Between sustaining serious injuries that prevented him from competing at major international tournaments with Italy to his documented struggles as captain of a fallen giant, football life hasn’t been easy for Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo.
Over the last several years, the former Atalanta academy product had been rightfully criticized for his poor performances, yet somehow, was handed one contract extension after another. As the Rossoneri take on his first club at San Siro on Saturday, poor form means the 888sport betting odds are surprisingly stacked against them.
The previous management of Silvio Berlusconi and CEO Adriano Galliani refused to strip him of the armband, and bring in someone worthy of its prestige, which fueled intense supporter angst.
Montolivo’s captaincy just about summed up everything wrong with Milan in what’s been labeled ‘the Banter Era’. However, once Chinese owners purchased the club from Berlusconi and came bearing gifts in the form of money and renewed hope, it was crystal clear Montolivo’s time was up – or so it seemed.
Once strapped for cash, the red and black finally had the ability to spend on top talent, and with that, finally upgrade all over, including the midfield – a department that’s been sorely missing difference-makers for years.
After Lucas Biglia arrived and Leonardo Bonucci moved from Juventus, it was obvious that Montolivo would not only be relieved of the armband acquired from Massimo Ambrosini in June 2013, but also his starting position.
To much surprise, neither new buy started well, nor did the club collectively play to the lofty expectations bestowed upon them in the summer. Because the new owners had invested a ton of money into this 2017-18 squad, the pressure to perform mounted. Yet, with Bonucci and Biglia’s struggles to find form, and Montella under the cosh, a chance at redemption presented itself to Montolivo.
Since returning to the starting XI, the 32-year old has found a new lease on life at Milan, something that seemed beyond the realm of possibility with both Biglia and Manuel Locatelli receiving more looks from Montella before he was sacked.
Under Gennaro Gattuso, Montolivo has undeniably earned his midfield role in the 4-3-3, turning in one steady performance after another, and has been a breath of fresh air for supporters who once thought they should rid themselves of his mediocrity.
Though he isn’t doing anything extraordinary with regards to his pass circulation, it’s the calming presence and consistency that allows Milan’s build-up to smoothly operate, look respectable and create chances. Dishing out the simple, high percentage balls, with the occasional risky one over the top, looks like the Montolivo of old at the very beginning of his career in Milano.
Furthermore, the ex-Fiorentina standout’s defensive efforts have aided the backline to the point where that alone is worthy of minutes. They’ve also given the likes of Franck Kessie and Giacomo Bonaventura the license to support in the attacking phase while he sits back, sweeps up and dictates play.
Since the days of Andrea Pirlo roaming about as the deep-lying playmaker of the Rossoneri, Milan has lacked a formidable ‘regista’ to pull the strings and keep things tidy in the middle of the park.
Biglia was brought in from Lazio to fulfill these duties and be the key cog to tie it all together – but so far, to no avail. With Locatelli still 19 and raw in many respects, it’s easy to see how Montolivo’s found himself back playing a key role for Milan at the end of 2017.
After spending north of €200m on nearly a dozen new faces, there were several casualties as a result of the new Milan regime. Instead of following them out the door, Montolivo stuck around and has been reborn – and he hopes his club can do the same sooner rather than later.