Monthly Archive: August 2018

Week 2: Napoli – Milan

Gennaro Gattuso will need to inject new blood into the squad.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

The first game of the 2018-2019 season vs Genoa was postponed following the Genoa bridge collapse tragedy. Milan’s season gets underway at Napoli and the week 1 match is to be played on October 31st.

It has been yet another summer of change at Milan with new ownership, Elliott management, bringing in a semblance of stability and recruiting and convincing former legends to join in leading roles. The long hard work that Leonardo and Maldini have on their hands is now fully Gattuso’s too. There were eight new arrivals but at least initially only three of them are close to being starters. The early weeks might feature fewer new starters than many might hope or expect. Gonzalo Higuian will need to continue his goal scoring exploits because not only goal scoring was a weakness last season but the new season brings in less alternatives for the center forward spot. Andre Silva and Kalinic exited Milan and Bacca converted his loan away to a full exit – in the Samu Castillejo deal with Villarreal – so Cutrone is the sole real alternative to the Argentinian. Tiemoue Bakayoko will be an option in the middle of the park as a central or right midfielder and Mattia Caldara will likely feature when Mateo Musacchio does not. The other five arrivals, Castillejo, Laxalt, Halilovic, Reina and Strinic will have to fight for spots and gain Gattuso’s trust. Strinic is on the sidelines for an indefinite period with a recently discovered heart issue, so the left back spots will be contested between Rodriguez and Laxalt for now.

As before, other than the aforementioned goalscoring woes, the midfield will be under scrutiny to see if a more creative, direct squad can be found. The start will be mostly a feeling of deja vu with Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura the more likely starters in the 4-3-3. Although he was due to be suspended for the first game vs Genoa Calhanoglu is suspended for this game and the question for the left wing or the left front player is still unanswered, a familiar face might increase the deja vu feel as Borini is a possibility.

Summer 2018: The Rivals

Radja Nainggolan and Ronaldo at Inter and Juventus

Milan’s manic summer seems to be reaching a hopeful conclusion with new (temporary but long term!) ownership under Elliott and the return of capable and legends in Leonardo and Maldini. Other Serie A teams and rivals in the upper half of the table have had busy and newsworthy summers as well. There is still one week left in Serie A’s transfer window but a lot has happened already.

The big transfer news of the summer is that of Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid after three consecutive Champions League wins and making a €100 million+ transfer to Juventus. The reigning champions’ summer activity will certainly affect betting and bookmaker bonuses and expectations will be higher in Turin, especially when it comes to taking the next step and winning the Champions League. Juventus lost Gianluigi Buffon to PSG but signed Mattia Perin to compete with Wojciech Szczesny. Other transfers have strengthened the team, including making Douglas Costa a permanent member of the team. Joao Cancelo who was close to an Inter switch after spending time on loan was snapped up too. Not forgetting getting Bonucci back from Milan (in exchange for Caldara). Losing top scorer Higuian would have been a significant loss but Ronaldo’s arrival made it inevitable.

Napoli’s biggest move was bringing in Carlo Ancelotti, as it turned out long before Maurizio Sarri was officially gone. Ancelotti had left Bayern Munich last year and the stated reasons for it were not reassuring. Bayern players complained that training was too relaxed. Leading up to the transfer deadline there have been plenty of rumours but activity has been minimal.

Inter have been under Financial Fair Play pressure and have been creative in loaning or selling youth players with buy back options to add revenue for the current fiscal year. The likes of Davide Bettella and Federico Valietti have left to Atalanta and Genoa to add millions to the books. Those millions allowed the team to sign Radja Nainggolan from Roma. One early arrival was Stefan de Vrij from Lazio on a free transfer to boost the defensive line.

Roma have been busy with director of football Monchi making wholesale changes to the team again. Javier Pastore, Justin Kluivert, Davide Santon and others have arrived replacing departing players such as Juan Iturbe, Bruno Peres and the aforementioned Nainggolan. Dane Robin Olsen arrived after a long search for an Allison replacement. The Brazilian World Cup goalkeeper made a big money transfer to Liverpool.

Lazio have had a big shoe to fill with de Vrij’s departure. Ex-Milan player Francesco Acerbi has signed on to be part of that. Lazio also lost Felipe Anderson to the English Premier League (West Ham) for big money and have spent some of that to bring in Joaquin Correa from Sevilla.

It has been a bust summer elsewhere too with Atalanta, Fiorentina and Torino trying to remain top half teams. Duvan Zapata has been loaned to Atalanta by Sampdoria, ex- Milan midfielder Mario Pasalic is also on loan at Atalanta from Chelsea. Fiorentina have captured loan moves for Marko Pjaca and Kevin Mirallas. Torino are hanging on to Andrea Belotti and have signed Tomas Rincon, Armando Izzo, Soualiho Meite and others to make up a solid team.

A lot of hard work ahead to not only stay in the top 6 and possibly crack the top 4 for Gattuso and Milan.

Maldini Returns To Milan

News spread quickly that Maldini will return to Milan after dismissing several attempts in prior years. He had always maintained that he is interested in a decision making role with a project he believes in. He had also expressed his doubts about the Chinese take over last year.

With Elliott taking over from Yonghong Li and appointing Leonardo in a director role Maldini was convinced and returns as what is described as director of strategic development.

Today at the presentation news conference team president Paolo Scaroni emphasized the importance of having the club legend back at the club after a nine year absence when Maldini retired from playing. With Leonardo present they described the role as taking care of everything on the sporting side, but not excluding the possibility of another sporting director being appointed.  Maldini described his confidence in the new Elliott project and described his role as helping Leonardo in every aspect of the team, including the youth sector where his son plays.

Other notable points at the conference were Paolo Scaroni saying that a CEO will be announced in the coming weeks. Ivan Gazidis of Arsenal is still the rumoured name with Umberto Gandini a possibility in a similar general manager role. Leonardo mentioned that Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is impossible because he is too expensive, the management will keep looking for players but financial constraints, especially those of UEFA, will make things difficult. PSG’s Adrien Rabiot is one other name circulating, the 23 year old will be cheaper in part because his contract expires next summer.

The First Pieces: Higuain & Caldara

Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara have arrived from Juventus to form the early pieces of the post-Chinese era.

With very little time left in the transfer window, the deadline being August 18th, Leonardo has gotten to work even without the full management structure in place. The team still does not officially have a CEO or general manager in place but Leonardo has concluded a deal that gives the team a young central defender and takes a big step in solving the lack of goals that plagued the team last season. Caldara had mostly impressed the last two seasons at Atalanta and on loan at Atalanta (after being bought for Juventus). He replaces a defender, Bonucci, seven years older than him.

In what is a somewhat surprising move Juventus agreed to an (expensive) €18 million loan and only an option to buy and allowed Higuain to move to Milan. It is surely a verbal if not explicit certainty that Milan will pay the €36 million option next summer. Ronaldo’s arrival at Juventus nudged Higuain out and the fact that Leonardo was able to convince Higuain is a testament to the Brazilian’s abilities as a sporting director. Higuain commands a high salary but so did Bonucci, the total money outlay works out to be a relatively low number, this deal’s numbers could even be called insignificant if UEFA’s Financial Fair Play was not a factor.

Caldara signs on for a five year contract and is expected to form a solid and young partnership with Romagnoli. The latter is a candidate to be the next captain, replacing his now former defensive partner.

There is work still to be done but Bookmaker Bonuses and predictions for Milan’s season can be more optimistic. Higuain, and any forward, requires good service from the wings and midfield. Left wing and midfield creativity were a weakness last season and Leonardo needs to address that as well as possible within the financial constraints. Bernard, formerly of Shakhtar Donetsk, but now a Bosman could be one such signing and take up a spot on the left wing.

The need to sell must not forgotten either. Montolivo, Gomez, Bacca, Kalinic are the most obvious exit candidates. The first has apparently been told to find another team and the latter two are not easily sellable. Both are above 30 and the market for them is small. The team may need to accept cheap loans and/or relative little money. With news of Higuain’s arrival came the news that he will wear the number 9 shirt for the 2018-2019 season, whether this means Andre Silva – the current holder of that shirt – is also done as a Milan player is not known for sure. If all of Kalinic, Bacca and Silva do leave Milan that leaves the team with only the Argentine and Cutrone as recognized center forwards. This creates a lack of depth for a team playing on three fronts.

With just over two week to go to the start of the season there is more drama on the cards.