Monthly Archive: March 2020

The COVID-19 Standstill

Empty stadiums as Italy and the world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak takes the world into new territory and one it is unable to cope with football has come close to a stand still. 

Italy is of course one of the hardest hit countries. The reasons for this will not become clear until later. Any current explanations are only (educated) guesses for now. 

Football is a big business that goes beyond the revenue collected close to the pitch. Gate and TV revenue present a major percentage of football income but many other industries, be they major, independent or freelance, rely on football being played and broadcast. Major sports betting apps like William Hill have taken a big hit as a result of empty pitches and suspended games. The search for revenue has led them to other avenues. Virtual games and other forms of online betting that don’t rely on physical games have surged and may make up for some of the lost revenue, for the short term at least. The same companies seek liquidity and financing to survive the shutdown and try to ride this pandemic out. The few matches that continued like in farther football reaches of Belarus provided some focus but can not fill the gap and are only viable for the very short term too.

As for the Serie A, the initial proposed length for the suspension of all football looks very optimistic now and the hoped early May return to training and games is unlikely. Various proposals that include playing many games in close proximity and ending the season by the end of June may not be realistic considering the spread of the virus. Medical research has accelerated its search for both a treatment and a vaccine but will need more time. The social distancing that has become the prime requirement of minimizing the spread will need to go on and any relaxation carries a big risk. 

Seeing this the Italian league may amend some betting and construction restrictions to let teams earn money and accelerate investment in the coming months and years.

Fans are therefore spending time at home and resorting to online games and other distractions. Several entertainment and gaming providers have granted temporary free or discounted access to their products and many educational resources have moved online.

Interestingly the number of transfer rumours have not dropped as much as some would imagine. One of these is a Gazidis led €2.5 million salary cap at Milan that if true jeopardizes the future of several players at Milan. Ibra, already rumoured to be disappointed at the state of the team, would be impossible to keep and he may either retire completely or pursue his career elsewhere. Whether a salary cap would actually apply to the likes of Romagnoli is questionable and his or other departures will obviously set the team back too much. Rangnick and therefore Maldini and Pioli’s future which looked close to decided are still subject to rumours too. 

In the midst of it all, here at MilanMania there is of course less football to talk about but there are updates on the forum. We all hope this pandemic is managed as well as possible and wish everybody well.

Week 26: Milan – Genoa, Boban – Gazidis

The world is in the midst of nothing short of a COVID-19 pandemic and many large events are getting cancelled. Football matches in the heavily affected regions of Northern Italy are among those. This week 26 match was initially postponed to May 13th but the season was effectively pushed back one week to play this match when the week 27 match at Lecce was supposed to be played. The games could yet get postponed or even cancelled but for now the matches will happen behind closed doors.

Milan’s management has been busy behind closed doors. The rumoured arrival of Ralf Rangnick to take over at various roles has simmered for a while and it boiled over when Boban publicly accused Gazidis of going behind his and Maldini’s back and change the team’s plans and guarantees. The outburst has now cost Boban his Milan job and could yet affect Maldini’s job as well. The Croatian looks to return to his FIFA job. This will likely happen as the aforementioned German gets confirmed in the coming weeks and start another revolution at Milan. Whether the future holds a strict and deep cost cutting or just a re-creation of a young team remains to be seen. More unstable times ahead.

This match will not feature Donnarumma in goal, Begovic will start in place of the still injured Italian. The young goalkeeper is due back soon however. The healed Kjaer is likely getting another start over Mucasshio. The Dane will play with Conti, Romagnoli and Hernandez. Kessie, Bennacer, Castillejo, Calhanoglu and Rebic will line up behind Ibra. All hopes are that the team are not affected by the various worries. Pioli has a big job maintaining discipline and concentration levels as the team still has European hopes and needs.

Follow the instability and the match as they happen, on the forum.

Pandemic & Crisis

COVID-19 outbreak in Italy

With an accelerating COVID-19 outbreak in northern regions of Italy many games have been postponed and the week 26 Milan – Genoa match is one game which is hoped will be played on May 13th. The virus is on the verge of becoming a pandemic and the status of many large gatherings, including football games, will remain in question for days and weeks to come.

The seemingly perpetual crisis at Milan is derailing the team itself too. This week Boban has spoken out about and against CEO Ivan Gazidis. Gazidis has apparently courted and agreed with Ralf Rangnick behind Boban and Maldini’s back and with the latter two’s job obviously at risk anger has simmered to the surface. It is clear that the two legends do and will have many fans behind them and Milan can not afford more changes and year zeros. Rangnick will represent a big departure from Milan’s past and culture. He may be effective at various rumoured capacities at the club but the FFP and other financial limitations will present obstacles for him and indeed for Boban/Maldini’s hopes of taking Milan back to the top. Many wish that Milan can spend big this summer to help Ibra – who seems likely to stay – and the rest of the team next season but it is more likely that reality will require more creative and smart transfers.

On the pitch Duarte remains the long injury. Krunic is likely to be out for a few more weeks but Kjaer and Donnarumma are very close to returns and could be available for the March 4th Coppa Italia semi final return at Juventus. Whether the match goes ahead – with or without local or traveling fans – is not certain yet. The first leg finished a very controversial 1-1 and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Samu Castillejo and Theo Hernandez all suspended for the second leg the game is close to unwinnable.