a forward is needed and perhaps more if Rebic and Leao’s future lies elsewhere too. Arkadiusz Milik is one recently mentioned possibility. Milan need to look for a right back too with both Conti and Calabria seemingly lost causes. Donnarumma has one more year on his contract and his case needs to be cleared up before he heads into the final season of his four year deal.

Expiring contracts may be the easiest thing to manage at Milan this summer. Bonaventura and Biglia are almost certainly not returning next season.

Of course all this depends on even more than the Coronavirus pandemic. It is still not known if Ralf Rangnick is arriving and if he does how many roles he is taking up and therefore if Maldini – and Pioli – are heading for the exit in the near future.

 Posted by on April 15, 2020
Apr 122020
 

It is late February in 2011 and Napoli visit the San Siro for match day 27. Milan, led by Max Allegri, are headed for the Scudetto. Napoli and Inter are the chasing teams. Milan’s starting line up is:

Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Jankulovski; Gattuso, van Bommel, Flamini; Robinho; Ibrahimovic, Pato

The first half was less than impressive but the second half got under way quickly as Milan were awarded a hand ball penalty which Ibra converted. Pato and Ibra then combined well and the former provided an assist for Kevin Prince Boateng to make it 2-0. The Brazilian confident and in good form kept running at the Napoli defense. The third goal came when van Bommel headed long to clear the ball from the edge of the box. The header turned into an assist when Pato took on the ball at pace and forced the Napoli defenders to retreat and retreat. He then placed the ball with an accurate long shot into the top corner of the Napoli net, while ignoring the chance to pass the ball to Ibra who had rushed into attack after him. Morgan De Sanctis in goal and every Napoli player was dejected as mass celebrations engulfed the stadium.

The match ended 3-0 as Milan marched on.
Highlights of the match and the goal below.

 Posted by on April 12, 2020
Apr 012020
 

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to suspend activities around the world. With very few exceptions football has stopped. All sports and indeed all of humanity are in uncharted territory.

Plans for a return to regular football are difficult to formulate. In the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 spread talk was of a May to June completion of the 2019-2020 Serie A season. Other leagues and competitions had similar plans. Putting a value on any return date on Heritage Sports Review or elsewhere seemed risky and it has now become even more tricky.

Increasing talk of a longer suspension and continuous need for social distancing and self isolation puts all guesses in doubt. The importance of listening to health officials is apparent to most with a conclusion to football games taking a back seat. Clubs are now postponing optimistic dates for a return to training in advance of games that would have concluded the season. UEFA – with Champions League last 16 and Europa League last 32 still yet to play – and leagues around the world simply can not risk players’ or fans’ health. A few voices still mention playing games behind closed doors but those are just whispers and hopes. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin also dreams of a season concluding properly but football is increasingly moving towards a complete cancellation of the current season to counting the financial aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

When July first arrives many players will be out of contract with even less certainty than others. They will be free agents until football resumes. Some may be able to secure a sort of extension, at least in good faith with their current teams but others will have to sit this out and find a new team deeper into 2020. The teams themselves will have a hard time calculating their annual numbers that depend on amortization of contracts and income from pending transfers.

Teams directly employ many at the stadiums and other outlets too. All, rich and poor, will be impacted and some teams may even go bankrupt. At Juventus the player have pledged to not collect a portion of their salary therefore saving the club upwards of €90 million. Other teams may need to follow and some will just impose a reduction unilaterally.

Others that work at clubs require help from team owners and some may receive the help from government package. One thing is for sure, this is unseen territory with many unknowns.

 Posted by on April 1, 2020
Mar 252020
 
Empty stadiums as Italy and the world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak takes the world into new territory and one it is unable to cope with football has come close to a stand still. 

Italy is of course one of the hardest hit countries. The reasons for this will not become clear until later. Any current explanations are only (educated) guesses for now. 

Football is a big business that goes beyond the revenue collected close to the pitch. Gate and TV revenue present a major percentage of football income but many other industries, be they major, independent or freelance, rely on football being played and broadcast. Major sports betting apps like William Hill have taken a big hit as a result of empty pitches and suspended games. The search for revenue has led them to other avenues. Virtual games and other forms of online betting that don’t rely on physical games have surged and may make up for some of the lost revenue, for the short term at least. The same companies seek liquidity and financing to survive the shutdown and try to ride this pandemic out. The few matches that continued like in farther football reaches of Belarus provided some focus but can not fill the gap and are only viable for the very short term too.

As for the Serie A, the initial proposed length for the suspension of all football looks very optimistic now and the hoped early May return to training and games is unlikely. Various proposals that include playing many games in close proximity and ending the season by the end of June may not be realistic considering the spread of the virus. Medical research has accelerated its search for both a treatment and a vaccine but will need more time. The social distancing that has become the prime requirement of minimizing the spread will need to go on and any relaxation carries a big risk. 

Seeing this the Italian league may amend some betting and construction restrictions to let teams earn money and accelerate investment in the coming months and years.

Fans are therefore spending time at home and resorting to online games and other distractions. Several entertainment and gaming providers have granted temporary free or discounted access to their products and many educational resources have moved online.

Interestingly the number of transfer rumours have not dropped as much as some would imagine. One of these is a Gazidis led €2.5 million salary cap at Milan that if true jeopardizes the future of several players at Milan. Ibra, already rumoured to be disappointed at the state of the team, would be impossible to keep and he may either retire completely or pursue his career elsewhere. Whether a salary cap would actually apply to the likes of Romagnoli is questionable and his or other departures will obviously set the team back too much. Rangnick and therefore Maldini and Pioli’s future which looked close to decided are still subject to rumours too. 

In the midst of it all, here at MilanMania there is of course less football to talk about but there are updates on the forum. We all hope this pandemic is managed as well as possible and wish everybody well.

 Posted by on March 25, 2020
Mar 082020
 

The world is in the midst of nothing short of a COVID-19 pandemic and many large events are getting cancelled. Football matches in the heavily affected regions of Northern Italy are among those. This week 26 match was initially postponed to May 13th but the season was effectively pushed back one week to play this match when the week 27 match at Lecce was supposed to be played. The games could yet get postponed or even cancelled but for now the matches will happen behind closed doors.

Milan’s management has been busy behind closed doors. The rumoured arrival of Ralf Rangnick to take over at various roles has simmered for a while and it boiled over when Boban publicly accused Gazidis of going behind his and Maldini’s back and change the team’s plans and guarantees. The outburst has now cost Boban his Milan job and could yet affect Maldini’s job as well. The Croatian looks to return to his FIFA job. This will likely happen as the aforementioned German gets confirmed in the coming weeks and start another revolution at Milan. Whether the future holds a strict and deep cost cutting or just a re-creation of a young team remains to be seen. More unstable times ahead.

This match will not feature Donnarumma in goal, Begovic will start in place of the still injured Italian. The young goalkeeper is due back soon however. The healed Kjaer is likely getting another start over Mucasshio. The Dane will play with Conti, Romagnoli and Hernandez. Kessie, Bennacer, Castillejo, Calhanoglu and Rebic will line up behind Ibra. All hopes are that the team are not affected by the various worries. Pioli has a big job maintaining discipline and concentration levels as the team still has European hopes and needs.

Follow the instability and the match as they happen, on the forum.

 Posted by on March 8, 2020
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