Mediolanum, that was a football kit, red and black, worn by Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, and Frank Rijkaard. So many names are in this chapter, San Siro was iconic already, but was even more so after this. George Weah, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, even writing these few sentences brings a smile, Il Grande Milan.
Silvio Berlusconi did so much for this team, but his money ran dry and football changed unrecognisably, as the oil-rich billionaires made Silvio look like a pauper. Even a modern-day Arrigo Sacchi couldn’t save them now. That doesn’t mean there is no hope, it simply means that the Rossoneri have to re-assess how they view their prestigious club.
Changing perceptions on something you love is not treason, nor is it infidelity. It is more often the essence of love, of development. It is the second stage of love when you realise that everything isn’t perfect. You realise that she gets things stuck in her teeth and that actually, that confidence is born out of vulnerability. This is the second stage.
The stage after is when you start to realise that those little idiosyncrasies are the reason you love her more and they then become even more important to you than those original beautiful elements. This is perhaps how Milan fans should feel about their club, because as they prepare to face Juventus, it is clear that there is no honeymoon anymore.
Milan travel to Juventus with slim hopes of a result. If one is to be honest, Stefano Pioli is uninspiring and quite honestly nothing more than a doorstop until Milan start again next summer. This season will be one of disappointment and anger for many fans, as once again their team fail to live up to the great Rossoneri sides of the past.
Even if Milan win tonight, it won’t matter a jot. They may get Europa League football, but this is almost an insult to their past. Next season when Milan are travelling to Ukraine or Belarus on a Thursday night, Milan fans of a certain vintage will be watching the game in a daze remembering Van Basten’s scissor kick against IFK Gothenburg, or younger fans will be thinking of Kaka.
It doesn’t need to be like this. Milan have changed. There are a thousand articles about Milan’s take-over bids, the Yonghong Li problems and their landed situation with Elliott. They are not for now. They do bear relevance however, as Milan cannot spend in a comparable way to the 1980s and 1990s, but they can still spend.
Ivan Gazidis is often called a man who over-promises, but even he recognised the scale of the project in Milan. He urged the fan base to temper their expectations and reassess how they look at the club. He was right in this, at least. As he said, they are a club looking to invest in youth, but they also might be selling these players off when they come of age.
It is a sad situation for a great club to go through a transition, but it is common and Milan are not excluded just because of their history. Their neighbours Inter, whilst perhaps not as successful on the European front historically, have started from scratch enough times. Manchester United, Arsenal, Marseille (that’s a while other story) and so many others are nowhere near where they believe these clubs belong.
So, what do Milan do? If you view the comments section below this piece you will probably embark on a journey where many say that the ownership, the direction and the identity of the club is in crisis and to an extent, they will have a point.
However, the question to all those doomsday prophets is this. In most circumstances the big clubs bounce back, they eventually get their backer, they eventually find that coach. They are also lucky to have had a glorious history and the memories to show for it. Now they are going through a rocky time in their relationship, but it is these times when true support is needed, it is in the dark times they should be proud of their club.
Knowing something is imperfect and still loving it is more evolved than loving that wonderful kit.