When it comes to football club ownership, as many supporters have found to their cost, actions most definitely speak louder than words. It’s why followers of Milan seem understandably optimistic after a very pro-active summer so far by the club’s new owners.
The Rossoneri were always going to be in a greater rush than most, not least because their season begins in the third qualifying round of the Europa League on July 27. But the planning and spending we’ve seen so far is about much more than just being ready for that tie, as they seem really intent on sending out a message that they mean business.
By June 8, to have extended Vincenzo Montella’s contract until 2019 and signed Mateo Musacchio, Franck Kessie and Ricardo Rodriguez is, just in terms of organisation and administration, a pretty impressive feat. And we hear there is still much more to come, with exciting names like Andrea Conti, Keita Balde Diao, Lucas Biglia and Andrea Belotti being spoken of.
It must be hard for Milan supporters, so eager for a return to the good old days, not to start getting carried away, but that would be a mistake. Yes, there is much to be positive and optimistic about, but there is also an awful lot of rebuilding still to do, and it’s so important that this is recognised and remembered – for the foreseeable future feet need to stay firmly on the ground.
I say this because I’ve observed a club that has been held back for several years, partly because of an inner unwillingness to fully accept and deal with its current status outside both the Italian and European elite. It’s a club that has fallen a long way, is crying out for stability, and one where there has been more pressure than patience - Coaches and players haunted by and sometimes judged on former glories.
You can’t build lasting success overnight, and to go from being a decent side to world-beaters in one summer is a rare feat – there almost always has to be a process and players who begin that journey can play their part, without necessarily being there until the successful conclusion. Suso, for example, is unlikely to ever be as good a player as say Roberto Donadoni, but right now he has a significant role to play in helping Milan towards a top-four finish.
Would Suso then be good enough, as a first-pick, to help them go on and challenge for the Scudetto, or the Champions League? I’m not so sure. But given the chance, this is a squad that can and will naturally evolve – it is how this great club, one with such vast potential, can negotiate the steep climb back to the top.
Overseeing all that will be Montella, who handled himself very well last season – remaining professional and dignified during the sizeable challenges of a protracted takeover, and delivering both a trophy and a return to European competition in his first season. He undoubtedly has a platform for growth, but will be mindful of the pressure and expectation that this financial outlay will bring.
The troubles of city rivals Inter came after a summer of optimism, where they were only outspent by Juventus, yet ended up experiencing a campaign of off-field upheaval and a seventh-place finish. Morale within the Nerazzurri squad seemed a big problem and that is something, particularly in the midst of an overhaul of the playing staff, which Montella will be keen to protect and promote at Milan. Throw in the potential for an extra 15+ games if things go well in the Europa League, and it’s clear that while the Rossoneri’s new era is off to a promising start.
There are many challenges ahead to overcome before Milan are truly back where they feel they belong.