Milan’s fans shared their opinion of Coach Massimiliano Allegri on Sunday versus Catania with a simple message: “More respect for our Coach Allegri.” Likewise, Riccardo Montolivo offered a glowing response to a post-match question regarding the tactician. “A lot of the credit for the win goes to the Coach as he’s managed to find the right mix. He kept things together when we were in trouble and he brought us back. He’s a great tactician and I hope he stays here for the long-term.” Mattia De Sciglio was another to back him.
Allegri’s future has been called into question throughout the season. That he was close to the sack following Milan’s poor start is no secret. During the Rossoneri’s mini-slump – three matches without victory prior to Catania – his head returned to the chopping block. Still, with Fiorentina breathing down Milan’s neck it seems no Champions League means no more Allegri.
The Diavolo-related news of the day last Sunday was of Clarence Seedorf being named as a potential replacement. This is something, the Gazzetta dello Sport claimed, would be pushed through by President Silvio Berlusconi regardless of Milan’s final position. Allegri would then join Roma, with whom he’s been linked. It was a story reiterated by the Corriere dello Sport on Tuesday.
Adriano Galliani is said to be resistant, but did have this to say Sunday evening: “All those who made Milan history enter the conclave the day Allegri leaves. After that, who knows who will emerge as the new Pope?...The passion of the President for his great former champions is absolutely real and that applies to Seedorf as well as the other players who took this club to the top of the world, like Christian Panucci and Billy Costacurta.”
With that in mind – and putting aside unconfirmed reports of Roma talks – what exactly has Allegri done wrong in recent months? Yes Milan struggled immensely to begin 2012-13. Five of Milan’s eight losses occurred during the opening eight rounds. Their season looked over before it really began following a mass summer exodus. That wasn’t Allegri’s decision. Once he and the squad overcame the shock of losing such quality, they dug deep, settled into a rhythm and began their ascent up the ladder. Qualification for the Champions League was viewed as an outside chance at best. Now it’s a distinct possibility. That is thanks in part to the man on the bench.
They’ve clicked in the 4-3-3 formation, with Stephan El Shaarawy – and later Mario Balotelli – regularly amongst the goals, with Montolivo pulling the strings in midfield and Christian Abbiati, Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata eventually forming a solid defensive spine. Youngsters El Shaarawy and De Sciglio were given room to flourish. Others are to be integrated into the squad next season. While previously rigid in approach - tactically and personnel-wise - the one-time Scudetto winning Coach has proven anything but this term.
Assuming Berlusconi does wave goodbye to the Livorno native, would Seedorf really be the answer? It’s great Milan want their legends to continue with the outfit past their playing days. But the Dutchman is not there yet. And his coaching experience is non-existent. Imagine thrusting Seedorf into the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Milanello and expecting at minimum a Champions League return.
Galliani mentioned Panucci and Costacurta. The former is Fabio Capello’s assistant with Russia and Billy has limited Serie B coaching experience. Hardly glowing credentials. Perhaps Gennaro Gattuso or Filippo Inzaghi could one day lead the side, but for now they’re content in roles at Sion and the Milan Allievi Nazionali side respectively. They too have a long way to go. If Allegri must be replaced, Milan would be better served looking elsewhere. Luciano Spalletti would be a fantastic option if he can be lured from Zenit Saint Petersburg.
That suggests Allegri needs replacing. 2013 form says otherwise. Aside from the European exit at the hands of Barcelona – the second leg somewhat disappointing after Milan looked so good at home – they’ve performed well. The Rossoneri remain a point ahead of the Viola. Both have tricky season endings with matches against others who need points for Europe and salvation.
For his part, Allegri was thankful for the fans support. “The fans have got behind me since the day I arrived at Milan and they have also supported the team. They have really backed us this season which has been more difficult than the first two years I have been here.” Milan are building towards something and Allegri has been a part of that. Rather than part ways they should go forth together.