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Friday June 26 2020
Not the Milan-Roma anyone wanted

It was meant to be a showdown for Champions League places, but Martin Mork explains that Milan and Roma’s reality once again falls short of ambition.

On Sunday, two sides with top four objectives at the start of the season meet at San Siro, desperately chasing their previous heights to overcome a worrying situation, both sporting and financially.

Finances in today’s football goes hand in hand with the sporting merit and the troubling results of late cast a shadow over the future at both clubs.

It’s hard not to refer to Milan as giants in Italy, but the current crop are actually far from it and by sacking Gennaro Gattuso for finishing fifth in Serie A last year, Elliott Management underlined their goal to keep chasing the elite of European football. But only to an extent.

The six-year long absence from the Champions League has limited the club from meeting their required ambitions both in terms of results on the pitch and on the transfer market. Overpaying for underachievers has become a trademark, also due to the brand that is Milan.

But the outcome of deciding to part ways with Gattuso has worsened the club’s situation during the course of this campaign and the poor start under Marco Giampaolo, who was sacked after a mere seven games in charge, has kept them chasing the European candidates ever since Stefano Pioli took over.

CEO Ivan Gazidis cast further doubt over the current coach’s future by announcing the club’s plans of a revival by changing the structure in Via Aldo Rossi completely and by contacting Ralf Rangnick mid-season, adding a third party to the equation. It caused chaos immediately and prepared Milan fans for another summer of uncertainty surrounding the long-term project at San Siro.

How long will it take before Milan are a club that won’t have to rely on loan deals and ageing champions to side a competitive XI in Serie A? That’s exactly what the club hopes will change under Rangnick, but they will need restructuring and patience. The new stadium project will also cost them and the financial crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic has already seen them put Gazidis to the task of cutting wages, a job he seems destined for.

On Sunday, a side in a similar trajectory arrive at the Giuseppe Meazza. Another season outside of the top four could be crucial for their future plans. The Giallorossi, though, are closer than their hosts of achieving the feat, but still seem so far away from another European adventure.

One should expect a top four meeting and a direct rivalry when Milan and Roma face one another in Serie A. But Roma, who arguably have been more tactical on the transfer market of late, are also going through their share of the drama this term.

On top of the takeover that never materialised, the sporting director who didn’t last the full season and the lack of financial muscles to bring in the big names, their younger stars Nicolò Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini have risen to form and attracted interest from the bigger fish. The truth is that La Lupa have turned into to somewhat of a stepping-stone rather than a preferred final destination, also displayed by the low release clause in Pellegrini’s contract.

These players have been linked with a move away from the club this summer and without the Champions League, Roma might be financially forced to sell their stars – again.

As for Milan, they are once again set for a revolution. Italy international Gianluigi Donnarumma seems set to sign another €6m-a-year contract, but it’s not official yet, and Hakan Calhanoglu has expressed his wish to play in the Champions League. When Calhanoglu feels you aren’t ambitious enough for him, then something is seriously wrong.

Fabio Capello pointed out that the gap in points between the two sides was not representative of the players in the squad, but a direct comparison doesn’t make them what they sought out to be. In fact, none of them are quite Champions League material.

Both sides have established Europe as a set target ahead of the season, but the economic uncertainty and previous spending have limited them. Roma are through to the last 16 in the Europa League and could qualify for the Champions League by winning the secondary European Cup, but both sides rely on loan deals to establish a competitive XI, and the current economical uncertainty forces them to think again ahead of next season.

On one hand, it underlines the great job Paulo Fonseca has done since taking over at the Olimpico, they are still in with a chance of catching Atalanta, but the truth is that they replaced Kostas Manolas by bringing Chris Smalling in on loan and now reports emerged regarding the uncertainty of affording to make the deal permanent.

Milan and Roma are both perfect examples of teams resting on their laurels and another season without the benefit of European revenue will make them fall even further behind economically and it will become even harder getting access to the material needed to compete at the top.

Inter and Juventus were always expected to fight for the Scudetto due to their wealth and ambitions, whilst Atalanta and Lazio are currently the perfect examples of stable projects developing with time, currently completing the top four and ready to upset things even further. They have spent their money wisely and are now preparing to establish themselves at the top by slowly raising the bar.

Picking up three comfortable points at home against Roma should enhance belief that Milan are moving in the right direction, but they face a side who must win to resume their hopes of Champions League football and a better future. More’s at stake than meets the eye, but the anti-climax for the fans is undeniable.

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Have your say...
("Whose", not "Who's" dummy... Stop writing at 4:30AM...)

For CL, everyone expected Juve, Napoli, Inter to grab a spot because of their spending/ strengthening.

Atalanta (by far THE BEST ITALIAN TEAM right now) would have problems getting fourth with CL commitments. I figured Roma or Milan would get it but injuries, luck & Corona changed that.

Best (though impossible) scenario would be: Atalanta wins CL, Roma wins EL, Napoli gets 4th.
(...& Milan fans cry they "deserve" CL.)
on the 28th June, 2020 at 1:15pm
"Not the Milan-Roma anyone wanted"

EXACTLY.
The biggest game of Week 28...
...and it's relegated to 17:15 slot...
Who's bright idea was that??

Heat will have huge impact on this game.
Also, getting Kjaer back was crucial for Milan --Last time he pocketed Dzeko :(
on the 28th June, 2020 at 3:42am
Wow !! I’ve rarely read more generic, unimpressive op-Ed. It’s like an intro to Italian football (for dummies) a la “Juve and Inter were likely Scudetto contenders at season start”. Really ? Deplete of any interesting bits, also outdated significantly at least on Roma, e.g. Smalling, who has demanded, and will likely remain with Roma - instead of “now reports emerging” of “uncertainty” to keep him ? That was status of Dec 2019. Sorry but this summary is not worth coming from info news platform!
on the 27th June, 2020 at 8:45pm
i was foolishly optimistic for milan before i saw the opening game, a full season of paqueta and piatek plus leao, rebic, theo maybe a injury free caldara. curse of the fan

as for roma they have been successively managed down for years selling top player after top player so they could buy the likes of nzonzi and loan smalling.

still lazio and atalanta have been a one another level by comparison it makes me extremely envious. lazio especially no real youth academy or budget yet league contend
on the 26th June, 2020 at 8:48pm

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