Massimo Ambrosini concedes Andrea Pirlo cannot be replaced, but still believes “only Barcelona can beat Milan.”
The Rossoneri won the Scudetto for the first time in seven years and are targeting the Champions League next term.
“We hope to start the season the same way we ended the last: with a victory,” he said of the August 6 Italian Super Cup against Inter.
“Whoever wins the Scudetto is always the favourite to retain it. I realise it's early and the teams are under construction, but we cannot hide. It's our duty to go for a second successive title.
“In Europe I think at this moment Milan can compete with everyone except Barcelona, who are three levels above all the others. That doesn't mean we shouldn't target the Champions League, as it's a competition where anything can happen.”
Coach Max Allegri is pushing for a revolution in midfield, as Pirlo was released on a free transfer to Juventus and the club is seeking a left-sided player.
“I read various names in the newspapers, but I have no idea who the mysterious Mister X could be. Besides, I can play in that left midfield role too...” Ambrosini told the Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We certainly need a replacement for Pirlo, even if someone with his characteristics would be impossible to replace. His absence will be felt on the field and in the locker room.
“There are players who can turn a team from normal to great. Andrea is one of those players. I started playing with him way back in the Italy Under-18 squad. He is unique.”