The 2017-18 season has yet to begin, but there are signs brewing in Italy that a once-world class side are set to return to their natural position of dominance…
In almost every league around the world you see giants either die, or sink into a deep slumber. In England, there has been Newcastle – getting on for 15 years since their last Champions League appearance. In Spain, Valencia are languishing in mid-table after many years of success. Monaco were dormant for nearly 10 years before making a spectacular return to Ligue 1 after financial problems.
But by far the biggest fall from grace over the last decade has been AC Milan. Once a side feared by all, and admired by many. Since the reign of Carlo Ancelloti, and the super-star-studded lineup that once included legends such as Kaka, Shevchenko, Pirlo, Ronaldinho, Maldini and Cafu – they have stagnated, gone from manager to manager and potentially ruined the relationship between between club and player, for those such as Fillipo Inzaghi and Clarence Seedorf, by giving inexperienced coaches the task of reviving them, only to fail and fall victim of Silvio Berlusconi’s iron fist.
Since the sacking of Allegri back in the 2010/11 season (who has notably gone on to achieve great things with Juventus) – the club have gone through multiple managers. As well as Seedorf and Inzaghi – there have been Sinsa Mihajlovic and Cristian Brocchi – both promising managers that have not been given the time or money to rebuild such a club. The club had slipped into mid-table mediocrity, and signings reflected that.
The likes of Taraabt, Honda, Matri, Essien, Birsa, Rami and many more were not up to scratch, and then taking underperforming stars like Fernando Torres wasn’t the answer either. However, the signings of Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci, both from Roma – started an upturn in fortune. Gianluca Donnarumma has solved their keeping issue, even if his future is in doubt.
The final piece of the puzzle was Vincenzo Montella. A young, up and coming manager who had experience in Serie A through Fiorentina and Sampdoria. His signings were a little more shrewd – Suso from Liverpool for very little money was a genius buy, while Gerard Delofeu was another handy loan signing. Add in further loans for Matias Fernandez and Mario Pasalic, and Milan had the spine of a promising team.
A solid season and Europa League qualification, as well as winning the Coppa Italia, their first trophy since Allegri left – and there was something to look forward too. The signings that have followed recently however have left fans drooling at the potential!
The big change is that Berlusconi has gone, and a wealthy Chinese group has taken over the club, with the promise of rebuilding the club – which they have duly started doing.
Ricardo Rodriguez from Wolfsburg for around the £15m mark, Matteo Musacchio from Villarreal for roughly the same. Frank Kessie, the Atalanta central midfielder who has been so highly rated by so many – on loan for 2 seasons with an option to buy…and finally Andre Silva from Porto for the best part of £32m.
Four very good signings, and with Andrea Conti potentially following Kessie from Atalanta, and rumours of Andrea Belotti in the pipeline, AC Milan as a club have a buzz about them again. I could be a false dawn, but the way they are building up their squad is fascinating to watch. Come the start of September, they could well be challenging Napoli and Roma for the top three spots, well, the next two down from Juventus…
Having looked at the markets for the Europa League, they are 12/1 to win it at the moment, despite going through qualifying (I believe). Given the strength of their squad, and the potential to strengthen further – that is a good price, and one I have asked SkyBet to do a Requestabet along with a top four finish in Serie A next season.
In short, AC Milan are well on their way to recovering the lost ground over the last 7-8 years, and with a little luck and a lot of hard work, they could well be back in the Champions League come this time next season!