Jun 292019
 

On Friday June 28th Milan were officially excluded from the 2019-2020 edition of the Europa League due to the breach of “break-even obligations during the 2015/2016/2017 and the 2016/2017/2018 monitoring periods”. Last season Milan lost their case at the UEFA Club Financial Control Body Adjudicatory Chamber but appealed to the Court Of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and won the rights to participate in the 2018-2019 edition of the club tournament. This year however Milan have ‘accepted’ or perhaps better put negotiated an exclusion. Elliott have maintained that the mismanagement of the past ownerships of Berlusconi and Li was not their fault. A sort of clean slate is now available but one where extreme caution is required because Milan may end up in the same place in three seasons. Transfer activity and spending may get some breathing space but obviously the team can not go on a crazy spending spree.

Gazidis will now attempt to strengthen the team but maintain a balance and as tough as it may seem Inter – recently satisfying FFP regulations – may point the way to one possible path forward. The cross town rivals have managed to escape UEFA’s wrath by selling youth players to create gains on the balance sheet. Names like 18 year old Davide Bettella and 19 year old Federico Valietti sold to Atalanta and Genoa respectively last season for a combined €13 million generate positive numbers, so does the recent sale of Zinho Vanheusden to Standard Liege for over €12 million. But to do that Milan’s management needs to rebuild the recently relegated primavera team too.

The mercato or silly season has, as usual, conjured up a variety of names and now that the UEFA verdict is in it provides an opening for wilder rumours, most of which still remain unrealistic. At the outset names like Stefano Sensi were daily mentions but he has drifted away towards Inter or elsewhere. A meeting with Florentino Perez,  Real Madrid’s president, in Madrid provided excitement when the possibility of Dani Ceballos was brought up. The talented 22 year old midfielder could be available on a loan with or without obligation and would provide much needed skill to Milan’s bare midfield. However that meeting may have yielded a left back first. Theo Hernandez, Lucas’ brother. The indications are that the French player is more than willing to fly to Milan and Real are open to some form of transfer.   Whether or not a LB (costing around €20 million) is a priority is up for debate. The search for much needed midfield enforcement has revolved and focused on Arsenal’s Lucas Torriera. News of the payer wanting to return to Italy after one season in London circulated, were denied and then recycled. Arsenal’s (un)willingness to let him go has changed on a daily basis as well. At this point it seems that Uruguayan is either too expensive (€40 million plus) or unmovable.

One often neglected aspect of Milan’s transfer activity is selling players for good money! A lot of words have been written about Milan possibly ‘sacrificing’ Donnarumma for pure profit. Numbers north of €50 million have been whispered and PSG is likely the prime destination. Whether or not the now Buffon-less Parisians are willing to pay that amount remains to be seen. Super agent Mino Raiola may have his part to play and so does Leonardo, now PSG’s sporting director. PSG’s initial offer included goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and anywhere between €20 and €30 million cash but Milan have three other goalkeepers in Reina, Plizarri and Antonio (Gigio’s brother) on the squad and do not need a goalkeeper in return. If Hernandez does arrive for amounts mentioned then Milan can (or plan to) cash in on Rodriguez. Suso is another name said to be unfit for Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 but the coach may ask him to stay and try to integrate him into the attacking midfield role. That looks unlikely to be a success and perhaps the Spanish winger can generate some much needed profit this summer as well.

Midfield requires a lot of work and one hopes a lot of talent can be found within realism. Other spots such as central defense need bodies too and while players like Ozan Kabak seem to have rejected Milan’s offer as unsatisfactory there is still time to find the right player for what should be a back up spot, left vacant by Zapata’s departure. Midfield is in dire shape and needs to be an absolute priority.

Jun 202019
 

Marco Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 is new for Milan

After being an open secret and not being officially announced for what seems like eons Marco Giampaolo has finally been confirmed as Milan’s newest coach. The management office has now taken shape following Leonardo’s departure, and eventual return to PSG. Maldini is the new technical director, taking a step up from his previous mostly undefined strategic role. Boban returns to Milan as chief football officer and in the process leaves the deputy secretary general post at FIFA.

Marco Giampaolo is 51 and has coached Sampdoria for the last three seasons. The year before that he coached Empoli for one season where he replaced Maurizio Sarri. Milan is the 10th team he has coached in his 15 years as head coach. His combined record at the two aforementioned teams is 61 wins, 36 draws and 55 losses. Empoli finished 10th in 2015-2016. In his first two seasons in charge Sampdoria replicated that 10th spot. The following season Sampdoria finished 9th.

Giampaolo is known for a 4-3-1-2 formation, a relatively uncommon set up in these 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 days. He often prefers that the full backs stay back, defend and provide a base for the buildup, again unusual for the times. The midfield three will be crucial to this Milan restart. Fortunately or unfortunately Milan are almost forced to start from scratch in midfield. With Bertolacci, Montolivo, Mauri and Bakayoko all gone the midfield is bare and can be picked to suit the new coach. Financial fair play and general monetary problems will restrict what can be given to Giampaolo but at least he has a blank slate. Will he use Paqueta in the attacking or advanced midfield position behind the two strikers or will he try Suso there. A lot will also depend on who is sold. Suso might be one to leave, to raise some much needed cash. Also the 4-3-1-2 does not rely on wingers so may be Suso is expendable regardless of monetary considerations.

As mentioned Milan needs to buy midfielders as the team only has Biglia and Kessie as true midfielders. Bonaventura, Calhanoglu and the aforementioned Paqueta slot in in variable forms but at least three new players are needed. Rumours have mentioned many names. Too few of which are expensive or world class owing to the limited flexibility afforded the team. One of the available spots is already filled with another name familiar to the coach. Rade Krunic, Empoli’s 25 year old Bosnian midfielder, has already completed his medical and looks set to be the first signing at €8 million. Sassuolo’s Stefano Sensi, Fiorentina’s Jordan Veretout are two other rather underwhelming but more realistic choices. Two players coached by Giampaolo are on the wish list as well. Lucas Torreira – coached by Giampaolo in all of his three years at Sampdoria –  may be interested in returning to Italy after one season at Arsenal but the Uruguayan is likely unaffordable even if Arsenal do negotiate at all. Dennis Praet’s name has been mentioned as well but the Sampdoria midfielder may head elsewhere.

The two forwards required for the 4-3-1-2 are a departure for the formations used at Milan in recent seasons. Piatek and Cutrone (plus Borini) will need help and Andre Silva may be the solution. The Portuguese has returned from a disappointing loan spell and may initially have the coach’s confidence. Recent reports seem to indicate that Milan will try to buy Andrej Kramaric from Hoffenheim to complement the available strikers.

The defense is unlikely to change much but Zapata’s departure opens a spot to fill. Dejan Lovren from Liverpool is one name in the mix, Stuttgart’s Ozan Kabak is another. The latter is 19 years old and is a former Galatasaray prospect, he may fit well in the renewal and rebuild era.

Donnarumma will only leave Milan to raise funds. PSG need a goalkeeper following Buffon’s departure and may be willing to pay upwards of €60 million for Gigio. At that price Milan may well take the deal and throw Reina and 19 year old Alessandro Plizzari between the posts.

A lot is unknown, including Milan’s fate visa vi UEFA . Can Milan forfeit 2019-2020 Europa League participation in return for more time to balance the books? Can Milan spend enough to grab a top 4 spot next season?

Giampaolo was no one’s first choice but lack of Champions League football and very deep losses (reported to be around €500 million over the last five years!) has handcuffed the team. Milan will suffer the Berlusconi (and Li) legacy for a while longer.

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