The more things change, the more they stay the same. Feels like Berlusconi is still motivating Milan players with the Hip Hip Hurra routine because the club simply hasn’t improved despite numerous changes at ownership, director, manager and squad level.
While you could say the loss to Inter in Saturday was rock bottom since they had no shots on goal and the gap with their cross town rivals was clearly evident, just a few weeks before Milan had lost to Udinese who since that performance has looked like the worst team in Serie A. The situation is clearly dire, but the you can only solve a problem If you admit there is one, so let’s rank the reasons for concerns at Milan from mildest to most severe:
So far Marco Giampaolo looks like a liability rather than an improvement over his predecessors
Like many others who cover the league, I pointed out numerous times that at bare minimum Giampaolo would be Milan’s best manager since Max Allegri from a tactical standpoint. The former Sampdoria skipper had previously replaced Maurizio Sarri at Empoli, a natural transition for the Tuscan club since both play similar styles- high press, building from the back without emphasizing long balls and building the team around an offensive mentality.
Well so far Milan’s game plan has looked exactly the same as it as under the previous two managers- get the ball to Suso and hope he creates something from nothing. While he was at Empoli and Sampdoria, Giampaolo also improved numerous young players- Torreira, Skriniar, Andersen, Praet- and got a career season out of Quagliarella. That is hard to replicate at Milan when we still see players like Biglia, Calhanoglu and Castillejo starting over the promising young studs Boban and Maldini acquired.
It’s also safe to say Milan played with much more intensity under Gattuso, who also handled the media in a much more proficient way. It’s not out of the question that see him return to replace Giampaolo before the end of the year.
Piatek and Paqueta’s regression
Milan’s summer transfer window was quite underwhelming in part because of the fact (now former) sporting director Leonardo rightfully decided to spend significantly last January to go all out to make a Champions League spot, which would have then given the club the revenues needed to continue the rebuild. While the decision made sense, the fact that Milan came up just short of making it back to Europe’s biggest competition has now put the club even more behind the eight ball.
To make things worse, the two players Leonardo invested significantly on last January- Paqueta’ and Piatek- performed very well for Gattuso but have regressed substantially under Giampaolo. Milan’s new manager is having a hard time figuring out where to use the Brazilian midfielder and Piatek is the latest victim of the curse of the number 9 jersey at Milan.
Best players are still Donnarumma and Romagnoli
First we had Mirabelli, then Leonardo and now we have the triumvirate of Boban/Maldini/Massara running Milan’s mercato since Adriano Galliani stepped aside once Berlusconi sold the club. Mirabelli spent a small fortune without acquiring a single building block while wasting valuable resources on numerous busts which is the root cause of the rossoneri’s current FFP problems, Leonardo swung and missed on the disastrous deal with Juventus for Higuain and Caldara.
This summer Milan targeted young players with a lot of potential and lower salaries, and while Bennacer, Hernandez, Leao and Rebic have significant upside, at this time it’s hard to argue against the fact Donnarumma and Romagnoli are the only players currently on Milan’s squad who could play a significant role on Juventus, Inter or Napoli. Certainly Giampaolo has been a letdown as manager, but there’s still a significant lack of talent on the team.
Serie A is getting better and Milan continues to fall behind, to make things worse they have to deal with Financial Fair Play parameters for the foreseeable future
Despite all the criticism he received for his tactical limitations, Rino Gattuso had the rossoneri competing for a Champions League spot going into the second half of the last match of the season. That outcome seems completely far fetched for this current campaign since we have 3 teams who clearly look in the top tier (Juventus, Napoli and Inter) while last season we had two spots for the Champions League up for grabs going into the final match day.
So with just one spot likely realistically available to qualify for the one competition who can bring the revenues Milan is desperate for to improve the squad, the margin is even smaller. If that wasn’t bad enough, Atalanta improved their squad this summer and will soon have a modern club owned stadium, Lazio kept all of their top players and added a difference maker in Manuel Lazzari while Roma seems to have found a manager who can get the most out of their talent in Paulo Fonseca.
While Inter was able to deal with their Financial Fair Play parameters in recent years by making substantial plusvalenze on their top youth team players, Milan’s Primavera team managed to get relegated last season.