Monthly Archive: April 2020

Favorite Goals: The Mexes Bicycle Kick

The 2012-2013 Champions League featured Milan in a tight group stage with Malaga, Zenit and Anderlecht. It was late November and match day five with all teams still with a shot at the top two spots. Milan traveled to Belgium with the following starting line up:

Abbiati, De Sciglio, Mexes, Yepes, Constant, Nocerino, De Jong, Montolivo, Boateng, Krkic, El Shaarawy

With Pato, Robinho and Pazzini all on the bench

Certainly not vintage Milan at all and the first half passed scoreless but early in the second the game changed. El Shaarawy scored early and the match seemed headed for an 1-0 away win but a Montolivo central freekick led to Milan’s second goal. The freekick was taken on by Mexes. The Frenchman lifted the ball with his chest and proceeded to shoot hard with an acrobatic bicycle kick from distance. The ball looped down into the far side beating Silvio Proto in goal for a 2-0 lead. Pato scored an added time goal after Tom De Sutter had made it 2-1. The 3-1 win allowed Milan to finish second and move to a first knock out stage encounter against Barcelona.

Favorite Goals: Weah’s Solo Goal

Match day one of the 1996-1997 season had Verona visiting the San Siro. Milan had won the scudetto the season before and Fabio Capello had departed to Real Madrid, for what was to be a short stint. For what would not be the first time Milan had brought in a Cagliari coach to replace Capello. Oscar Tabarez started his Milan tenure starting the following 11

Rossi, Galli, Costacurta, Maldini, Panucci, Albertini, Desailly, Boban, Baggio, Weah, Simone

At the half it was Verona ahead by one goal but the second half exploded with a Simone brace and a late goal where Weah took the ball straight from a long Verona corner to ran and dribble past defenders before beating Attilio Gregori with a low shot. Baggio would add a later fourth for a 4-1 win.

The big win wouldn’t reflect on the season as Tabarez wouldn’t even last the calendar year and a Sacchi return is an unsuccessful one as Milan end the season in 11th place.

Favorite Goals: Massaro Opens The Scoring In Athens

Milan had just won the scudetto for the third time in a row. Barcelona’s so called dream team had win the La Liga for the fourth time in a row, the latter three by the smallest of margins. It was Capello vs Cruyff. The pre-match was dominated by Barca’s overconfidence and Cruyff’s boasting about his team’s attacking play vs the so called defensive Capello and Italian style.

Baresi and Costacurta were suspended. Marco van Basten was injured and the Dutch trio era was nearing its end. Due to overconfidence – and partially limits on foreign players – meant Michael Laudrup was not even on the bench for Barca.

The game didn’t go as Spanish team had hoped. Barca didn’t get many chances on the ball and their attacks were often broken up with Milan flooding forward instead. One such play led to the first goal. Boban broke up a Barca play which allowed Savicevic to beat Pep Guardiola and Miguel Angel Nadal and run towards Zubizarreta. His shot was half diverted to Massaro who easily shot in to open the scoring.

Three more impressive goals followed in what Cruyff later characterized as “It was not that we played badly, it was that we did not play at all.”

The 1994 Champions League final finished 4-0 and went down as one of the most historic football games of all time.

Future Of The Transfer Market

As leagues around the world try to come to terms with the Coronavirus pandemic a return date is always on the agenda. These possible dates are and will need to keep being revised as new information arrives. Public health and measures to protect it dictate the future of the suspended seasons and to some extent football itself.

Milan have meetings planned with other Serie A teams and the league to see if overseas based players can return to Italy or can at least start to prepare more rigorously for football. For example Athletic Bilbao in Spain had brief plans to return to individual training this week but had to abandon it. Many others talk of early May return to training for a late May football but that seems optimistic. There are plans to restart the English lower tiers in early June but that may be impossible too. All these plans are for behind closed doors games so in no way football is going back to normal in the near future.

FIFA has proposed to extend contracts that would normally end on June 30th every year until the 2019-2020 seasons are concluded in each country. This would also affect the transfer window dates and depending on how far into the future seasons do end football’s growth and the growth of eSports in 2020 and beyond too.

Football teams big and small depend on revenue from transfers. Many who are already reeling due to suspension of games will have only one remaining lifeline, revenue from transfers. But how will transfers look and will it possibly be a very brief window instead of the usual late June to early September dates? Will players become cheaper or not? No one knows for sure but interestingly transfer rumours are continuing at a pace that may surprise some.

Arguably Milan’s case is more precarious than most. In the midst of a yet another rebuild with whispers that the wage bill will need to be drastically lower there is lots to do. The latest seems to be concentrated on Sandro Tonali arriving from Brescia and Milan sacrificing any or all of Gabbia, Pobega and Plizzari to get the sometimes combative but highly rated young central midfielder. Paqueta has been rumoured to leave after a disappointing recent time. Money from his exit may be needed. Gaetano Castrovilli is a mentioned indirect replacement. Ibra may leave after being unimpressed by the state of the team before the lockdown. If he does go a forward is needed and perhaps more if Rebic and Leao’s future lies elsewhere too. Arkadiusz Milik is one recently mentioned possibility. Milan need to look for a right back too with both Conti and Calabria seemingly lost causes. Donnarumma has one more year on his contract and his case needs to be cleared up before he heads into the final season of his four year deal.

Expiring contracts may be the easiest thing to manage at Milan this summer. Bonaventura and Biglia are almost certainly not returning next season.

Of course all this depends on even more than the Coronavirus pandemic. It is still not known if Ralf Rangnick is arriving and if he does how many roles he is taking up and therefore if Maldini – and Pioli – are heading for the exit in the near future.

Favorite Goals: Pato Completes Napoli Rout

It is late February in 2011 and Napoli visit the San Siro for match day 27. Milan, led by Max Allegri, are headed for the Scudetto. Napoli and Inter are the chasing teams. Milan’s starting line up is:

Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Jankulovski; Gattuso, van Bommel, Flamini; Robinho; Ibrahimovic, Pato

The first half was less than impressive but the second half got under way quickly as Milan were awarded a hand ball penalty which Ibra converted. Pato and Ibra then combined well and the former provided an assist for Kevin Prince Boateng to make it 2-0. The Brazilian confident and in good form kept running at the Napoli defense. The third goal came when van Bommel headed long to clear the ball from the edge of the box. The header turned into an assist when Pato took on the ball at pace and forced the Napoli defenders to retreat and retreat. He then placed the ball with an accurate long shot into the top corner of the Napoli net, while ignoring the chance to pass the ball to Ibra who had rushed into attack after him. Morgan De Sanctis in goal and every Napoli player was dejected as mass celebrations engulfed the stadium.

The match ended 3-0 as Milan marched on.
Highlights of the match and the goal below.

Football Business In A Pandemic Age

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to suspend activities around the world. With very few exceptions football has stopped. All sports and indeed all of humanity are in uncharted territory.

Plans for a return to regular football are difficult to formulate. In the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 spread talk was of a May to June completion of the 2019-2020 Serie A season. Other leagues and competitions had similar plans. Putting a value on any return date seemed risky and it has now become even more tricky.

Increasing talk of a longer suspension and continuous need for social distancing and self isolation puts all guesses in doubt. The importance of listening to health officials is apparent to most with a conclusion to football games taking a back seat. Clubs are now postponing optimistic dates for a return to training in advance of games that would have concluded the season. UEFA – with Champions League last 16 and Europa League last 32 still yet to play – and leagues around the world simply can not risk players’ or fans’ health. A few voices still mention playing games behind closed doors but those are just whispers and hopes. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin also dreams of a season concluding properly but football is increasingly moving towards a complete cancellation of the current season to counting the financial aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

When July first arrives many players will be out of contract with even less certainty than others. They will be free agents until football resumes. Some may be able to secure a sort of extension, at least in good faith with their current teams but others will have to sit this out and find a new team deeper into 2020. The teams themselves will have a hard time calculating their annual numbers that depend on amortization of contracts and income from pending transfers.

Teams directly employ many at the stadiums and other outlets too. All, rich and poor, will be impacted and some teams may even go bankrupt. At Juventus the player have pledged to not collect a portion of their salary therefore saving the club upwards of €90 million. Other teams may need to follow and some will just impose a reduction unilaterally.

Others that work at clubs require help from team owners and some may receive the help from government package. One thing is for sure, this is unseen territory with many unknowns.