AC Milan has always prided itself on being a "family club", but right now this legendary sporting institution is tearing itself apart, taking valuable attention away from on-field issues that still need fixing.
Following rumours for some time now, it was made official on Saturday that Chief Football Officer Zvonimir Boban has been sacked. The former midfielder, who was on the books at San Siro for a decade as a player, was let go after his public statements. In a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Croatian lambasted the club's CEO Ivan Gazidis for initiating contact with Ralf Rangnick “behind the backs” of the other directors.
The German is currently employed as the head of sports development at Red Bull, who own clubs such as Salzburg and Leipzig. There have been strong rumours, although not officially confirmed by the club that the man from Backnang, has been touted as a potential joint coach and head of sports development for the Rossoneri. Boban essentially confirmed this, so the continued insistence of Gazidis that Milan have full faith in Stefano Pioli is patently not true.
It should be important to note that Boban used the word "our backs" in his interview. He spoke up, he was fired, but he was representing Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara in everything he said. Let us also remember that the player who glided across the field like a seal in water, left a very successful position with FIFA to go back to his former club to try and help them recapture their former glories. You could say Zvone was like a big brother who moved away to pursue his career, but returned after the family suffered hardships.
It was of course Boban's former teammate Paolo Maldini who coerced him to return the club. Il Capitano's position is also precarious at best at Milan, as he is also reportedly close to getting the sack as well, or to put it more diplomatically "leave by mutual consent." It was not supposed to be like this, was it?
Milan had new owners Elliott Management, who were going to invest in "young and upcoming talent" to complement the good players already at the club, two former legends on the field returning to give that sense and hope of legitimacy and a public face to a club that recently celebrated its 120th birthday. Instead it looks like yet another Year Zero, once again Milan stagger from one owner to the next, building up a smorgasbord of warring former directors who can’t or won’t stop declaring everything that has gone wrong, like some bitter ex-boyfriend.
Speaking of those that love the club, the Ultras of course had their say on the matter and released a damning statement asking that "dirty laundry be dealt with in private." Well, that is long gone. Milan are being run like Maurizio Zamparini’s Palermo.
This must in some way, shape or form affect Pioli. The Parma native was never a popular choice with fans when he was appointed, so much so that the hashtag #PioliOut had been trending even before the 54-year-old had his first game. To his credit, at least publicly, he has maintained a decorum that he is pressing forward with the team, working well at Milanello and feels the support of the club, but he must know that he’s a caretaker at best?
Gazidis obviously can't fire Pioli at the moment, not least because he does not need another potential public relations nightmare, so he has publicly backed the coach, who to be fair has improved the team, both in terms of the performances and the results.
Now is the time for this Milan family to come together, focus on the rest of the campaign and salvage some semblance of stability. At least until May, when it’ll all start up again.