When analysing the turmoil that has engulfed both Lazio and Milan of late it seems that just about any bit of bother the Biancocelesti have got themselves into, the Rossoneri have always found a way to go one better.
Take both clubs’ recently finished European campaigns. Edy Reja’s side were roundly ridiculed as they crashed out of the Europa League three weeks ago to virtually unknown Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets.
Enter Milan to steal the spotlight. A fortnight later the Rossoneri were horribly exposed as they capitulated to an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at Atletico Madrid in their Champions League Last 16 second leg. San Siro legend Arrigo Sacchi summed up the general reaction towards Clarence Seedorf’s side’s performance by describing it as “a disaster for Italian football.”
How about both clubs’ recent transfer activity? Aquile fans were left furious by President Claudio Lotito’s decision to allow star midfielder Hernanes to be sold to Inter in the final days of the January window, then failing to spend any money on a replacement nor anyone else of note when reinforcements were clearly needed. All in all, it represented yet another in a long line of unambitious windows that have left tifosi questioning the direction in which their club is headed.
Milan however again take the bragging rights for headline-grabbing for the wrong reasons. A string of cheap and cheerful (maybe not so cheerful) loan and permanent January signings was symbolic of a transfer policy gone horribly wrong in recent years. While the likes of Adel Taarabt and Keisuke Honda may come good long term, the Rossoneri’s insistence on shopping in European football’s bargain bins makes the decisions to allow the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini to leave the club for free all the more mind-boggling. Throw in the relatively recent sales and lack of quality replacements for the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva and it is easy to see why Paolo Maldini believes his former side have “thrown away what was built with hard work over the previous 10 years.”
All of this has understandably led to frustration boiling over on the terraces. Lazio fans have had enough of Lotito and have voted with their feet by boycotting recent home matches. While the President insists he is willing to talk things over, Ultras’ hard-line stance of ‘you or us’ means it is unlikely there will be a happy ending for either party.
Over in Milan meanwhile things came to a head last week, with Curva Sud fans releasing a strongly worded statement attacking the club’s “host of useless overpaid players” and “horrible transfer policy.” This was followed by at the Rossoneri’s match with Parma at San Siro, a game which ended in a 4-2 defeat and the likes of Seedorf, Ricky Kaka and Mario Balotelli meeting with angry supporters in a bid to restore calm. 3-0 to Milan.
Speaking of scorelines, they are what ultimately matter and more importantly than anything else mentioned, Milan have outdone their opponents on Sunday in securing bad ones. Despite the turmoil engulfing the club off the pitch, Lazio have shown improved form on it of late. A run of three wins in four games has put the Biancocelesti back in contention for a Europa League place and in Reja they have a popular and well-respected Coach. By winning matches they have kept the negative headlines at bay, at least to an extent.
No such relief for the Rossoneri, who have now lost four consecutive matches in all competitions and six of their last eight. It is a run of form that has triggered a media frenzy this week with seemingly every Italian and his dog having an opinion on where it has all gone wrong for the club. It has also apparently put Seedorf’s job at risk barely two months into his tenure, with reports claiming he will be axed should his side show no signs of improvement on Sunday or next week against Fiorentina.
It is quite unbelievable how quickly it has come to this for the Dutchman. He has always viewed reviving the Rossoneri as a long-term project rather than a quick fix and so, surely, do the club’s decision makers. Nothing has changed in that respect since he was appointed, so it seems absurd that President Silvio Berlusconi would consider sacking him before he has had a chance to put his own stamp on the team. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by anything Milan do anymore.
Rightly or wrongly the situation is what it is and while the Biancocelesti have more to play for from a footballing perspective on Sunday, the precarious position Seedorf finds himself in means most of the unwanted attention will be on Milan come kick-off, not Lazio…again.