“We are focusing on youth and have some excellent talents at the club right now,” President Silvio Berlusconi told reporters back in December. “We are trying to strengthen the squad with the introduction of young champions.” After an indifferent start to the season with initial losses to Sampdoria, Atalanta and Udinese inside the opening four weeks, the Rossoneri chief was keen to build from the ground up – start afresh with a side built around the exciting talents of Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio.
As statements go, it was as clear as day. But like all the best politicians, the Milan President has got to January, and done a complete U-turn.
The reports and rumours coming out of Milanello have been never-ending since the start of the New Year. A host of different agents have been seen coming out of the training ground gates, the Italian dailies have led with numerous different stories of Diavolo signings.
But no matter what the headlines have said – all the players linked with Milan this window have been the exact opposite to Berlusconi's original mission statement.
It was meant to be a time of austerity for the club – a time for reflection and growth under its own means. However, with the close of the winter window looming Berlusconi and his cronies have panicked and are on their knees trying to bring in a host of superstar names.
Real Madrid playmaker Kaka is perhaps the most high-profile of the targets, and the personification of what has gone wrong in Milan’s boardroom. The Brazil international left San Siro in 2009 for a then world record fee of €68m, but has found himself on the fringes of the first team at the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to a series of knee injuries and the superior performances of Mesut Ozil.
A reunion with the Seleçao man was proposed this month, with Kaka receiving €12m during a two-season loan-deal – a preposterous amount of money for someone the wrong side of 30 and with a history of lengthy lay-offs. Add to that the fact that 23-year-old Alexandre Pato was allowed to leave for Corinthians just a few weeks ago and you start to wonder what the Milan hierarchy are thinking.
It’s that same baffling logic that also links Mario Balotelli with the Rossoneri. The Manchester City forward has seen his asking-price drop like a stone over the past few weeks since Milan’s reported interest, and it seems likely that Roberto Mancini would want rid of the troublesome striker - the former Inter man has been in more training ground bust-ups than he has hit the back of the net this season.
But why would Massimiliano Allegri’s team want the Italy international? Performances of any real quality have become the exception, not the norm – and it seems a genuine worry whether anyone can get the best out of the youngster. But as Ignazio Abate’s agent has confirmed, “if Zenit St Petersburg raise their offer, then maybe Abate could go to Russia. After all, Milan are looking for the funds to sign Balotelli.”
In his original statement to the Press last year, Berlusconi admitted that patience really would have to be a virtue. “This is a transitional period and we had champions for 26 years, but must now have a little patience,” he claimed. “We give ourselves three years to get back to being protagonists in Italy and the world.”
Now 31-year-old Cristian Zaccardo has officially joined from Parma. Kaka, Balotelli and even David Beckham could also reportedly become Milan players by the end of next week. And if they do join, this knee-jerk reaction could mean it takes longer than three years for the Rossoneri to be back on top of Serie A.