Jul 282018

Leonardo & Paolo Scaroni have little time to act

With the ownership under the so called vulture fund of Elliott Management under way the task of rebuilding Milan after the short and still unexplained Chinese rule begins in earnest.

The relative ease in which Yonghong Li lost Milan feels surreal. A man who was reported to be bankrupt provided over €400 million of his money and got a loan of just over €300 million from Elliott to buy Milan, then he was cast aside for failure to pay back a €32 million capital injection well before the October 2018 deadline to repay the initial 300 plus interest! How he had the initial money and how he refused to sell to one of at least two American groups before Elliott stepped in defies explanation. He might yet have his day in court when he challenges the early take over, may be then more will be known about him and perhaps more will be known about why Berlusconi’s Fininvest deemed him safe hands over a year ago.

Elliott’s work of appointing new people directly in charge of Milan is still on going, Paolo Scaroni is the president and sits at the head of board of directors table. Elliott claim to want to keep Milan for 3 years and stabilize if not increase its value before selling it on.

It is very telling that a sporting director is officially in place before a CEO or general manager. Leonardo was presented this week and gets to work in the little time left in the transfer window. It is worth noting that the 2018 summer transfer window, for the first time, closes before the first matches of the season. The 2018-2019 season starts at an early August 18th and that date also marks the end of the summer transfer window. Leonardo therefore has very little time to tweak if not change the team and provide the first spark in the new rebuild. Fans and Bookmaker Bonuses eagerly await and hope that Milan and more specifically Leonardo can deliver an improvement and a quick one at that.

With the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that paved the way for Milan’s re-entry into the Europa League the team retains some of its attractiveness to players. As usual rumours are abound with names and not surprisingly the fascination with center forwards remains. Higuain or Morata are the names most mentioned. Each will cost a lot and while the former provides more guarantees of goals the latter has age on his side. Arguably both will be handicapped if the players surrounding them are not creative enough. Milan’s midfield still lacks creativity and depth. Lacking any new midfield fantasy Biglia in the middle of the park must rediscover his passing legs, Calhanoglu and Suso must be better passers and Conti and Rodriguez need to cross as well as they have ever done. Of the current strikers all of Andre Silva, Kalinic and Bacca seem to be out of the picture. That leaves Cutrone and whoever else arrives for that sole forward spot. The 4-3-3 formation that is still favoured by Gattuso requires one central striker but Milan need to find players that convert more often than the current players were able to last season. Leonardo needs to find a left winger sooner or later as well because depending on Borini – and possibly Calhanoglu in that spot – there is accepting a weakness the team can not afford.

It seems that Bonucci will make himself the Serie A story for the second straight summer, although few things can top Ronaldo’s transfer to the Turin team. Rumours are circulating that he wants to return to Juventus. Perhaps a deal can be made with Juventus to swap the defender for Gonzalo Higuain. Since Bonucci’s departure leaves a big void in central defense Leonardo is also trying to get his hands on Juve’s Mattia Caldara. The young defender presents a more long term option than the Argentine.

A lot is dependent on Financial Fair Play rules which are and will continue to handcuff the team more than any owner may. Leonardo can not do too much even if Elliott are willing to provide for it. The likes of Ivan Gazidis, Umberto Gandini or whoever else that arrives for the CEO and general manager roles will have lots to do.

Jul 202018

This morning the Court of Arbitration for Sport has overturned UEFA’s Adjudicatory Chamber Decision to throw out Milan out of the 2018-2019 Europa League and to do the same for 2019-2020 if Milan’s finances show little improvement.

All indications point to Elliott’s presence, in place of Yonghong Li, being an important factor in the decision. There is a line in the ruling that refers to information that was not available when the first decision to exclude Milan was taken.

The management fund took over from the Chinese earlier in the summer when Li failed to provide a €32 million capital needed to finance the club, ever since there has been questions as to why the Chinese gave up so easily and hasn’t been heard of. It is also not certain what the management fund intends to do with Milan. The talk is that it will keep Milan and provide stability for a three year period and then attempt to sell a healthier team.

Now UEFA will have to officially readmit Milan to European competition and with that there is at least more interest in the team. While Elliott is very unlikely to be heavy spenders in the transfer market there is at least a base to restart Milan, as it were.

Jul 082018

Dmitry Rybolovlev may be interested in Milan, but he would need to abandon his tax friendly Monaco holding.

The deadline to repay Elliott’s 32 million cash injection passed on midnight Friday without Yonghong Li repaying. On paper Elliott can start a take over process on Monday morning. A handful of possible buyers have been rumoured leading up to this deadline and since the deadline this weekend. Li himself may be powerless now but may fight the take over in a Luxembourg court.

Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian owner of AS Monaco, may be working with Li to buy a majority stake and ward off the Elliott take over. Others include previously mentioned names Rocco Commisso, the Ricketts family and Stephen Ross, all of whom may by pass Li and deal directly with Elliott.

The soap opera continues while training camp is getting underway. The 2018-2019 season is on the brink of being another ‘year zero’. Milan is already being left behind in the team building process with the transfer market in full swing with other teams operating within the much maligned Financial Fair Play process, even if questionably so.

The aforementioned FFP is of course having a bearing on the team and any future ownership’s interest. UEFA banned Milan from European competition for one year and a conditional second year. The team have appealed to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) with a ruling expected by July 19th.


Jun 012018

It all started – sort of – when Silvio Berlusconi was convinced to sell his prized asset. Over the period before Berlusconi decided to sell there had been a few rumours that informal offers were made and were dismissed outright by the owner. The man, his family and his media company finally decided to let go in 2014 or 2015. The Mr.Bee saga failed for lack of investors and later Yonghong Li’s offer was reviewed and accepted. Throughout it all Berlusconi promised to hand over Milan to safe hands, hands that will invest and return Milan to the top.

An initial big investment was made of course but as it turned out didn’t rescue the team, the 2017-2018 season had ups and downs but mostly the latter. In the year plus since the sale became official it has been any thing but safe hands. Some of the blame can perhaps be attributed to China’s cash export restrictions but as has been often reported Li has been far more questionable that that. Li did manage to satisfy Fininvest and they have surely gotten a good chunk of the (inflated) €740 million sale price. They have been too silent not to have but this doesn’t mean that there are not many unanswered questions about Li’s wealth.

The issue however is the €300 million lent to Li by Elliott Management Corporation. Various amounts raised and deposited for team operations have been enough to keep Li in charge and Elliott on the side lines but UEFA’s rejection – and referral of Milan’s case to its Adjudicatory Chamber – of Milan’s Financial Fair Play plan and the inability to show a source of wealth have Milan sitting on the edge of losing an owner and being taken over by the money fund. If UEFA act further and either fine or restrict Milan from the Europa league or transfer activity the once great name of football will be very damaged.

Transfer rumours continue unabated however. Various big names are supposedly on the shopping list, including a midfielder, left winger and striker. One or all are sorely needed to increase the goal production that was a major part of not finishing in the top four in the season that just concluded. The need to rectify the failures despite spending over €200 million in summer 2017 are very real. Not qualifying for the Champions League has handcuffed Li more than anybody in the team’s management admits. In June UEFA will make a decision on the severity of penalties that Milan face and the worse may yet to come.

All things being equal it seems that many personnel changes are in the offing. Fate of Donnarumma, Kalinic and Andre Silva seem sealed. Few tears will be shed if Kalinic is sold, Silva has divided opinion and Donnarumma’s sale will be accepted after his much publicized and controversial renewal last year. Other changes are in the offing as well. Antonelli is almost certainly gone and a replacement is ready in Sampdoria’s Ivan Strinic. Pepe Reina is set to come in for Donnarumma. Any number of players can leave and come in. There is plenty of speculation to go around no mattewr what happens with the ownership situation

On the ownership, if Li loses Milan to his chief lender a new owner will be sought. Stephen Ross with links to Elliott and himself the majority owner of National Football League’s Miami Dolphins is a speculated interested party.

Uncertain times ahead. Berlusconi’s promise seems hollow indeed.

May 202018

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The season that was to be a big renewal and success with a newly launched era is coming to a disappointing end. Qualifying for the Europa League after spending more than €200 million courtesy of new owner, Yonghong Li, and new management must and is to be deemed a failure. A season that had twists and more disappointments than not and featured a coaching change finishes vs Fiorentina. There is a lot that can be written about the 2018-2019 season and there will be repercussions – internally and externally via possible UEFA financial fair play sanctions – for its relative poor results as well, but week 38 provides a chance at an uplifting finale and ensuring the Europa League spot.

Suso will miss this game with a muscle problem and this will push Gattuso to tweak the line up somewhat. The Spaniard is a possible candidate for a summer exit despite repeatedly showing his admiration for Milan. A €40 million release clause could make him an easy target for Liverpool and others. Kalinic and Cutrone look to play up front with Calhanoglu behind them for a 4-3-1-2 formation. The midfield and the back line remain somewhat predictable, the only expected change is Locatelli once again starting. Biglia is not 100% having recently returned from a back problem that was due to keep him out longer. Calabria, Rodriguez will start at right back and left back along Bonucci, Romagnoli and Donnarumma. Antonelli may also feature because this may be his last game as a Milan player.

Fiorentina are finishing off a relative poor season as well. A difficult sesaon that has the team, as with others around Italy and the world mourning the loss of Davide Astori. The Tuscan team’s training grounds are to be renamed after their captain in his memory.

May 132018

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Week 36 gave us all a rare easy win. Beating 19th placed Verona 4-1 – and in the process condemning them to Serie B football for 2018-2019 – was not automatic considering that this Milan had lost to Benevento weeks earlier, one was entitled to be pessimistic. Calhanoglu scored the opener and has been regaining some of the form many wish to see more often. Abate scored a nice and very rare goal as well, even Borini got into the act. The rise in fortunes didn’t last long though.

Midweek was the Coppa Final vs Juventus and the small amount of optimism of four days earlier evaporated rather quickly. Aided by the referee, who for example blew for half time instead of allowing a Milan free kick to proceed, Milan crumbled once again. Donnarumma didn’t catch the ball for one goal and pretty much dropped the ball for another to come out of the game with most of the blame. Juventus won the second half thoroughly after Milan had an ok first half where a few half chances were squandered. The 4-0 loss had most in disbelief and anger levels towards all of players and management rose again. The upcoming summer test for the management and indeed the ownership is as high as last year. Such has Milan fallen (again) that a win vs Atalanta is required to earn a chance at Europa League football next season.

The team must approach the Atalanta game as crucial and not perpetuate the seemingly eternal weak mentality issue. Gattuso is already eying the summer transfer market and has mentioned the need for depth and quality.

The likelihood that Gattuso will use Kalinic again seems real and therefore fans are entitled to wonder if Gattuso should even be the coach next season. Other spots on the 4-3-3 are somewhat stable with the only real rotation being Abate or Calabria. A veteran line up seems to be the choice for the last two matches of the season. The veteran lineup will include Biglia who recovered from a back problem much quicker than anticipated and announced.

May 052018

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As the disappointing season winds down the feeling is that the uncertainty around the ownership and money available will stretch deep into the summer and beyond. Fassone and Mirabelli, the latter not entirely safe in his job, are still talking as if all be will be well. Besides real money the Financial Fair Play threat that hangs over Milan as well is a concern as well. The 200 million plus spent last year has not gotten Milan into the Champions League and there will be repercussions whether it be moving forward or in UEFA’s eyes.

Verona visit Milan after Milan were able to beat Bologna away 2-1. The week 35 game could have and should have been won by a wider margin but such as it is Milan have struggled to score therefore  forwards will be on the summer transfer agenda. The midfield creativity needs attention as well and it remains to be seen if it will be addressed.

Locatelli started the week 35 game in place of the injured Biglia. He will likely continue to do so for the rest of the season. The lineup is unlikely to change much for the last three games. Calhanoglu and Suso will flank Cutrone. Kessie and Bonaventura will do the same around Locatelli. Romagnoli seems to be ready for a return from injury, if not Zapata or Musacchio will partner Bonucci. Calabria or Abate seems to be most uncertainty for the starting 11. There are whispers that the latter might leave for the MLS in the summer. Next season could feature Conti and Calabria on the right and Rodriguez and Ivan Strinic – the rumored free signing from Sampdoria – on the left. There is also the Pepe Reina replacing Donnarumma possibility. For now though Verona visit the San Siro before the Coppa Italia final vs Juventus in the coming midweek.

Apr 212018

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Recent results have been underwhelming or perhaps disappointing. The progress seen in earlier weeks of Gattuso’s Milan seems to have stalled. The week 33 1-1 tie at Torino featured the same cast not achieving much. Kalinic, Suso and Bonaventura featured in another listless performance. To frustrate fans slightly more Gattuso decided to use Borini in place of the injured Calhanoglu. The Turkish international has a swollen knee that will have him miss this week 34 match up with the last placed team as well.

There were whispers that week 33’s game was Kalinic’s last chance to prove something. The Croat couldn’t add to his goal tally. The goal he scored vs Sassuolo earlier in April was not the start of something better. The number of Milan goals scored (44) after 33 weeks is the lowest tally for the team in decades. Clearly the new era is on the verge of derailing once again.

Therefore and according to various sources this Benevento game will be played with a 4-4-2 formation and with Cutrone and Silva up front. It may not even feature Suso in midfield. Borini and Bonaventura will play as wide midfield players around Biglia and Kessie. Romagnoli is still missing so Zapata is expected to play along side Bonucci once again. Abate was at fault in Torino’s goal and it is believed Calabria will start at right back again.

There is no excuse, beating the last placed team is a must. Benevento have 1 away point so far this season, out of a possible 48!

Apr 182018

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Week 32’s 0-0 tie vs Napoli was salvaged by a late great Donnarumma save. Arkadiusz Milik had time to do better alone on the open goal but nevertheless Donnarumma helped Milan get one point. However the solitary point is probably not going to be too meaningful at the end of the season.

A visit to Torino is next in the last midweek Serie A game of the season. Kalinic started vs Napoli and yet again had most fans and observers questioning why. The Croatian may start again, one is entitled to ask why Cutrone is not starting more games. Suso and Calhanoglu will start on the wings as it is normal. The midfield continues to misfire but as options are not exactly plentiful or reliable the Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura trio get more games even when Kessie can’t complete simple passes, Biglia gives balls away and Bonaventura just shoots high and off target. Having said all that the biggest concern before the Napoli match was the missing Bonucci and Romagnoli. The duo missed the match due to suspension and injury respectively but Musacchio and Zapata were better than expected in keeping the clean sheet. Bonucci is back from suspension for week 33 but Romagnoli is set to miss at least another 2 weeks, if not more.

Donnarumma’s post match comments regarding letting his agent, the infamous Mino Raiola, see what happens in the summer have added to the feeling that he will be sold. His opponent in the Napoli match, Pepe Reina, is the rumoured replacement. The Spaniard is 16 years older than the teenager and if signed won’t be a long term replacement.

Walter Mazzarri’s Torino have been doing well in recent weeks with three wins in last five games. Andrea Belotti’s form has improved slowly throughout an injury hit season. The much talked about Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is out however.

Apr 152018

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Week 31 was to give Milan only one point. Dropping two points vs Sassuolo effectively ended the Champions Leagues hopes. A top four finish was always unlikely but the run of results in the 2018 calendar year had provided hope. After the inability to win much needed points vs Juventus and Inter three points against Sassuolo would have restored a little hope. In the end the one point seemed unlikely as well.
Matteo Politano had given the visitors the lead and it required a late Kalinic goal, who had been subbed in for Cutrone, salvaged a tie. Earlier Gattuso had been brave (or “wrong” to some fans) by bringing in Silva for Abate and going for a back three. That had backfired because Musacchio, himself a sub for the injured Romagnoli, played the Sassuolo attacker onside for the visitor’s goal.

The aforementioned Romagnoli is set to miss this week 32 game vs Napoli and to add to worries Bonucci got a needless yellow to rule himself out as well. Milan will therefore face the second placed team with a central defence of Musacchio and Zapata. The rest of the 11 is unlikely to be different and the only question is the usual Kalinic, Silva or Cutrone one. The Portuguese seems favorite to start but that can change by game time.

Previous weeks have featured a very disappointing Bonaventura and arguably the midfield has been the team’s biggest weakness once again. This week there has been more talk of what will happen in the summer transfer window and most of the names mentioned have been free or Bosman players. Despite continuing questions about the ownership, funds and Financial Fair Play sanctions Fassone continues to insist that there will be incoming players but he also concedes some may leave. One such player could be Suso, whose apparent €40 million release is to be triggered by a set of teams, including Milan’s week 32 opponent.

Napoli sit four points behind Juventus for first place and they themselves have almost thrown away their chance at catching the Turin team. Last week Napoli needed two late goals to beat Chievo at home and the week before Sassuolo held them to a 1-1 tie.

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