“We cannot afford to lose 70 million a year” – how often has one heard that in Milan? With the most successful club in the world eternally tied to a grim financial situation, the selling of its precious jewels such as Ibrahimovic and Silva has raised more question than answers. With rumors ranging from Berlusconi needing the money to propel his political career to the vested interest in Tevez, the last week has not been particularly pleasant for any Milan fan.
With Berlusconi claiming that he had “sold Ibrahimovic and Silva to PSG”, it can be stated that it is only a matter of hours before the transfer materializes. That day will be a sad day, a black day and a red day in the history of the club. But this is not the first time this has happened.
Of Shevchenko, Kaka and Milan
The saga of selling their crowned jewels started recently in the summer of 2006. The player in question was Andriy Shevchenko – an iconic figure who was taught by the legendary Valeriy Lobanovskyi himself. Arriving at Milan in 1999 for 25 million dollars, Shevchenko was part of the 2002-03 Champions League winning squad, the 2003-04 Serie A winning squad and also missed the fateful penalty against Liverpool on ‘that’ night at Istanbul.
In his 7 years at Milanello, Shevchenko became the heart and soul of Milan. He single handedly carried Milan on many occasions and for that, Milan fans will be eternally grateful to him. His wonderful chemistry with Carlo Ancelotti boded well for Milan as they together searched for domestic and European glory. But his fairytale was cut short by the incessant advances of Roman Abramovich, a long-time admirer of the Ukrainian.
Having failed to sign him in 2005, Chelsea came back once more in 2006 and that was the first time a superstar was sold by Milan. His departure, though sad was nowhere near Kaka’s departure 3 years later. Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite arrived in Milan for what Galliani called as “peanut money”. But when he left 6 years later, he not only made his way into the hearts of each and every Milan fan, but also carved his name in the Hall of Fame of Milan legends.
After repeatedly stating he was not going to move, even after an audacious 100 million dollar move from Manchester City, Kaka was eventually sold. He was sold, he did not leave. Till this date, Galliani and Berlusconi maintain that Kaka never wanted to leave; he was sold only to balance the books. Scenes of revolt in Via Turati are still fresh in the mind of Milan fans as they never got over the lanky Brazilian who not only made them dream of the impossible but also helped achieve it. Ricky will always be missed in San Siro and wherever he goes, he will be treated as a member of the Milan family.
The present-day scenario – Ibrahimovic
The cocky Swedish had grown by leaps and bounds ever since he first burst into international scene playing for Ajax. In the 8 years that followed, he won 8 domestic trophies with separate clubs and needless to say, was counted as a lucky token when it came to domestic championships. But then again, he was not only a lucky charm but a pretty effective player with the ball in his feet. With trash-talk and goal-scoring the chief weapons in his arsenal – he travelled the world in search of glory and fame.
Ibrahimovic can hardly be counted as being a one-man club as his travels will suggest. However, most of his titles were won in Serie A – 2 with Juventus, 3 win Inter and 1 with Milan. When Juventus were relegated as part of Calciopoli scandal, Ibrahimovic was among the first players to leave – clearly signifying that fame was more important to him rather than helping his club.
Changing sides to rivals Inter, Ibrahimovic started a magical 3 year journey which ended in 3 consecutive trophies. All in all, Ibrahimovic was seen as a goal-scoring machine with the penchant for the extraordinary. 2009-10 was probably the only year post 2000 when Serie A went Zlatan-less.
His sojourn at Barcelona was cut short as rumors of “misunderstanding” arose between him, Messi and Guardiola. Rumor has it, Messi once texted Guardiola from the back of the bus suggesting that if Ibrahimovic was not removed from the team, he might have difficulties playing.
Once again, it was the genius of Galliani which brought him to Milan shores. Unwanted at Barcelona, Galliani offered Ibrahimovic a way out of the misery. The 24 million deal was also broken down into 3 years of 8 million each so as to reduce the financial burden on Fininvest and Milan. However, only 2 of those years were needed as Ibrahimovic decided to move once again.
The leading light of Milan from last season, Ibrahimovic’s transfer to PSG is almost complete, with the player ironing out his personal contract. Milan will definitely miss a player of Ibrahimovic’s stature, but as we all know, he was destined to move away anyway. With hardly 2-3 years of top football left in him, it is ideal for him to move to a higher wage package. After all, he is no Maldini, who took as much as 50% salary reduction to play for Milan no matter what.
Allegri will now have to find another solution to his attacking problems and with money to spend in the transfer market, it will be wise to invest in promising players rather than a marquee signing. The total saving from the Ibra-Silva deal is close to 170 million euros, and Milan now need to earmark this money for better and wise use.
The present-day scenario – Thiago Silva
Needless to say, Milan fans are frustrated more about the transfer of Thiago Silva than Zlatan. Why? For the simple reason that Silva had dared Milan to dream big – dreams of world domination, dreams of creating a team so defensively perfect that Milan fans will forget that he was not Italian. For a long time, Milan back-line was home to two of the greatest defenders on the planet – Maldini and Nesta, after the legendary Franco Baresi hung up his boots along with Costacurta.
Silva was mentored as a defender by Maldini and was privileged to have Nesta to guide him on a regular basis. Under two such luminaries, it was naturally expected that Silva will continue the lineage. When he first arrived in Milanello, Silva was a player who had changed 5 clubs in 5 years. He was often plagued by injuries and hardly made it to the Brazil national squad. But all that changed in the last 3 years.
At Milanello, Thiago realized his true potential and by playing with some of the most respected and legendary figures of world football honed his skills. When Galliani brought Silva to Milan in December, 2008 for 10 million Euros, the world first took notice of this tall Brazilian with a penchant for tackling. And in the next 3 years, Silva became the best defender in the world. Needless to say, Milan had a huge hand in shaping his career, and when it was the time to reap the benefits of the three years of toil, Silva decided to move.
What endeared Silva to Milan fans was his dedication, his passion and the never-say-die attitude which he learnt from Nesta. Watching the duo play side by side was a dream come true for the millions of Milan fans worldwide and when Nesta departed, it signified the passing of the baton – from the old artist to the new hero. Sadly that was not to be.
Silva rightly attracted attention from rich European clubs and since last summer, has been a multi-million dollar transfer target. Loyalty in football is a tricky issue nowadays, and the era of one-man club has almost disappeared amidst the cash thrown by the rich oil moguls and Russian billionaires. All this time Silva reiterated that his interest was not in the money involved and that he wanted to emulate Maldini and Baresi, but as fate would have it, he never even took part in Milan’s pre-season training for 2012-13.
Milan fans will miss definitely miss Silva, but in hindsight, maybe he had gotten too big for the club. It was perhaps time for him to search other avenues to pursue glory rather than slugging it out in arguably the most technical league in the world. His pursuit of glory might take him to bigger and better projects, but sadly he might never find another place which he can call home like Milan. Yes, Milan has been his home for the last 3 years, his home away from home; his family away from his real family. His departure saddens the entire Milan community worldwide. As was aptly said by Red (Morgan Freeman) in The Shawshank Redemption –
Sometimes it makes me sad, though, [he] being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone.
Footnote – confessions of a Milan fan
The trauma a football fan goes through during a transfer season encompasses any Hitchcock thriller. The anguish, euphoria, heartbreak, exhilaration, despair, jubilation, panic, anxiety suffered by a fan can surely kill him. One day the best player will proclaim “I’m never leaving“; four days later it’s all over the news – “Player transferred“. The jubilation of a new beginning for a new season can be drowned by the angry cry of the millions of fans.
Whenever a player is bought, he identifies himself with the ideals of the club, which endears him more to the fans than his fancy skills. But when he leaves, he not only leaves his team-mates, he also leaves millions of fans worldwide, who have not only worshipped him, but also experienced the same plethora of emotions which he has gone through during each and every match, during each and every tackle and during each and every goal.
But from the ashes of despair rises the phoenix of hope. Hope for a new beginning, hope for a new player, and hope for a new hero at Milan. The void created by the departure of a player cannot ever be filled. But at the end of the day, another player will come in his place and life, as we know will go on. As goes the line in a famous song –Life goes on as it never ends Eyes of stone observe the trends They never say, forever gaze, if only…