Summer Mercato: The Anticlimax Edition

The summer 2015 transfer window has come and gone and it ended with a whimper. The promise and goodwill of late spring and early summer days evaporated in the last days and weeks of the window.

Witsel Milan

Axel Witsel in action vs Milan in 2012

What started with an exciting new ownership structure and a new more experienced coach started losing steam slowly. Early June brought on news of Silvio Berlusconi selling 48% of Milan to Bee Taechaubol and his partners and not long after Sinisa Mihajlovic accepting the coaching job. On the day when the coach was introduced several so called dead weights were confirmed to be leaving. Bonera, Muntari, Essien and Pazzini exited the team along with those – Bocchetti, van Ginkel and Destro – whose loans expired. Rami also exited and packed his bags back to Spain with Sevilla, albeit too cheaply.

After failure to sign Jackson Martinez Adriano Galliani turned to Carlos Bacca from Sevilla and the prolific goal scorer and recent Europa Cup winner signalled a new era of spending. Luiz Adriano from Shakhtar Donetsk, Jose Mauri, a free agent after Parma’s collapse, and Andrea Bertolacci followed in soon after. The total transfer fees paid had already reached €58 million.

The new stadium issue seemed to take a step forward with the Fondazione Fiera accepting a Milan offer for the land in the Portello area adjacent to Casa Milan. That location started unravelling a few weeks later with questions about the land. Berlusconi and his daughter Barbara’s timetable for a new stadium by 2018 was already in trouble with other locations being considered but no final decision imminent.

Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic claimed that he is not afraid to speak his mind and apparently convinced Galliani and Berlusconi to pursue Alessio Romagnoli from Roma. The young central defender played under the Serbian at Sampdoria. Weeks of negotiating led to his capture and took the transfer spending into the 80 millions.

Talk of Ibra making a Milan return sprang up as he was thought to be willing to cancel his PSG contract and rejoin. Pictures and reports were prominent for a few days before they died down partly in response to PSG’s unwillingness to lose a star name. Axel Witsel, the Belgian international at Zenit, was another name often mentioned. Many questioned his quality but as friendlies in China and at the Audi Cup in Munich in particular continued to emphasis, Milan’s midfield lacked depth at best. He would be a solid presence helping to move the ball up the pitch.

As is normal with any transfer window various names were rumoured to be close to joining. Everybody from Monaco’s Aymen Abdennour to Genoa’s Diego Perotti were mentioned. As time went by so did the quality or excitement level of the names being mentioned. Add to it players like Stephan El Shaarawy departing (on an initial loan to Monaco) and Hachim Mastour reportedly being shopped around (he eventually left on deadline day to Malaga on a two year loan) all added to a sense of disappointment or anticlimax.


Ibra didn’t make his anticipated Milan return

With a 25 player squad limit coming soon Galliani was also on increased pressure to reign in the numbers. Deep into August Milan were still not in a comfortable spot. Although the 25 number applies to those over 21 years of age only there were and are still issues because the limit requires a 4 player quota of home grown and the team’s own youth players. Despite the early clear out in June players like Zaccardo, Nocerino and Matri were still wearing the Milan shirt as the 2015-2016 season started and many rightfully questioned why.

The final days of August featured yet more surprise with Mario Balotelli making a loan return after an exact one year flop at Liverpool. Slovakian Juraj Kucka also arrived from Genoa, a solid but underwhelming choice to aid Milan’s midfield. The same midfield that had begged for bigger names and was run over in the opening game of the season at Fiorentina too. Alsessandro Matri and Zaccardo were finally offloaded to Lazio and Carpi respectively, though the former only a loan, to at least lighten the weight of the squad. The final hour rumours continued to feature more recent names like Sampdoria’s Roberto Soriano but nothing happened and all reports indicated Milan couldn’t or didn’t want to spend more.

Milan fans’ agitation once again grew as it seemed that the required pieces for a top 3 finish, or arguably a top 5, in Serie A were missing. Where does midfield service come from was a question that was expected to be solved early with the new money. Where was the midfield creativity? Why was Gabriel Paletta a name to leave but Mexes renewed? More questions than answers.

If – and the if got bigger with the recent financial crisis in China – Bee Taechaubol intends to heavily promote Milan in China and rest of Asia he surely needs bigger names and a fast route back to the Champions League. What has been done by Galliani this summer doesn’t take Milan there.

It was a summer of change for all of Milan’s rivals too with many important changes at Juventus, Roma and Inter. It might not prove relevant if Mihajlovic doesn’t find a way to get a lot from the squad he has, or doesn’t get more reinforcements in January.

Galliani can not and must not survive one more failure, if Milan’s position doesn’t look well next May he must be the first to leave.