AC Milan thrilled once again at the weekend as they despatched Empoli 4-1 away from home. The Rossonieri stormed into the top three in Serie A and with Juventus losing at the weekend the league is looking very interesting.
Milan who have been a shadow of themselves since winning the Champions League in 2007 have been in the shadows of Juventus and Inter Milan for nigh on a decade. They have lacked the direction, power, hunger and focus that made the club not only the best team in Italy but the best in the world. They dominated European football in the late 80s and early 90s and are still the last club to win the European Cup back to back. That record is now 26 years old and counting.
The Black and Reds last won the league in 2011, to stop the success of their eternal rivals Inter Milan who had the season previously won the treble which included the Champions League. To be fair Milan were already on the slide and their 2011 triumph was seen as a speed bump surprise. Nevertheless under Massimiliano Allegri the team claimed their first scudetto since 2004.
If the tide of change had not been apparent at the San Siro up until then, then it did rear its ugly head for the past five season where Milan have been a mere footnote in European football. Time and again the 7 times European Cup winners have had poor forgettable seasons, where they haven’t even finished high enough to qualify for Europe’s premier competition.
And the managers have come and gone: Mauro Tassotti replaced Allegri when he was sacked in 2014 as caretaker manager. The club quickly found a permanent manager in Clarence Seedorf who became the first black manager in almost two decades to take charge of a Serie A side. Known as a legend with the club, playing 300 games and winning multiple trophies the Dutchman was shown the door after 22 games. At that point he certainly had his critics but with a 50% win rate Seedorf perhaps needed some more time to find his footing and wasn’t allowed the chance.
Another Milan legend took the hot seat in Filippo Inzaghi he lasted a season after the Rossonieri finished a disappointing 10th place, 35 points from that years champion Juventus. Sinisa Mihajlovic and Cristian Brocchi were the next two coaches hardly lasting a season as Milan still struggled to make a lasting impact.
Vincenzo Montella became the seventh coach this decade in the summer and started to ring the changes. Some 27 players mostly youth and fringe were cleared out, arguably the most controversial was club legend Paolo Maldini’s son Christian who went to Reggiana on a free. Five players were brought in by Montella. The most expensive was Gianluca Lapadula for 9m euros from Pescara.
Montella has used a 4-3-3 as his preferred choice, quite a surprise in Serie A to have three players pushed up in the forward role and Montella has kept this system even in away games. Right now it’s paying dividends as Milan has had their best start for five years. Currently in 3rd position the club has is on a 4 game unbeaten run and lost 3 games this season. At home they are undefeated and they are scoring goals too.
Is Montella then finally the right man for this team? For now the former Roma player appears to be. One thing is for sure Milan haven’t looked this good since the days they were led under Carlo Ancelotti.
From a football fans perspective the current Champions League doesn’t seem completely the same without the famous red and black striped team who Ancelotti once said the competition was in the teams DNA.
Milan are currently in qualification for the competition, but they are also just four points behind leaders Juventus, the ultimate dominant force in Italy this decade. And it is clear to see that the club has every intention to hunt down their 19th title.