Apr 012020

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 on Heritage Sports Review or elsewhere 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.

 Posted by on April 1, 2020
Mar 252020
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.

 Posted by on March 25, 2020
Mar 082020

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.

 Posted by on March 8, 2020
Mar 012020
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.

 Posted by on March 1, 2020
Feb 222020

After a disappointing period losing to Inter and tying Juventus in typically controversial circumstances the week 24 1-0 win versus Torino was a good result. The team could have done better and taken advantage of the numerous attacking moves to score more but the in form Rebic scored the game’s only goal. Castillejo provided the assist for the first half goal and his movement and energy is serving the team well. A late first half injury had Kjaer limping off to be replaced with Gabbia and not Musacchio who although on the bench was not fully fit. Gabbia was given his Serie A debut and did ok, nerves seemed evident but he came out of the game with passing grades.

The Argentinian is available for this week 25 game however and may start, Gabbia may need to wait for further chances. The right back spot is still a problem position. Conti and Calabria may never become the permanent starters. For now Conti seems slightly ahead for the starting spot. Paqueta started versus Torino but the injured Calhanoglu is almost ready and looks to start again. Bennacer keeps accumulating yellows and needs to learn to control his tackles and challenges but remains a valuable player in the middle. The Algerian will play alongside Kessie. Rebic has earned the right to start in Leao’s spot and Ibra will look to continue to lift the team.

News off the pitch once again dominated the week with the continued rumour that former Leipzig coach and current head of sports development at Red Bull will take over at Milan in the summer. Ralf Rangnick is said to be Gazidis’ choice for all encompassing role at Milan. This of course means Maldini and Boban won’t be around and this has, as expected, triggered a lot of debate. What this all means is unknown but further changes seem likely once again.

Fiorentina crushed Sampdoria 5-1 last week but have otherwise been underwhelming. Giuseppe Iachini replaced Montella in December and has mostly failed to improve his team so far. The 5-1 win featured two goals each by Dusan Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa but Fiorentina now feature Cutrone as well. The ex-Milan forward returned to Italy in the January window and has a chance to play against his former beloved team.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on February 22, 2020
Feb 172020

Week 23 was disappointing. A 2-0 half time lead against the city rivals had shown that the team and Pioli can get things right. Inter’s midfield was anonymous and their defense confused by Ibra, Rebic and others. The two forwards scored but it was already a tied game by the 54th minute. Lack of coverage and intensity started the capitulation. First Marcelo Brozovic shot from distance and beat Donnarumma then Matias Vecino popped up from midfield to just shoot in an Alexis Sanchez return pass. The Chilean had just evaded the offside trap to move in on Donnarumma. Stefan de Vrij scored from a well headed ball and just before the end, as all had given up, Romelu Lukaku jumped higher than Kjaer to make it 4-2. Lots of Pioli vs Conte comparisons followed in the postmortem but Milan had a Coppa semi final first leg to deal with too.

Meeting Juventus many feared the old fragility and loss of confidence issue to make the Coppa Italia game a disaster in waiting. The fear was mostly unforunded, whether this is attributed to the coach or presence of Ibra one can’t be sure but despite numerous yellows the team managed well and took the lead through Rebic, again. The game proceeded towards a win but the refs, aided by the at best confusing hand ball rules, handed a tie to the visitors. Calabria jumped in an attempt to intercept a cross but Ronaldo’s volley hit his arm. A VAR and on pitch review gifted Juve the penalty. Calabria had his back to Ronaldo and was only a few centimeters away from the Portuguese but modern football is unforgiving at best and corrupt at worst.

A busy – and controversial – week means this week 24 match is on a Monday. A free falling Torino dismissed Walter Mazzarri earlier in the month and are led by Moreno Longo, for now. Milan will likely feature a mostly unchanged team from the derby. Conti is suspended due to yellows. The excessive yellows and Hernandez’s red in the Coppa match apply to the Coppa only. There is some question about Calhanoglu’s fitness so Paqueta might be the only other change to the team. Donnarumma at the back with Calabria, Kjaer, Musacchio and Hernandez in defense. Bennacer, Castillejo, Kessie will round off the midfield with the very much in form Rebic partnering Ibra.

A win will keep the team’s very slim top 4 hopes alive.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on February 17, 2020
Feb 092020

A trimmed squad without loaned and sold players faced Verona in the first match after the winter window closed. Verona themselves unbeaten in 2020 too left the San Siro with a tie. Milan were without flu stricken Ibra and missed the suspended Bennacer in midfield. The aforementioned smaller squad meant that both Alexis Saelemaekers and Daniel Maldini came on as subs in the 1-1 draw. The 18 years old latter made his full Serie A debut and became the third generation Maldini to feature for Milan.

Focus shifts to the derby and with Inter flying high with Conte at the helm the task is a difficult one. Ibra was still in doubt for much of the week but will be ready to play up front. The Swede could possibly play as a lone center forward with more midfield support behind him but the 4-4-2 with Leao seems the more likely formation. If the so called 4-4-1-1 does happen it could mean Calhanoglu playing behind Ibra and a midfield four of Bonaventura, Bennacer, Kessie and Castillejo providing the spine for the team. The right back situation has remained a problem area with neither of Conti and Calabria convincing and it seems Pioli can’t really decide which player is better. Musacchio is likely to retain his spot and play with Romagnoli in central defence and of course Theo Hernandez is the left back.

Inter have dominated the derby in the past decade and look to jump into a tie with Juventus at the top of the table with a win. Samir Handanovic has a hairline fracture in his little finger but claims to be able to play. If the team decide to not risk making the injury worse Daniele Padelli will get a rare start. Lautaro Martínez will definitely miss the derby as he is serving the second of his two game suspension for being too aggressive at the referee in the game vs Cagliari.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on February 9, 2020
Feb 022020

Milan are suddenly on an unbeaten run. The team hasn’t lost in the 2020 calendar year. This includes three wins and one tie in the Serie A and two Coppa wins. Is this turn around a sign of things to come or not? The tools given – or not given – to the team during the now concluded January transfer window may have some bearing on that. Beating Udinese 3-2 and beating Brescia 1-0 with a resurrected Rebic have revived hopes. A convincing win vs SPAL in the Coppa Italia followed by a come from behind last minute tie and extra time win vs Torino have added further optimism.

Sitting in sixth place and eight points behind Roma for fourth spot Milan host Verona. The Serie A odds of a top 4 finish can still be considered a long shot but with Ibra’s arrival and a new two striker formation the outlook is at least different.

Some fans and commentators expected star signings in the winter transfer window. Many felt that Ibra would be one of two or three bigger signings. This did not materialize. Perhaps summer will be busier or perhaps the much rumoured and subsequently denied change of ownership means an asset stripping is in progress. Early January saw a few loans which meant players like Reina and Caladara were replaced like for like. The last days of the transfer window saw increased activity and Rodriguez and Suso left on loans. The former with only an option to PSV and the latter with a somewhat easy to achieve condition for an obligation to Sevilla. A buyer was found for Piatek and his once promising Milan career fizzled into a trip to Berlin. A young Belgian arrived and young American almost did. Alexis Saelemaekers arrived as a right sided player on loan from Anderlecht. Antonee Robinson even flew to Milan but a medical issue had the Wigan full back return to his team. The team has shed some salary and made some money too but is now smaller and lacks depth.

Week 22 features Verona, Borini’s new home after he terminated his Milan contract, visiting the San Siro. Milan look to continue the unbeaten run before the week 23 Milan derby. The 4-4-2 with Leao and Ibra should survive but Bennacer will miss the game due to accumulated yellows. The focus will be on the front two gelling more and the middle two – now possibly Krunic and Kessie – doing more to provide and defend too. Castillejo and Calhanoglu have been hard working and both have contributed from the wing and more centrally in the case of the latter. Donnarumma has been impressive recently and will play behind the now seemingly regular Kjaer and Romagnoli partnership. Conti may get the nod ahead of Calabria and Theo aka the star of the season will look to impress again.

Late in the week word arrived that Krunic, Kjaer and Ibra have knocks or in the case of latter are ill and will be replaced in the starting lineup. Musacchio and Rebic will fill their spots.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on February 2, 2020
Jan 192020

The first half of the season ended with a win and a successful return for Ibra. The Swede got his first start in a pseudo 4-4-2 alongside Leao up front. The quality of the play was not the best and required Ibra to move back and try to create from midfield several times. Leao showed his pace and potential but also showed his rawness. In the end both forwards scored in the second half to beat Cagliari 2-0. Leao got a big deflection for the first right after half time and Ibra diverted a low Hernandez cross into goal like only he can.

The January market changes have begun but nothing major has been done yet, loan moves for Reina and Caldara have baffled as much as anything and the two have been replaced with Asmir Begovic and Simon Kjaer. The former may get a start as Donnarumma’s thigh issue is not healed.

The rest of the lineup in the so called 4-4-2 looks to be similar minus injuries. The back line will feature Conti, newcomer Kjaer already getting a second start following the midweek Coppa win, Romagnoli and Hernandez. In front of them Castillejo, Kessie, Bennacer and Calhanoglu will play the midfield roles that have to improve service to the front runners.

In contrast to the week 19 opponent Udinese have won three in a row and have climbed to just a point behind Milan. The team is led by Rodrigo De Paul, the Argentinian is subject to a few rumours and his stocks looks set to rise with a transfer away from Udine likelier every week.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on January 19, 2020
Jan 162020

Milan entered the 2019-2020 Coppa Italia race with a 3-0 defeat of SPAL. Rumours of Arnault family of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) group taking over Milan persist despite denials. The market in fire sale mode?

A much changed line up featuring a front three of Castillejo, Piatek and Rebic won easily against a SPAL team who mirrored their poor league form. With injuries to Gigi Donnarumma his brother started in goal. New comer Simon Kjaer covered for the injured Musacchio. Ibra was on the bench to see Piatek scoring and looking better than he has recently. Castillejo scored the second and along with Rebic worked hard. Hernandez added the third and continued to be star of the team.

A handful of loans have been completed, another few may be on the way. Joining Reina and Caldara for the exit door could be any or all of Rodriguez, Piatek, Calhanoglu, Kessie, Paqueta and Suso. The team will need replacements for most if not all of the potential departees and should be asking for more than some of the rumours indicate. Milan’s historical inability to sell high may be exposed again with most departures turning into bargains or loans.

LVMH group have denied interest in Milan on more than one recent occasion but the alleged negotiations seem to be going on and Elliott may be getting ready to sell. The rumoured near 1 billion euros take over is somewhat hard to believe in these Financial Fair Play times for a team in poor shape on and off the pitch.

 Posted by on January 16, 2020
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