Another season without a trophy puts Milan’s status as the world’s most successful club in Europe in question. The 2008-2009 season marked the beginning of the end of Milan’s ‘glory days’.
With all due respect to Carlo Ancelotti, his foresight and tactics were getting a little too hard to understand. When you have young players like Gourcuff, Cardacio and Viudez waiting on the bench, why would you want to see the old legs struggling on the field?
All his favouritism did was dent the confidence of these youngsters. Apart from the way he used to treat them, the substitutions that he made during the matches were atrocious. Milan’s backline was a joke without Alessandro Nesta. Paolo Maldini at his age was not enough and at times was found in need of support, but still Ancelotti chose to play Favalli over someone as talented as Matteo Darmian. He would have flourished under the watchful eyes of ‘Il Capitano’, but it was not to be. Needless to say, where are all these youngsters now? Gourcuff is creating magic in Bordeaux, Cardacio and Viudez have been released by ‘mutual consent’ and Darmian has been loaned out to a Serie B club Padova.
Carlo’s resource management abilities took a serious beating when he was not supported by our very own Silvio Berlusconi and Galliani. The Rossoneri were in need of at least one world class fullback who could provide the pace needed at the flanks. Berlusconi and Galliani were more interested in buying ‘had been’ superstars, so their answer to Milan’s fullback problem was Zambrotta. He is stable, but at his age one cannot expect him to provide quick balls down the flanks. When a good forward man to support Pato was needed, Sheva was bought back to Milan. He failed to impress and spent a major part of his time on the bench.
The biggest signing for Milan was Ronaldinho, who was regarded as a surplus to requirements at Barcelona. He started off well when he scored against Inter in his first Derby match but lost his focus as the season went on. R80 could never form a partnership with Kaka, and the orgasm called Ka-Pa-Ro could not be successful. As far as the signings in the central defence line are considered, Milan bought Phileppe Senderos. Senderos looked pedestrian whenever he was on the field and. In fact, the complete defence looked out of shape throughout the season and this makes it even hard to understand the decisions taken at the managerial level, and for that matter, the ownership level.
The club’s end-of-season goals kept on changing as the season went by. Initially it was to win the Scudetto, then to win the UEFA cup , then to finish second in Serie A. In the end, the sole aim was to get direct entry into Champions League for the next season.
So what marked the end of the glory days at AC Milan? A manager indulging in favouritism? Impotent management? A club resting on its laurels and bragging about its history? The aging players? Or was it actually a new beginning?
NOT THE IDEAL START
No matter how much Berlusconi and Galliani, or Ancelotti himself, denied his rumoured visits to the Stamford Bridge, it was quite clear that Carlo would join Chelsea after the london club bid farewell to Guus Hiddink. Kaka signed for Real Madrid – a consequence of the treatment that he got from Berlusconi when he was made available to the Arabs and Manchester City. He had clearly stated his aspirations to lead the club in the long run, but still his commitment was not valued. Though he rejected the multi-million dollar deal offered by City, it was quite evident that he would leave the following summer. If he ever moved out of the San Siro, Real would be the only club that he could possibly move to, and so it happened. It was not the perfect beginning for the Rossoneri, knowing that they would be without the inspirational Paolo Maldini, who also waved goodbye to AC Milan. To compound this imbalance further, the management were in a fix regarding the appointment of Carlo’s successor.
Leonardo and Marco Van Basten were the two names considered. Most people eyed Van Basten as the ideal candidate, considering his glorious associations with the Rossoneri, but Leo was Galliani’s favourite – the simple reason being that he was scouting for Milan, and was always in the mix of things, which gave him an idea of how the club was functioning. He was instrumental in getting Kaka to Milan, and if reports are to be believed, he was the one who convinced Pato to sign the deal. Of course, he did not have any prior coaching experience; but if that is to be considered, then how could one explain Pep Guardiola and his treble with Barcelona?
The season began well with Milan beating Siena convincingly, but things were about to get horrible. Inter thrashed Milan in the Derby Della Madonnina, and to top it up Milan lost to Udinese, and dropped points against Zurich in the champions league. Experts were already predicting that Leo would be sacked and Tassotti would take over. But this is not the way AC Milan works.
THE MADRID REUNION
It was one of the most anticipated clashes in the champions league; not for the sole stature of these clubs in Europe, but for the fact that Kaka would be up against his former love. Milan needed some inspiration to win this clash, and it came in the form of Pato. Milan came from behind to beat Madrid 3-2. The following week ensued with a victory against Roma, and from there on there was no looking back for Milan.
WHERE LEO SCORED OVER ANCELOTTI
Milan did get a boost as Nesta returned after a long time and paired up well with Thiago Silva. Leo realized that the full backs were not quick enough, so he changed things around by playing the talented and ‘young’ mid-fielder Ignazio Abate as a right back – and boy, he did show some pace there. This kind of dynamic adjustment was lacking in Ancelotti’s final days.
Gattusso has looked in bad form throughout the season, so Leo gave the charge of the midfield to Ambrosini and Pirlo. Seedorf has been given the freedom to roam around behind R80, Boriello and Pato. Ronaldinho has been given the creative role, and he is creating some magic. The formation is as attacking as it could have been, a 4-3-3 one.
Leo has changed the attitude of the Milan players – we can see them enjoying the game on the field. No mention of Beckham and Hunter might look surprising to you, but the whole Becks story is a drama for media mileage. Hunter, to be very frank , has been mediocre, barring a last few games where he has helped us to win. But needs to do more on the field, to deserve a mention in this article.
The Scudetto looked a distant dream a few weeks ago but the gap is now down to four points. Milan can sense the title again. There is hope of snatching Scudetto glory away from their bitter rivals. Watch out Inter! The Rossoneri will fight till the end…