People have noted that political satires like The Thick of It and Veep are providing scenarios less ridiculous than the ones we see playing out on the news every day now. The chaos at AC Milan feels much the same. There comes a point when ‘banter era’ doesn’t really cover it. This is a club without a plan, a leader, an identity, just endless half-thought-out projects that are thrown out to the public before they’ve been properly vetted, then abandoned once enough negative feedback arrives.
There’s a quote from The Thick of It when spin doctor Malcolm Tucker is explaining to Minister Nicola Murray why she won’t be fired yet. “Sacked after 12 months, looks like you’ve messed up; sacked after a week, looks like we’ve messed up.” Well, dismissing Marco Giampaolo after seven games and a club record 111 days is without a shadow of a doubt a sign the club has got this badly wrong.
Milan messed up twice here, because they got the wrong man for the job and then didn’t even have the guts to try supporting him through the first few hurdles. Giampaolo never stood a chance, because – as per usual – there was no consistency to this supposed project at all. They hired a Coach who famously plays 4-3-1-2 and didn’t get him anyone who can play in the trequartista position in the hole. They spent all summer trying to sell Suso for €40m, failing, and therefore having to accommodate him and his endless cut inside from the right to shoot with the left foot forays. Hakan Calhanoglu started every game this season because… actually, I’ve got nothing for that. Not a clue what managers continue to see in him. He’s a free kick specialist who can’t take free kicks, a midfielder with no real attacking or defensive qualities and who can’t seem to pass the ball to a teammate without giving it away for a dangerous counter-attack. He’s like a figure in a children’s story who goes through all these different jobs until he figures out where he belongs. It’s a longer book than any Milanista wanted and we’re not sure there is an ending other than ‘somewhere other than San Siro.’
Stefano Pioli is in now, although in keeping with Milan’s strategy towards everything nowadays, he wasn’t their first choice. The club very publicly went for Luciano Spalletti – a bad idea too, if you ask me – and pulled out because he was too expensive. Cheap and cheerful, that’s the Rossoneri way in 2019.
To keep the TV theme going, the Milan directors are increasingly like that group in The Apprentice who want to create the biggest profit margin by selling burgers for £20 made of squirrel meat and roadkill. The fans are the ones getting ripped off, as every time a Press conference is held describing their intention to qualify for the Champions League, aim for big objectives and bring this club back to where it belongs, and we know even at the time none of it will happen.
Look into Pioli’s eyes during that presentation – even he knows he won’t be there for long. At least Ariana Grande can sing ‘Thank you, next’ by saying she learned from her exes. What have Milan learned from everyone who traipsed through here since Max Allegri was fired in January 2014? Did they keep any of the positives from Sinisa Mihajlovic, Vincenzo Montella or Gennaro Gattuso? Have any of those errors in management and transfer strategy been corrected? Of course not.
This obsession with a top four finish is unhealthy. Gattuso finished one point off Inter, but was written off as a total failure, just like every other Coach who came through the door of Milanello in recent years. At what point do you realise it’s not just his fault?
Ivan Gazidis can state all he likes that Milan were salvaged from bankruptcy, but that’s not the point. Money was spent, and a lot of it, just not very wisely. Giampaolo never got the players he asked for and decided to transform system after one match because it was better to work around the characteristics of his squad rather than try to shove a round peg into a square hole.
So fans can blame Giampaolo, Pioli and the next poor sap who comes along, but the problems at Milan won’t change until there is a fundamental overhaul of the culture there. We see too many directors, all with different ideas, seemingly working entirely independently of each other and the Coach. I’m not clear what it is Zvonimir Boban and Paolo Maldini actually do. Add Ricky Massara to the mix, then there’s Gazidis and Paolo Scaroni, all of whom answer to the shadowy London offices of Elliott Management. Who is, ultimately, in charge at Milan? I don’t think even they really know.
Decide on a plan, consider it carefully, provide the tools necessary for it to succeed and then stick to it.