Aug 252019
 

Season 2019-2020 is upon us and fans hope that this season is a real beginning, a true reset and restart. Aborted attempts at a “year zero” have dominated recent seasons while Milan’s revenues have fallen and the on pitch product has disappointed. Numerous coach, mostly inexperienced and mostly with connections to Milan, have come and gone. Marco Giampaolo could be different, he as no Milan connections and has a track record of helping younger players and provide an actual tactic. The 4-3-1-2 or any other tactic must not be imposed unless the players available to the coach suit the characteristics. The summer transfer window has been mixed to disappointing so far but one more week of it is left and perhaps player(s) long sought after will arrive and fit well. Correa might finally arrive, at great cost, and one hopes he is really that well suited to Giampaolo’s two forward system and is worth the price.

For now though, Week 1 looks to be a deja vu. Leading up to the game none of the summer arrivals seem to be in line to be starters. For now there is no sign of Bennacer, Krunic, Duarte and Leao although the latter has the best chance of getting minutes. Whether or not the reasons are justifiable it is fascinating to see how different the same players will do under a new system and coach.

At least with the seemingly imminent exits of Laxalt and Strinic the left back picture is clearer. Rodriguez will start until Hernandez is fully healed. On the other side Calabria is preferred to Conti and the struggling Musacchio will partner Romagnoli in the center of defence. Biglia has a knock but apparently Bennacer is not considered ready because all indications are that Calahanoglu will start in the middle of the pitch. Calhanoglu as a regista is actually mentioned by pundits and fans before so it will be a useful experiment at least. He will be flanked not by Kessie and Bonaventura but by Paqueta and Borini! If it doesn’t go well and the full backs are exposed there will be some questions after the match.

Suso had an okay time behind the two forwards in preseason. Will the inconsistent winger continue to do so? The question might be answered when he lines up behind Castillejo and Piatek. Castillejo as a non winger or psuedo second striker has not and does not look promising either and Piatek’s preseason form was nonexistent.

Udinese will feature a familiar name up front in Kevin Lasagna and the hosts have not changed drastically during the summer.

The season is about to start with many questions, follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Aug 192019
 

Now that the season is less than one week away it is a good time to look back at the preseason. The transfer window has still two weeks to go and the team will and needs more change and as if to prove that the latest 0-0 tie at Cesena looked like a step back from the rest of the friendly games played this summer. The first point to observe other than the poor 1 win in these 6 friendlies is the make up of the team available to Giampaolo. All the games had one thing in common. The new players have not been available and have barely gotten minutes. The danger is that these new players would not be able to contribute right away when the season starts. Theo Hernandez got injured very early in his Milan career so he has been absent. Rade Krunic has not gotten many minutes mainly due to coach’s decisions. Rafael Leao played a half vs Feronikeli and is now carrying a slight injury. Ismael Bennacer was away due to Africa Cup Of Nations commitments and has only recently joined the team and finally Leo Duarte only played as a sub versus Cesena, in mid August having been a recent transfer. The team is in search of other signings and Angel Correa’s apparent inflexible and expensive fee has some wondering why the management has not moved on to another target already. In other words the team that has played this summer is mostly composed of the players that finished fifth last season. Suso has performed mostly well this summer and has given some hope for the spot behind the two forwards in the 4-3-1-2 but he is not really suited for it and hasn’t been consistent the last two seasons. Giampaolo has said he believes Paqueta is a midfield player so the attacking midfield role needs to be filled by someone more consistent that the Spaniard. The attack will be set by Piatek, Leao and perhaps Correa or someone cheaper and safer. Castillejo is not very useful in a winger-less formation. Andre Silva will leave one way or another and the lack of teams wanting him is making him look like a lazy flop, which he is really not. The left back spot still requires exits, the most realistic of outgoing rumours have mentioned Laxalt but what of Rodriguez or Strinic? There have also been a few right back rumours most mentioning Conti’s possible departure but why? The only other right back on the team is Calabria.

The sole win was a solid 2-0 versus a weak side but the KF Feronikeli match provided a glimpse of the tactics, passing, two forwards and vertical movement that the coach will try to implement. The other games had positive points as well. The 0-1 loss to Benfica was somewhat unlucky, the team was not poor in the loss against Bayern (another 0-1 loss) and nor was it in the 2-2 tie vs Manchester United. The final friendly versus Cesena was the most disappointing but it has to be kept in mind that Borini has spent the preseason playing on the left or right side of midfield. The concern is that the start of the season versus Udinese, Brescia and Verona is not being met with a fully ready and strengthened team. Dropping points before meeting Inter in late September can potentially ruin the whole season. A top 4 spot next May is of utmost importance. Management’s aim should be and should have been to conclude transfer business well before the season starts so the players and coaches can hit the season running.

Aug 122019
 

The off season is nearing an end and the real games will start in less than two weeks. The team building and rebuilding has not been exactly very active but the squad is taking shape and the recent friendly, a 2-0 win at KF Feronikeli, provided another look at Giampaolo’s ideas. The opposition was obviously not the strongest and the squad is still not complete but Suso provided encouraging looks, so did new arrival Rafael Leao. Bonaventura also seems to be in good form, especially for a player who hasn’t played in months. However, Kessie and Bennacer have not even played yet and trained very little due to national team commitments.

The friendly will have served its purpose and the team will continue to learn the coach’s system. The question that Milan and its management still haven’t fully answered is about those leaving. Andre Silva was of course close to Monaco but negotiations failed and obviously not due to a medical issue because the player trained soon after and has played in the preseason. Finding a destination for him seems even more difficult now that English transfer window is closed.

Besides the Portuguese there have been whispers that Suso might leave. His coach insists that the Spaniard is valuable in his system but the greater concern is the numbers quoted in aforementioned rumours. They are simply too low. Rumours indicate Milan would be willing to sell him for €32 million. This figure might be very profitable in Financial Fair Play terms but much like Kessie’s rumoured asking price of €28 million undervalues the player. Suso was bought for relative peanuts of around €1 million over four years ago. A €32 million would be a big profit and in terms of FFP an even more positive on the balance sheet. In almost the same way that Cutrone’s €18 million sale to Wolves was a massive profit – since the forward was brought up in Milan’s own system. Creative FFP accounting works by spreading a transfer fee over the life of the contract therefore and for example in the oft mentioned Andre Silva case his €38 million transfer with a 5 year contract reflects as €22.8 million now (38 divided by 5 is 7.6 and it has been two years since the fee was paid therefore 38-(7.6*2) equals 22.8). Any outgoing transfer of over €22.8 million counts as a profit for the coming season. All these calculations however don’t reflect the true value of Suso and Kessie (and perhaps even Silva). Further the somewhat persistent rumours of Correa arriving for about €40 million or so entitles everybody to wonder why Suso could be cheaper than the Argentinian.

Other candidates for the exit door include Strinic, Laxalt and Rodriguez, perhaps even Castillejo. Two of the first three are surely dispensable as Hernandez (if healthy) can claim the starting left back spot.

In the meanwhile Leo Duarte was made official so the central defence spot is more secure, a william hill promotional offer more assured too, and this is especially good since Musacchio hasn’t been at his best during the preseason.

More movement is expected before the window closes and rumours of a surprise, Mr.X type, signing have popped up a few times. They are supported by hints given by Boban that Elliott will try to find more (important) players this summer. Modric? Rakitic? Unlikely but stay tuned.

 

Aug 022019
 

Rafael Leão signs for Milan. Image courtesy acmilan.com

As the 2019 summer transfer window enters into August and its second half Milan’s management is answering some questions and leaving some perplexed too. The team is being built but slowly and not necessarily cheaply. The acceptance of Europa League exclusion has certainly opened to the door to some spending but how much can be spent and how much risk can be taken for this and future seasons remains a big question.

As of early August the supposed imminent Andre Silva to Monaco transfer has collapsed. It is presumed that his medical at the principality revealed something but nothing is known publicly. Will his (super) agent find a solution for him. He certainly looks to have no future at Milan but the so called solution is apparently tied to lowering his price. Can Milan afford to sell for less? And will Jorge Mendes will eventually help or hurt Milan?

Speaking of Mendes, another of his clients is now a Milan player. Rafael Leao, formerly of Lille has signed on for around €30 million. The young Portuguese forward left Sporting Lisbon in their terrible summer of 2018 and impressed in France. The versatile forward has now given Milan someone to play with Piatek up front. A risk as he is only 20 and the gamble carries memories of Andre Silva’s own arrival at Milan two summers ago. Leao has the tools to be a different player but time will tell if he can have a long term future at Milan.

The other supposed imminent transfer to Milan is now in a prolonged limbo. Angel Correa was close to Milan for somewhere between €35 and €50 million. The €50 million is widely thought of too expensive but will Atletico accept less. The player seems to have agreed to join Milan and provide an attacking option but his current team may not care and want the maximum. Fans and best betting sites Italian Football will be more optimistic about Milan if he provides Giampaolo a hard working option. At a low enough price to lower the risk!

With only two healthy and ready central defenders in Romagnoli and Musacchio – and one injured in Caldara – a search for a fourth defender has been in effect since the season ended. Mattia Gabbia, the youth product, is thought to not be ready and such players have rarely made the senior team so the management unearthed a Brazilian. Leo Duarte has arrived in Milan – with Serginho’s endorsement – for around €10 million and has already completed his medical. The 23 year old Flamengo player could be made official soon but then again Milan fans can’t be sure what comes out of anything. For example, Algerian midfielder Ismael Bennacer completed his medical and left for vacation before any official announcement.

In other preseason news Theo Hernandez injured his ankle less than 45 into his Milan debut and will miss at least a few weeks. Perhaps only a few weeks. If his status is cleared may be Milan can go ahead and finally sell one of Rodriguez, Laxalt or Strinic. The latter has struggled in the preseason in part due to his long term absence due to his heart problem.

Maldini and co have a month to build the team at a reasonable cost. Fans are left with little choice to take a wait and see attitude and hope that by season’s start Milan have taken enough steps for a top four finish.

Jul 232019
 

Late July is still weeks away from the start of the season and the window closing, there is still lots of time left to shape the squad, right? Yes and no.

Training is well under way and the team is in the US for the International Champions Cup matches versus Bayern Munich, Benfica and Manchester United. If European football was on the cards real matches could be sooner too. A new coach, another rebuild and one would hope that the coach would have most of his players at his disposal but that is not the case. However, Milan is far from the only team with little movement until late in the window, in this or any summer.

Andre Silva’s exit has always seemed likely. From the outset he seemed out of place and didn’t get much game time, his loan to Sevilla started well but that also fizzled out. He returned this summer to whispers that he might be useful and/or needed in Giampaolo’s two forward formation but that is now near an end as well. He is all but gone to Monaco for upwards of €30 million. The number is less than his €38 million arrival but for accounting and Financial Fair Play purposes represents a profit due to the 38 being spread out over the length of his contract. In his place Angel Correa of Atletico Madrid is rumoured to be close. When the rumour first appeared numbers like €50 million were quoted. That would represent an over payment for the 24 years old winger or second striker. If the transfer does go through that number is likely to be lower but it would represent a big gamble, perhaps even breaking Milan’s transfer record (The 44 million Milan paid for Rui Costa back in 2001). The other question raised is if Silva’s sale is enough to cover Correa’s fee. A few mentions that Cutrone might be up for sale as well are disappointing. If for no other reason that the team needs depth and options.

Speaking of depth the central defense is lacking it and so is the midfield. On the former, there were rumours that Juventus might be willing to loan or even sell Turkish international Merih Demiral to Milan for €40 million, only weeks after buying him from Sassuolo for 18! Milan do need a central defender, likely for a short time, until Caldara recovers but such a deal represents robbery. Caldara may only miss the first three months of the season and although Milan are barely covered with only Romagnoli and Musacchio on the senior squad spending big amounts on a central defender might not be wise and is certainly difficult. RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano could be one long term option with perhaps Calhanoglu going the other way. An older, more temporary option, in the form of a veteran defender might be a wiser choice. It is up to Maldini and co to get the right find. On the midfield issue, Krunic’s arrival is set to be supplemented with another Empoli player. Ismael Bennacer is back in Europe after starring for the cup winning Algeria at Africa Cup of Nations. His imminent €16 million (plus small bonuses) arrival is welcome as central midfield needs options and starters too, and he could be a good one.

There is also the outgoing business to ponder. Milan do have historical difficulty in selling players, perhaps due to the comfort and high wages many players enjoy at Milan. A host of names could leave Milan but how much time is there to replace them even if a buyer is found? One or two of Laxalt, Rodriguez and Strinic are surely surplus to requirements. Does Suso do enough to convince Giampaolo and is Suso really a triquestra in the coach’s 4-3-1-2? What of Castillejo? There are even questions around Kessie and Biglia. Either could be sold, for profit and cause of age respectively.

The transfer window closes on September 2nd and the season starts nine days before on the weekend of August 24th.

 

Jul 172019
 

The new rebuild, year zero , etc. is under way. Ricky Massara, Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban, complete with shiny titles, are set to rebuild Milan. Elliott and CEO Ivan Gazidis are promising to make Milan challengers again. How fast and at what expense? No one can really tell. Notwithstanding any possible reprieve via the Europa League exclusion deal with UEFA there are limits at what Milan can and is able to do. Not to mention the possible expense of a new (shared) stadium to come.

The three sporting side leaders introduced Marco Giampaolo as coach, the introduction news conference held last week was not even big on generalities and few details were available or given. Giampaolo mentioned that his preferred system, the  4-3-1-2, can be modified if the players at his disposal demand something else. He spoke of general objectives but not specifics. He mainly steered away from commenting on players’ available or those who could become available.

The mercato itself has not been the fastest or most exciting. Rade Krunic was made official soon after the new coach officially arrived, Theo Hernandez a bit earlier. The latter is a useful player but there has been little of note of who he is replacing and as is common for Milan outgoing transfers are seemingly laboured. Rodriguez, Laxalt or Strinic plus Hernandez form a deep left side but one has to go, may be two. The central defense is bare with only three players in Romagnoli, Musacchio and Caldara on the squad. Zapata was let go – or didn’t re sign-  when the team knew Caldara is out injured for the early months of the season. Does this team now need two central defenders now? Or perhaps one if youth product Matteo Gabbia is ready for the bench.

The midfield is still bare with arrivals necessary, and not only for depth. The departures have been replaced with Krunic and possibly Ismael Bennacer arriving shortly. The on again, off again Jordan Veretout saga has made the French player look like he is in as much in demand as a super star, he is now unlikely to arrive, and perhaps for the best. His story, if rumours are to be true, point at a big problem for Milan. As was hinted at when defender Ozan Kabak was to sign with Milan the team has a strict requirement to reduce the wage bill. Players like Kabak and Veretout were apparently offered salaries as low as 1 million net. Nowhere near enough in today’s football. Kessie and Biglia are still Milan players, are they enough and will they even remain? If they don’t remain then the massive renewal after Bertolacci, Montolivo, Mauri and Bakayoko’s departures is multiplied to impossible levels.

There are rumours that a player like Cutrone could be available for sale at a reduced price. Why for sale and why reduced price is baffling. Center forward is perhaps even more important if Giampaolo sticks to his two forwards system. Cutrone along with Andre Silva and Piatek need help more than they need to be sold.

Back to the formation question, there is metnion that Suso is being tested and thought of as a triquestra or the 1 behind the two strikers. Previous evidence indicates that is not going to work and what of Paqueta if that does work.

The conclusion to all of the above is that few things are set or ready and with preseason starting soon the rebuild needs to accelerate so that the 2019-2010 season can hit the ground running. Is someone like Luka Modric possible to kick start the season? A few whispers say yes. Boban could use his name to attract such a player. For now though the mercato just needs movement. 2020-2021 Champions League football is a necessity for the team.

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.

May 312019
 

Milan is in a historical crisis. The gap between Milan and the so called big teams – of which Milan supposedly is one – looks set to increase. The years of mismanagement and inability to build teams, the years of spending money on signing and extending old and/or mediocre players were always going to catch up to a Serie A team. An English team may be, just may be, can spend their way out of problems, but not most other teams. Not Milan. Not in a Financial Fair Play era. Berlusconi left the team in a decidedly not safe hand and the eventual take over by a hedge fund may not guarantee much, even though it promised to at first.

Whether it be due to the aforementioned FFP or any other reason, Elliott Management seems to be embarking on a cost cutting, young team building mode. Instead of the initial promise of increasing the value of the team in order to sell high later.

On the footballing side various unproven or unsuitable coaches have come and gone since the day Allegri left Milan. Three management teams have insisted on relying on former players as coaches and all have been a miss. Coaches were confirmed on shaky ground only to be fired or resign not long after. The latest, a true Milanista, left graciously and left money behind but on the pitch he proved not good enough. Gattuso insisted on a 4-3-3 too predictably often, made late or perplexing subs often and remained loyal to out of form players for too long. A defensive mode – highlighted in a 1-0 win! – adapted after 1 goal or even zero goal game and a collapse like the one vs Olympiakos – a 3-1 loss when anything better could have sufficed – last fall had provided plenty of evidence that Milan has long needed a proven and veteran coach, at least. Milan, stuck with Gattuso and rode a hot player in Piatek for a month before it all went down hill and a Champions League spot was lost.

This brings us to the management team. Maldini who had ran away when the Chinese ownership of Li offered him a role came back to the fold as sporting strategy and development director when Elliott seemed to promise much more. Even though his role was ambiguous and not fully defined. Leonardo returned as sporting director and although bound by FFP they set out on positive changes. Piatek and Paqueta (at a whopping €70 million total) provided youth and new life, for a few weeks. The insistence of playing Calhanoglu as a left winger or left attacking midfielder was a failure. That combined with a predictable and off form Suso on the other side chocked the offense and left the once hot Piatek on his own up front. The three in the middle had ups and downs and Bonaventura’s long term injury didn’t help. Caldara’s injury riddled season added a depth problem at the back. The full backs were mostly mediocre and Conti’s long expected return from injury was like an interrupted anticlimax.

The season has now ended. Austerity and frugality seems to be the order of the day with Gazidis seemingly set to fulfill his money man reputation by starting anew. Leonardo and Gattuso have left, Maldini may accept a more defined role but most bets are off without cash to spend. A high profile coach would normally be a big statement and step up but without Champions League or any money that seems off the table too. In a summer when all of Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri, Max Allegri (and more) are possible none will arrive. The team might settle for Simone Inzaghi or March Giampaolo for the start of another year zero.

 

May 262019
 

The sometimes dreadful and frustrating 2018-2019 season is coming to an end with a must win game, if a Champions League spot is to be gained. Much has been said about how the season derailed in February and how the rivals matched the incompetence to allow Milan to stay inside the top 4 and drop out of the spot only after weeks of poor losses. Gattuso is likely to pay the price for it all, he of defensive and stubborn tactics. It may even transpire that there are more management casualties. Leonardo could leave too and set the stage for a Gazidis mini austerity revolution. More will be known, said and written very soon after this week 38 match.

Milan remain without Paqeuta through suspension and Calabria through injury. The way the squad is built and the way the coach insists on a 4-3-3 that leaves very little doubt as to what the starting line up is going to be. Piatek, Suso and Borini will form the front three. Bakayoko, Kessie, and Calhanoglu will be in the middle. Abate, playing his last ever Milan match, will be at right back alongside Musacchio, Romagnoli and Rodriguez. Donnarumma, of course, starts in goal.

Three points will be enough for a top 4 spot if one of Atalanta or Inter drop points. Both are playing home matches, versus Sassuolo and Empoli respectively. Empoli have relegation – one solitary point ahead of Genoa for the final relegation place – fears and may give it all but other than that Milan’s chances of playing in Europe’s money generator are low to even lower.

SPAL may lose their highly rated and long time coach after the season. The Emilia-Romagna team have over achieved under the guidance of Leonardo Semplici.

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