“It makes me crazy to see everything destroyed”, former AC Milan and Italy legend, Paolo Maldini, said, in reference to the Rossoneri’s position in the doldrums of Serie A, a development that has more than a few parallels with Manchester United’s dramatic fall from glory in the English Premier League.
However, unlike United, whose 3-0 victory over Greek side, Olympiakos, in the Champions League last night has been cited by Betfair pundits as a tipping point for David Moyes’ men – a belated note of optimism for what has arguably been their worst season in the Premier League’s history – a thundercloud still hangs over the San Siro.
Last weekend’s 4-2 defeat to Parma represented Milan’s fourth defeat in a row, a tally that includes last Tuesday’s 4-1 (agg: 5-1) mauling at Atletico Madrid, which brought a premature end to the Italian side’s Champions League campaign, as well as a pair of negative results to rivals, Juventus, and Udinese in early March.
Unhappy fans recently staged a protest outside the San Siro, prompting a meeting between 300 ‘ultras’, coach, Clarence Seedorf, and enigmatic striker, Mario Balotelli, who has been criticised for not turning up in the big games; he has scored one goal in 12 outings against the Italian ‘big five’ this season.
Milan’s campaign is a disaster – but how has a club that reached the play-offs of last season’s Champions League (and finished third domestically) taken such a precipitous dive?
AC’s problems have been long in the making, harking back to their most recent Champions League victory, in 2006/07. Of the 11 men that lined up on that May evening, only one still plays for Milan – Kaka, now 31-years-old. Obviously, given that six years have passed since the 2-1 victory in Athens, some churn in the ranks is to be expected.
However, AC has replaced the likes of Gennaro Gattuso and Alberto Gilardino with short-lived - albeit spectacular - signings, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The problem persists in the dugout; Carlo Ancelotti, who left the club in 2008/09, spent more time at Milan than his four most recent replacements combined. And, given Clarence Seedorf’s difficult start to life in Milan, it’s arguable whether he will come close to Ancelotti’s eight-season spell either.
Interestingly, a dedication to short-term fixes seems to be a ‘Milan thing’; AC’s cross-town rivals, Inter, have begun a campaign of approaching aging marquee players, such as Bacary Sagna, Patrice Evra, Jon Obi Mikel, Fernando Torres, Nani, and Nemanja Vidic, who recently agreed to join the club.
AC may not be able to salvage their current season but they do need a plan that favours future stars over yesterday’s heroes – even if that means spending a few seasons in the long shadow cast by Juventus, Roma, and Napoli.