Are AC Milan finally on the way back?
Gennaro Gattuso is instilling his trademark grit and determination to revive the fortunes of the red half of Milan06 March 2018 | Charlie Laurendi
Sports journalist with special interest in football
It’s been over ten years and counting since AC Milan last lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy, a 2 – 1 win over Liverpool to claim their seventh title, second only to Real Madrid who have 12.
Italy’s most successful club on the European stage, AC Milan have struggled to even qualify for the Champions League of late as a string of mid table finishes has them often competing in the UEFA Europa League instead. For a club of the stature of AC Milan, anything less than competing in the Champions league and for the Serie A title on a yearly basis is seen as underachieving to its millions of tifosi worldwide.
In recent years a plethora of managers have come and gone, many of whom have been AC Milan legends, including Clarence Seedorf, Leonardo and Filippo Inzaghi. The last manager to lead them to the Serie A title was Massimiliano Allegri who, since taking over at Juventus, has won three consecutive Serie A and Coppa Italia titles.
AC Milan began the 2017-2018 with Vincenzo Montella (now managing Sevilla) at the helm, but after a nightmare start to the season gave him the boot and replaced him with Gennaro Gattuso, who was promoted from the Primavera youth team. Gattuso is contracted to the end of the current campaign but if the upwards trend in results continues will more than likely be offered a longer term deal.
Where did it all go wrong for AC Milan in recent times?
And why are they such a long way back from competing on the domestic front at least?
In their last Champions League win, AC Milan boasted several Italian World Cup winners from the 2006 triumph, the talismanic Andrea Pirlo, sharp shooters Filippo Inzaghi and Alberto Gilardino and Gattuso himself. Coupled with AC Milan legendary defenders Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta and a foreign contingent which included Dutch playmaker Clarence Seedorf as well as Brazilian stars Dida, Cafu and Kaká. The squad was full of world class talent.
Fact: Kaká is the last player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the Ballon d’Or in 2007.
In the history of AC Milan, the club has boasted some of the greatest international players to ever grace a sporting field including the Dutch trio of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard; Marcel Desailly, Dejan Savićević, Zvonimir Boban, George Weah and Andriy Shevchenko. Plus a whole list of Italian superstars, Gianni Rivera, Alessandro Costacurta, Roberto Donadoni, Roberto Baggio and Daniele Massaro. All of these players played under winning managers such as Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti.
Since AC Milan’s last Serie A triumph in 2011, the silverware dried up, the former superpower could no longer attract the game’s biggest names, former club president, Silvio Berlusconi wasn’t investing into the club as he had done previously. Serie A had been over taken by La Liga, the Bundesliga and the English Premier League as more attractive options for footballers. Player wages, decaying stadiums, racism taunts from the terraces and crowd trouble stemming from fanatical supporters (Ultras) are a major problem for many of Italy’s top clubs, AC Milan included.
But there is new hope. Silvio Berlusconi ended his 31-year reign in charge by selling his ownership and management of the club to a consortium of Chinese businessmen headed by Yonghong Li for $1.2 billion. The new owners promised to reinvest in the club and that they did, the most expensive and surprising purchase was Italy and Juventus star centre back Leonardo Bonucci for $68 million, Portuguese forward Andre Silva was purchased for $60 million and Argentinian and former Lazio Captain, Lucas Biglia was bought to provide steel in the middle of the park.
Italian international right back Andrea Conti crossed over from Atalanta for £23m and Turkish playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu came in £20m, with Franck Kessie, Nikola Kalinic and Fabio Borini are all on loan from their respective clubs.
Starting a long way behind league leaders Napoli and Juventus, AC Milan are on the verge of competing for the Europa League next season and if they carry on the current wave of form, a Champions League place is not out of the question, but would need their closest rivals to drop points in the championship run in.
It has been the so-called lesser lights which have led the recovery under Gattuso’s tutelage, Patrick Cutrone, Davide Calabria, Giacomo Bonaventura, Alessio Romagnoli, Suso and their giant between the sticks, Gianluigi Donnarumma, are more than playing their part in the team’s fortunes. Team unity, a transformation in mentality and great tactical awareness displayed by the manager are some of the reasons the players have spoken about crediting AC Milan’s revival.
AC Milan are a young team on the rise. Their legion of fans have been spoilt for success in the past, making them even hungrier for more trophies in the future.
Now it looks like the players have regained their appetite for winning as well. They meet Arsenal in the Europa League this week. But their first chance for silverware redemption is against Juventus in the 2018 Coppa Italia Final to be played on 9 May 2018 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
ac milan, gennaro gattuso, serie a