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Wednesday July 22 2020
Milan stick rather than twist

News of Stefano Pioli’s new contract ended the prospect of a brave new world at Milan. Richard Hall analyses why Ralf Rangnick isn’t coming after all, and who the winners and losers are…

Whether you agree or disagree with Stefano Pioli’s extension as Milan coach until 2022, you would have to say this is a victory for the establishment. Paolo Maldini is also set to stay on and it seems he has certainly used his influence to the full in this political struggle. Whilst time will tell if this is a large dose of short termism or not, the process has been a confused one and it confirms Milan were not willing to take a leap of faith and embark on a new project that could have seen Ralf Rangnick revolutionise the club.

Feel free to pull this article out from the archives and throw it into my face when Pioli lifts the Coppa Italia whilst establishing Milan back in the Champions League on a permanent basis, as I for one would be happy to see it, but the decision will split the fan base. Milan went to great lengths with the intention of embarking on a journey into a completely new world. They made commitments, sold it well, and there were casualties along the way.

“This is not a decision based on recent victories, but one based on how Stefano has built team spirit and unity of purpose,” a statement from CEO Ivan Gazidis said, adding that Pioli ‘understands the values of the club’ and can deliver football that is ‘exciting, progressive and passionate.’ It is true that Milan have been excellent since the break but the purpose of bringing Rangnick to the club was to change the way Milan thought and acted. Forgetting the club’s values was never the intention, and for all the talk about being progressive, the question must be asked: Would they have said that about Pioli six months ago?

Rangnick was supposed to come into revolutionise Milan, to create a modern football club that played expansive football and developed stars of the future. Whether the fan base would appreciate a ‘new Salzburg,’ with a substantial scouting network focusing on low cost young talent who fit into Rangnick’s quick passing and slick style of football is up for debate, but the prospect of it was at least exciting to some.

More than one player has spoken highly of working under Rangnick. “I’ve met a lot of people in football, but I’ve never come across someone who is as mad about the game. It’s a joy to work under someone like that,” said Leipzig midfielder Kevin Kampl. We’ll never know if Rangnick would have come away with similar endorsements from the Milan players but the possibility of a new approach was appealing, not just for the Rossoneri but for Italian football. The prospect of Milan, playing in a new stadium with a team made up of young talent, taught by Rangnick, certainly feels progressive. Milan are also a big enough club to not to have had to sell these players.

It’s true that Rangnick would have had almost dictatorial control, from the coaching to the transfers to the medical department, but his supporters would argue this would have helped him realise his dream much faster. With Arrigo Sacchi one of his inspirations, it did feel as if Milan were about to begin a period of discovery that would fuse the grand old name of the club with a modern twist. Juventus took on a different but equally brave overhaul, and that turned out well.

Gazidis and Rangnick have known each other for some time and the vision from the CEO seemed unmovable, as he had twice tried to bring him to San Siro. Zvonimir Boban was one of the casualties in the process when he took umbrage with Gazidis’ approach for Rangnick, calling it ‘disrespectful and inelegant’ and accusing Gazidis over going behind his back; he was sacked from his post as a director soon afterwards. There was push-back too from Maldini, who didn’t want Rangnick to arrive with so much control.

Now Rangnick isn’t arriving at all, and Milan are sticking by Pioli with Maldini watching over. The players appear to be playing for Pioli, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in particular looks born-again – the post-break tactics and results can barely be faulted. One does wonder, however, if this is more a power play from the establishment to keep the situation as it is and maintain their influence. It will be interesting to see how long Pioli lasts if results turn again, and how different Milan look next season.

Amidst all of this, Milan won again, beating Sassuolo on Tuesday night, but that’s not so much the result that matters. Considering the way events looked to be heading, it’s Maldini 1-0 Gazidis.

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Have your say...
One of the consistent annoying aspects of supporting Milan dating back to berlo era has always been our constant signing and dependance on older injury prone player. I'm not going to name them the list is lengthy. they give a false sense regarding squad depth. Biglia, ibra, bona, and even calabria can not be relied on 100% as its entirely possible all of them could be simultaneously injured.
on the 26th July, 2020 at 10:25am
Bale? If we focus on one signing, we can give ourselves the best chance of signing top quality players.
on the 25th July, 2020 at 5:48am
@ ACM Northern voice We're not at Barca ad Real's level and we're not going to get there in a few months time. The squad we've got now is good enough for what we need. And the evidence of that is the last few games. How is anyone saying this squad is not good enough to be in the top 4 when it is, right at this very minute, playing like a top 4 side? There's no need for speculation. This is happening. The one immediate area I could see where we could improve is the right wing. Why don't we try
on the 25th July, 2020 at 5:41am
@ Vero Rossonero It's not just having 23 players but 11 players who are your guaranteed starters, 5-6 regular subs and then the rest just there for injuries. In a good season they should be playing less than 5 games. We don't need to go to the trouble of signing a player who is going to play that number of games. We can use the older players we have or even youth players.
on the 25th July, 2020 at 5:36am
@ Vero Rossonero If we sign Tonali then we undermine Bennacer, Kessie AND Tonali None of them will achieve their potential. Biglia, who has played in the WC final and has over 150 Serie A games under his belt but apparently is "not good enough", doesn't threaten Kessie or Bennacer. We want our starting 11 to know they're our starting 11. At one stage Barca gave the numbers 1-11 to the first choice 11. That's what I'm talking about. We should be able to name our starting 11 without even thinking.
on the 25th July, 2020 at 5:34am
Food for thought: Given the present transfer speculation for a new RB/RWB (Emerson), new CB (Ajer) and new CM (Roca), could it be that Pioli is contemplating a shift to a 3-4-1-2 formation? This would make sense to get the most out of Theo and Conti's (or new RWB) attacking tendencies and defensive deficiencies. It would basically entail just dropping Samu for a CB and moving Rebic inside to more of a traditional second striker. At least it would be an option...
on the 24th July, 2020 at 5:18pm
@ Maldini’s Heir
Barcelona and Real have a core, but they also have players like Bale or Vidal (for example). Coach can throw them into the pitch at any difficult moment and hope they will deliver something extra. We don`t have anything like this. Besides, you are telling me, that we must focus on a big signings, but no one of those were working very well in recent history, every major signing was a flop.
on the 24th July, 2020 at 3:47pm
@Maldini's Heir. Agree on one or two mega signings. So for this Milan a top RB and Tonali would be mega signings. The latter is linked with a host of top clubs. Remember, we're not playing in the CL and are going to finish no higher than 5th. It's gonna be a bit before the Mbappes and the SMSs of the world want to play for Milan.
on the 24th July, 2020 at 3:35pm
@Maldini's Heir. BTW, squads of 23 ARE technically squads of two players for every position. Milan when all healthy - GK: Gigio, Antonio, Begovic (3); LB: Theo, Laxalt (2); LCB: Romagnoli, Gabbia (2); RCB: Kjaer, Musacchio (2); RB: Calabria, Conti (2); LCM: Bennacer, Biglia (2); RCM: Kessie, Krunic (2); LW: Rebic, Jack (2); RW: Samu, Salaemaekers (2); AM: Hakan, Paqueta (2); FW: Ibra, Leao (2); Extra: Duarte (1). Total = 24. So basically we have one excess CB...
on the 24th July, 2020 at 3:32pm
@Maldini's Heir. I'm not saying we need to sign new 5 players for CM. I'm saying we should take advantage of Brescia's relegation to sign a very talented Tonali, who may turn out to be the next Pirlo (worth it even if he's 50% Pirlo). As you said we need "key subs" and squad depth will be important if playing in multiple competitions, i.e. every 3 days. Exhibit A: Lazio. You cite Madrid and Barcelona, but they have top quality on the bench. Biglia isn't that. He can stay as the #4 guy I guess...
on the 24th July, 2020 at 3:24pm
the AM role and Rebic, Leao, Bonaventura, Castillejo, Ibra + player X rotating for the front 3. That's more than enough. Every player we sign causes disruption. They need to be integrated into the team, they push someone out, and they're take time and resources. So this is why we need to be so focused. Barca and Real tend to focus on a few mega signings and Milan need to start doing the same. Keep the interruption to a minimum and don't waste time and money on squad players.
on the 24th July, 2020 at 11:29am
@ ACM Northern voice We need to get passed this idea that we need massive squads with 2 players for every position. Barcelona and Real Madrid have competed for years with squads of 23 players but a core of 11 starting players and 5 or 6 key subs. They keep it really tight and it allows the teams to be so much more cohesive. Milan have Gabbia who can cover both CBs and DM, Calabria who can cover both FBs, Krunic who can cover both MFs with Gabbia and Biglia, Paqueta and Çalhanoğlu competing for
on the 24th July, 2020 at 11:25am
Don`t get me wrong. I`m, in generally, agree with your idea, but we still need some reinforcements. Things are always looking beautiful, when we are winning. But it will be different, when we will eventually have problems. Pioli will look to the bench and he will see only one player, Leao, who can be possible gamechanger. Sorry, we need some back up.
p.s. right back position is the only one, where we need some big signing right now. I don`t have faith in Conti or Calabria at all.
on the 24th July, 2020 at 8:17am
@ Maldini’s Heir
Yeah, sounds lovely. But, what if Kessie or Bennacer will get serious injury along the season and only one, who can replace them, will be Biglia? Are you trust him enough to be decent replacement, who plays game after game, from the start? Sorry, i don`t. What if we will be 2 goals down in some of the games, who will be our saviour from the bench? Unpredictable Paqueta or injury prone Bonaventura? It doesn`t sounds inspiring. We need some healthy competition within a team.
on the 24th July, 2020 at 8:02am
And in 3 seasons time when Kessie and Bennacer are approaching 100 games together with Milan it’ll be because we opted to renew Biglia and keep him on the bench. That’s the mistake we’ve made for the last 10 years. We haven’t just let things be.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 11:20pm
The only gap I see is down the right. We’re going to have to decide whether or not to buy Saelemaekers and I don’t think he’s a player capable of turning Milan into title challengers. So all the money we’ve saved NOT signing any other player we focus on the right wing. We sign the best player we can possibly buy for all of the money we have. Whatever they figure is that’s where we focus. We add one player to this team and leave the rest. And we do the same next season and the next. We focus.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 11:17pm
@ Vero Rossonero The idea behind Biglia is that we don’t need him to play. We have Bennacer and Kessie and we support them by NOT signing another midfielder. This is the thing we have kept doing in recent years. A player or partnership becomes established and then we undermine by signing 5 players to that one position. Biglia is perfect for the bench. I’m in two minds about Ibra but again we just have to back him, Rebic and Leao. Signing someone else would undermine these players. Leave them be.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 11:12pm
While I agree that Pioli is the right move for this coming season, especially as we have such a short off season this year, as we need the consistency that has been missing for years now. We must also keep hold of Ibra for next year as well. He is basically a player coach for the team, he and Pioli are the reason we are in the position we are now. With Kjaer (always thought he would do good things but has been a disappointment till now), Ibra, and the young players, I see a good team.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 8:43pm
@Ferban. You could be right, but to have gone with the nuclear option right now might have been worse. I can see this happening: Pioli has a contract to 2022. His task next season is to finish in the top 4. He does. Then for 21-22 the club uses the CL money to solidify a top 4 squad and play a good first year in back in CL. Now it's summer 2022, and Pioli departs for Rangnick, who comes in with a club playing in the CL and the money to achieve a major overhaul with reduced risk of regression.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 8:20pm
Kaer's passing range and solidity has impressed. I remember when Milan showed interest in him back at Palermo, but I had no idea he was that solid. Rebic is playing his best football, piercing space in Serie A that other strikers don't often attack. No wonder he was a starter in the WC final.
Risks: Gabbia, dip in form of Hakan, Leao, Theo, and Bennacer's yellows.
About Kessie, I am biased, but I don't see other midfielders around like him.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 7:57pm
Smart decision by the club.
It would have been very painful for our coach, Maldini, players and fans, to throw a dart at thin air, hoping to land in the promised land. The squad is playing its best football since 2011. We have the strongest midfield in the league. Hakan is adding a killer instinct to his game. The moment he gets the ball, he passes and moves to create space and split the defense. Ibra is slow but still manages to be effective.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 7:55pm
why milan acting like prized club which they are not at the moment. bringing ibra isn't adequate enough for a statement. buying will be not enough for them,
they need reconstructing. however the club is running by elliot the management running company; incapable of making standard measurement invesment.. pretty sad.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 4:47pm
@Maldini's Heir. I agree with keeping most of the current squad and for a new pacey winger (on the right side). But Biglia can go. We also need to sort out a striker now to take over for Ibra later (if he stays). Also both of our RBs have not convinced in 3 seasons. So, given that I've read we have 75m available for transfers: Tonalli, Scamacca, Ajer, new top RB. I think Samu can hold down RW for 1 more year. Then in '21 a top RW and maybe a top playmaker because Hakan still doesn't convince me.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 3:20pm
This situation is a little reminiscent of Ranieri's Leicester. When he came in at the end of the season and won a lot of matches, then next year they continued where they had left off. I mean, you never know ...

Pioli has a history yes, but as he said himself, he was never in charge of a big club from the start of the season. And it's not just the results! As someone else mentioned, we have barely seen Milan play this good in a long, long time. It's a chance absolutely worth taking. Let's see.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 9:51am
The timing was going to be terrible for Rangnick if he came in now. The greatly reduced pre-season would not give adequate time for a complete system overhaul.
There would be excessive pressure on Rangnick to get immediate results because Pioli's Milan team since the restart have been exceptional.
Gazidis would be playing a high risk game for owners, Elliot who trade in securities, he does not wish to look foolish and incompetent.

I would guess it was Gazidis and Rangnick who stepped back.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 9:41am
I am old enough to remember what Ancelottis record was when he came in. He had lost everywhere, with Juve etc. He had a team of Sheva, Rui, Gattuso, reinvented the failing Pirlo. Maldini and billy had won the CL 10 years prior.

Milan looked A LOT better than Giampaolos, in January, Atalanta game aside. 3 months of working together since Genoa, this is what we see. It would be madness not to do this.

Besides, Rangnick was probably the one who pulled the plug, let's be honest.
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 6:00am
Wrong) absolutely deserves a chance. Maldini and massara have shown that they can get players of the highest calibre for a more than fair price and have brought in a great mix. For next year they need a rb a cm a creative midfielder and a striker while extending zlatan and bonaventura and they can do great things. Just to throw names out there. Szoboszlai, gotze, depay, Dumfries, Emerson, tonali, jovic, bakayoko. All guys that can improve this team
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 5:10am
Players. Once again It must be 8 years that I watch a milan game and feel confident in winning because especially in the last 5 I've been in pain knowing that we can play any team in the league and anything could happen, mostly negative. They never closed the door on rangnick and even his party said it's not the right time now but maybe in the future. Hopefully this project isn't a failure but whk knows maybe one day he will join. For the moment, pioli(whk I never wanted in milan and proved me
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 5:07am
Supposed to be. Maldini in his first rookie year brought in theo and bennacer. In less than one season they have doubled in price. He made a mistake with giampaolo he changed it. Milan needed something different in January, they brought kjaer and zlatan, two people who have changed our defence and attack. His signings have been a complete success and now he can build on that. The foundations are there to build this project. I always said the 4 2 3 1 was the way to go cause it best fits our....
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 5:03am
I don't think it was a mistake. In fairness, pioli deserves to stay on and so does Maldini. As a milan fan, I can admit that I haven't seen milan play this well in over 8 years. Is it a gamble? Sure. But so was bringing rangnick. Pioli has done something that various managers have failed to do and that's get the best out of his players in the right position. It's absolutely no coincidence that both Kessie and calhanoglu look like totally different players because they are now playing where.....
on the 23rd July, 2020 at 5:00am

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