Road to Obscurity?

by Stelios Karakasis

Oh, yeah. We lost to Inter. In a friendly match, while the whole world was getting ready for Champions League night. But that’s OK. What’s not OK is the fact that this is supposed to be a very critical season for A.C. Milan. The last couple of years, with two CL trophies not that far behind, the team found itself in a nervous mode of suspended animation. The players were not good enough, the squad was old, problems adapting to new tactical evolvements and ideas (I don’t mean trends) were obvious, and Berlusconi seemed like owing money to everyone who speaks Italian. Well, it was good doing business with you, Genoa, but now the money appears to be here. After quite a time, spirits were high during preseason and you could sense an air of collective optimism. Finally, a new start. Moreover, it couldn’t possibly get worse than those last seasons, right?

The club did spend big this year. Ninety one million euros brought Bacca, Luiz Adriano, Bertolacci, Kucka, and the bright prospect of Romagnoli. You even get Mad Mario Balotelli for free. But the midfield is a terrible mess. And the results are simply not here. While it’s still early in the project, one struggles to find many heartwarming signs. When the “senatori” left, the team faced an expected crisis. That’s natural. These players were the backbone of continuous successful seasons. If you think that can’t affect a club, take a look at Juventus this year. It’s understood that after these players are gone, you need some time to adjust the team’s identity and build for the future.

Milan lack leadership on and off the pitch

Milan lack leadership on and off the pitch

What proves to be the case though, there was not any real devising for that future. Instead, it was spasmodic reactions, absurd transfer decisions and a dreadful business plan, all wrapped up in a veil of permanent greatness, the Ghost of Glory Past. It’s a recipe for mediocrity, a road straight to obscurity. When you declare you are aiming for the top, you simply do not sell your two best players to PSG. You don’t give up on guys like Sokratis after a single bad game, so Bonera can keep on playing one horrific game after the other. It’s insanity.

But what worries the most, is that this uneven roster is not the biggest problem. Let’s visit the mentality department. You’re simply devoid of personalities like Maldini, Gattuso, Inzaghi or even Ambrosini. That sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. Your captain is Montolivo. A slightly overrated player, with good passing skills that he rarely puts to use, and can’t seem to inspire the others to even exit a burning building. This Milan lacks class. They lack resilience, faith in themselves, the right mindset, and the necessary attitude to return to winning days. In a few words, it’s not the team that has the audacity to play Jaap Stam as a full-back anymore.

Right now, expectations are high but motivation is low. It’s never going to work that way. Milan needs sensibility and pragmatism. They surely need to worry but it’s important to calmly address every major issue properly and not to scoff and moan and blame it on the boogie. Is Mihajlovic the man to bring that character back? It’s early to say. Do the board and the fans have patience and belief in him? Well, keep on despondently lingering just above the relegation zone and we will find out sooner rather than later.

Milan has had admirable success spanning decades as well as an important contribution in the tactical evolution of the game. They own a rich history few teams have the right to claim and eighteen international titles to prove it. We’re talking football powerhouse status. In all probability, they will come back. Until then, let’s pray for good weather, that the whole organization will start learning from its mistakes, and hope that Bertolacci will someday play as a midfielder that actually costs twenty million.