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Monday March 22 2021
What’s next for Milan?

The Rossoneri are battling it out for a Champions League spot and Fabio De Dominicis analyses what they need to make a further step and become title contenders from next season.

As the old cliché goes, “all good things come to an end”. Unbeaten in 304 days in Serie A, topping their Europa League group and being crowned ‘Winter Champions’ for the first time in a decade, the new year brought an air of excitement and expectancy not felt for several years in Milanello.

Milan fans revelled in their team’s impressive showing across 2020, with the Rossoneri steam train bellowing onwards to destinations previously deemed unreachable.

Barely three months into 2021, however, a thick blanket of reality has clouded and often swallowed the now chugging locomotive, which has threatened to derail, offloaded many passengers and has somewhat lost its way.

A first league loss to Juventus on January 6 spiralled into five Serie A defeats by mid-March, already more than double the league losses succumbed over the entire 2020 calendar year, coupled with a sucker-punch Coppa Italia quarter-final blow to rivals Inter.

Injuries mounted, confidence waned, performances dropped and January’s top spot in Serie A crumbled into a nine-point deficit to the Nerazzurri in a matter of weeks.

As shining representatives of Serie A alongside Roma in European Cup competitions, the Milan light was extinguished by Manchester United in the Last 16 of the Europa League as the red and black train struggled to keep the pistons pumping.

For the neutral outsider, the Milan wheels were well and truly off. Yet for ardent Milan supporters and close Serie A observers, the Milan train may have run out of steam, yet its journey had already surpassed its original destination.

With the youngest side in the league under what was initially deemed a caretaker coach, coming off the back of a sixth-place finish and under a period of reconstruction at various levels within the club, Milan had always been punching above their weight and were barely mentioned in title talks, to begin with.

Having played more games than any other club, enduring a lengthy injury list and making do with far less squad depth than their Scudetto rivals, Milan’s recent wobble was less of a surprise and more of an expected reality.

And while naturally far less consistent than their all-conquering first 15 matches of the campaign, the spirited side have managed to remain on track as it proved their 3-2 victory over Fiorentina on Sunday.

A return to Europe’s elite competition after a seven-year absence would be satisfactory for this campaign.

Still, the club, players and supporters will surely demand more next season, with the Rossoneri needing to focus on several key issues to ensure their train’s progression is not further delayed.

ATTACK

It’s no secret that the Milan attack is paper-thin and will need reinforcement over the summer. The ever-influential Zlatan Ibrahimovic, at 39, is the side’s leading scorer with 15 of the team’s 53 league goals.

The Swede became the oldest Serie A player to reach that mark in just 15 games as his talent and eye for goal cease to decrease despite his age. Midfielder Franck Kessie is the second-best contributor, though eight of his nine goals have come from the penalty spot, while wide frontman Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic have just five goals apiece.

In the initial stages of the season, the Rossoneri managed without their towering Swede when injured.

Yet with 13 out of 28 games missed and back-up striker Mario Mandzukic sidelined through injury as well, the side have struggled, experimenting with Rebic and Leao, who have both looked uncomfortable, out of place and far less effective in a central attacking position.

While talks are ongoing to extend Ibrahimovic’s stay for another year, relying on a 40-year-old who has scored almost 30% of the entire squad’s goals will certainly not be a sustainable option for a credible title tilt.

The likes of Dusan Vlahovic, Gianluca Scamacca and Andrea Belotti have all been thrown about in the rumour mill, all of which would no doubt grow their game under the ever beady-eyed Milan number 11.

With the experimental Mandzukic short-term deal falling on its face, the before-mentioned trio is all of the age and mould that will undoubtedly bolster the Rossoneri attack, while the likes of Leao, Rebic and wide-men Alexis Saelemakers and Samu Castillejo have to raise their game.

STAR RENEWALS

Achieving success on the pitch while balancing the finances in the boardroom is no easy task, with the new Milan project, largely in the hands of club CEO Ivan Gazidis, maintaining a close eye on both.

Negotiations with two key figures in the team in goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu, are still ongoing, and while renewal talks are seemingly positive with both stars, eyebrows are being raised over the amounts reportedly requested by the players and their agents, and whether or not the key players should be replaced, with the money better spent elsewhere.

Most fans would agree that talented gloveman Donnarumma is a crucial asset the club would not want to lose. The first name both literally and figuratively on the team sheet, the 22-year-old has already amassed over 200 games for the club he joined as a youth product, has grown in stature over the years and has produced countless match-saving performance between the sticks.

As the Rossoneri’s only assured Italian national team starter, he has become a symbol for the club and has frequently donned the armband in regular skipper Alessio Romagnoli’s injury absences.

Calhanoglu has often frustrated fans with his inconsistency and continued this unenviable trend this campaign. An assist machine over the first half of the season who won December’s Serie A Player of the Month, an unfortunate COVID-19-enforced break has seen him return a different player, with a noticeable decrease in impact on matches in recent outings.

Flashes of brilliance still form part of his armoury, such as seen with his well-placed winner in the recent victory over Fiorentina. Yet, his wage demands in comparison to his inconsistent showings have left many wondering whether he is worth his asking price.

Both stars can undoubtedly prove to be match-winners on their day, both have been committed to the Milan cause for several seasons and would be valuable leaders in a squad looking to step up to the next level next season, yet a failed top-four bid this term, an insistence on exorbitant salary increases combined with the club’s tight financial outlook could jeopardise their Rossoneri future.

In other areas of the pitch, this season’s solid performers in Kessie and Davide Calabria are deserving of improved contracts, with offers rumoured to be in place for both, who will no doubt be integral figures in ensuring the team’s upward trajectory.

The future of the highly-impressive Fikayo Tomori will only be made at the end of the season, with the on-loan Chelsea centre-back turning heads with solid and eye-catching performances in the heart of the Milan defence, having taken his opportunity with aplomb since his January arrival, yet his hefty price tag will again be one for the Milan board to ponder over for some time.

FORTRESS MILAN

While empty stadia have had a major impact on the dynamic of playing at home, Milan’s form at the San Siro will need to be addressed next season. Away from the Giuseppe Meazza, with five away games remaining in the 2020/21 campaign, the Rossoneri have already earned a club record of 12 away wins in 14 encounters, with just one defeat – a startling statistic which makes for impressing reading.

Yet on the flip side, they have lost four out of their last seven Serie A games at home, with just six victories in the 14 matches played on their home turf and only 22 out of a possible 42 points earned – hardly championship-winning form.

A possible and hopeful return of home fans could do the trick, yet serious thought and consideration needs to be put into uncovering the significant disparity in the team’s home and away form.

Any title-winning team would want to make their home stadium a fortress, yet the hallowed San Siro turf is fast-losing its aura for travelling teams – something the Rossoneri will want and need to rectify.

CONSISTENCY

Long-suffering Milan fans have endured a painful and trophyless decade, primarily due to the ever-changing state of affairs across all levels of the club.

Inconsistencies ranging from executive level to players, coaching staff and playing style have hampered any chance of steady growth and severely impacted the team’s chances of success on the pitch.

The chopping and changing of ownership, coaches, player transfers and philosophies have left the doorman of Milan’s trophy cabinet unemployed for the better part of ten years, bar the short break in his slumber to slide in the 2016 Italian Super Cup half-heartedly.

Should Stefano Pioli, in all likelihood, see out the season as coach, he will become Milan’s longest-serving boss since the club’s last title-winning coach Max Allegri, who was relieved of his duties in January 2014.

Hired in October 2019, Pioli’s current tenure will see him last longer in the Milan hotseat than all of Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Christian Brocchi, Vincenzo Montella, Gennaro Gattuso and Marco Giampaolo.

A consistent project, starting with committed management who have faith in a long-term manager who can rely on a spine of key players, will undoubtedly secure future longevity, awaken the stirring European giant and ensure the Milan steam train powers on into 2022 and beyond.

@fabiodedoms

Have your say...
You guys seriously need to stop calling Romagnolli Roma. Whenever I read it, my heart starts beating faster, like seeing someone you're in love with. LOL
(...It's a huge letdown to find the subject is something else entirely, on some level even opposite as Alessio is a Lazio supporter.)

When our youngster, Milanese, starts playing regurarly for Roma, I'll call him MILAN. --We'll see how you like it! LOOOL
on the 29th March, 2021 at 4:49pm
.. buy top CF, top RW, buy out Tomori (and one more promising CB if Roma will be sold), bring Otavio or backup for Hakan, buy solid backup for Kessie (Soumare?) cuz i dont believe we will buy Meite, buy backup for Theo. With those players we will be Scudetto contenders for many years
on the 27th March, 2021 at 1:37pm
Haha very funny discusion especialy from the delusional Inter fan here... mid table squad? check the players prices u noob.
To topic: this season was very unlucky as we had most (by far injuries from top 7 teams and that was crucial in our scudetto race. Having Injuries like Inter we would be 1st with around 5pts above second. This season was unique cuz of matches played every 3 day so the players became tired in the half of the season.. For next season and for securing scudetto Milan need to..
on the 27th March, 2021 at 1:34pm
@ Milan Fan Football is a sport with lots of arbitrary rules. Why can’t outfield players use their hands? Why are we allowed have 11 or players on the pitch? Why are transfers limited to twice a season? These reforms would force teams to prioritise quality over quantity.
Right now transfers are play things for the media, agents and directors. They need to be about the sport.
on the 26th March, 2021 at 8:41pm
@Maldini's Heir. Great point re managers. So true the support of this thesis by Juve's performance under Pirlo. It does strike me as extremely odd how we favored novices or up and comers for so many years. There was also Leonardo between Ancelotti and Allegri. Even the great Sacchi was relatively inexperienced when he took over, and Capello arguably less so. I wonder if this had something to do with Berlusconi wanting ultimate control. To be able to control the coach, and thus his selections...
on the 25th March, 2021 at 5:40pm
Those reform ideas are ridiculous. Yeah let’s turn football into North Korea. Not only foreign investors will stop investing in Italy’s football, but no player will ever want to come to the league and stay a prisoner, young or old. Same with the top coaches.
on the 25th March, 2021 at 4:31pm
@maldini heir
Being in the EU doesn't mean we have to be subjected to 22 players from everywhere except Italy. Serie A clubs do play youngsters only problem is they are either African, south American or pretty much anything except Italian. So I feel we should all 'moan' about it if we have an interest in why Serie A is in such a bad state.
I do really like you reform ideas, mixed with capping ALL foreign arrival I think in a few years Serie A and Azzurri could become competitive once again
on the 25th March, 2021 at 2:45pm
Here's the reforms I'd like to see:
a) each team is limited to 3 new signings in the summer and 1 in the winter;
b) players can only be loaned for full seasons and only once (maybe twice) in their careers.

All of this would be permitted under EU law and we could stop the ridiculous numbers of transfers each window which wreak havoc and cause instability at clubs and ruin players' careers. It's up to coaches to get the best out of the players they have rather than the one's they wished they had.
on the 25th March, 2021 at 2:59am
Juve hired a complete novice this season with predictable results. It seems Italian clubs are prepared to take the biggest punt on the most important person at the club and then don't trust youth players to even play 5 minutes. As to blaming foreigners, unless Italy plans on leaving the EU foreigners, certainly within the EU, are here to stay so there's no point moaning about it. I would prefer to deal with this issue by reforming football transfers generally.
on the 25th March, 2021 at 2:55am
@ Anonymous The biggest change at Milan since at least 2014 is that Milan have not had a proper manager. Pioli's Milan's first semi-decent manager since Allegri. And the results have followed. You simply cannot judge players managed by Seedorf (first job), Inzaghi (first senior job), Mihajlović (good mid-tier manager), Brocchi (first senior job), Montella (had potential), Gattuso (first senior job) or Giampaolo (good mid-tier manager). We never had a decent coach. And it's not unique to Milan.
on the 25th March, 2021 at 2:53am
@Vero rossonero
You are most welcome. The issue here is since 2007 we and serie A have done little to change the very simple fact that these cheap foreign imports have not only ruined Milan but the whole of Serie A. I do agree we have to try BUT being realistic is also very important. Maldini Heir helped us out by listing our 40 players Average players. Have a look down that list those loaned out can honestly stay out and those that are here are as bad as those we loaded out, but we're trying!
on the 24th March, 2021 at 9:51pm
@ Anonymous I’m not sure what you’re arguing about. If Juve win their game in hand we’re still second and if we go third or fourth it still means we’re better than most. Plus over the course of a year we’d be first. There’s the longevity. Things could change tomorrow but as things stand we’re second. That’s not really open to debate.

As to possible targets all we can really do is try. We won’t know if we don’t ask. But if we try and sign multiple players we won’t even have time to ask.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 8:55pm
Lol good one vero - except one flaw - we were the last Italian team to win the CL? Lol looks like Wer the only ones who can win it. And for the record wev been terrible/average, that’s what it takes to build up the business and get back to where we needed slowly without trying to do it too fast and getting banned from Europe hahaha Milan’s squad is mid table quality compared to ours. Inter now has one of the best starting 11 teams in the world. It’s gonna be our turn to dominate for years.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 8:45pm
@Inter.. I wouldn't say Milan overachieved.. I'd say they had their full team which is a very good team at their disposal week in and week out. Way too many injuries really hurt them. They've only played a handful of games this season with a full squad. Also, don't forget the injuries were to their main players. Imagine Inter without their main strikers and midfielders for months at a time. You honestly think they'd be in 1st place right now? Probably not. It caught up with them.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 7:03pm
@Inter. Love the confidence from you. You haven't won anything since 2010. So you were 2nd place last year, and are taking advantage of the same Juventus stumble this season. Congrats on winning the league this year I guess? The chickens are coming home to roost anyway, as you can barely pay your players. Besides, however long it takes, Milan will win the CL before you (or Juve) will anyway, since you're always trash in Europe. No Championspoli to save you there.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 7:00pm
@anonymous. Thanks, btw, for reminding us that this isn't Milan 1988-1994. Or Milan 2002-2007. We know this. Rebuilding is going to take time and smart investment. Except for Juventus, Italian clubs struggle to spend over 50m for one player, and even Juventus is having to rethink it's strategy given their massive investment in Ronaldo. Haaland isn't coming. Sorry. But we're on the right track.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 6:51pm
@Anonymous. His name is Zlatan. That is how much of a difference a world class player can make. So, we need to replace him with another. I'm also skeptical that it would be Kane, but only because the club hasn't yet reestablished itself as a consistent UCL participant. This is the next step. Once we play in the UCL year in year out, we'll be able to attract top players. I think we're two to three years away from that, but only if we qualify consistently for the UCL from this year on.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 6:46pm
@maldini heir
'Took it'? Juve are 4 points behind with a game in hand, what exactly have we taken? The fact Juve are so bad and we find ourselve in a battle with them for second pretty much makes all your arguments obsolete. Milan have failed to rectify the 40+ players over the last 2 years that won't change ever.
As for the strikers you listed- 'challenge' normally means winning at another club so you believe 1 man added to this bunch would make us competitive? Who is this player clark kent?
on the 24th March, 2021 at 4:07pm
I'd sell Romagnoli straight away if it comes to that, another season of the same would make him lose his value, and don't forget Roma have something like a 25% resale clause on him. Maybe it was in case he was sold for over 50m? I can't remember correctly, but the clause is there, I'm pretty sure.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 3:38pm
I've not seen much of Plizzari but he can't be much of a difference or much of a gamble from Gigio when he was first becoming a starter. Sinisa took a gamble with Gigio, I think taking a gamble with another young goalkeeper would make Gigio feel like less of an immovable object. I don't want to see him go, of course, but I also don't want the club to be held to ransom by a player who has been unequivocally supported by club and fans alike.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 12:53pm
Saelemaekers
Castillejo
Maldini
L Capanni - loan out
Leão
Rebić
Ibrahimovic
Mandžukić
Colombo - loan out
Tsadjout - loan out

Just under 40 players....

Could one of the 15 directors please do something to get the squad in order?

We need to clear our some of those players who clearly have no future and sort out all of the loans. No loan players in. Only loan players out who have a future and then with a clear plan for their development.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 10:49am
Here's the current list of senior-ish players that are on Milan's books:
Plizzari - loan out
G. Donnarumma
Tătărușanu
A. Donnarumma
Jungdal
Laxalt - loan out
Dalot - loan in
Hernández
Gabbia
Romagnoli
Caldara - loan out
Duarte - loan out
Bellodi
Kjær
Tomori - loan in
Kalulu
Conti - loan out
Calabria
Tonali - loan in
Bennacer
Kessié
A Sala - loan out
Brescianini - loan out
Pobega - loan out
Murati - loan out
Meïté - loan in
Krunić
Çalhanoğlu
Brahim - loan in
Hauge
Cont.....
on the 24th March, 2021 at 10:44am
on one signing is we can spend more transfer fees and wages. We normally sign 6 or 7 players (or 13 like we did a few seasons ago). I'm just advocating we sign one. It might end up being Belotti (I'm assuming you agree he'll come?) but it's nice to reach for the stars (literally).
on the 24th March, 2021 at 8:31am
@ Anonymous I agree Juve appointing a total novice gave us an advantage but the fact is we took it. There's not really much to debate especially given the length of time we've been on this form. On those strikers I mentioned, some might genuinely fancy a new challenge, and Milan back in the Champions League with the youngest team in Serie A might present such a challenge. Tottenham might not even make the Champions League and we should be able to attract Arsenal players. The thing about focusing
on the 24th March, 2021 at 8:30am
@ Vero Rossonero/Pauly I actually think we've got one window to sell Romagnoli. If he's second choice by the end of next season he won't be worth nearly as much. But you're right, we should probably give him another season. I just think it'll be awkward if he's our captain and second choice defender. It'll be Montolivo all over again.

@ Randomers Thanks for your insightful and objective comments. Part of the reason Serie A is where it is is because of the lack of ambition shown by the clubs.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 8:27am
Sell both Donna's, Roma, calabria (basically our Italians) that should generate enough money to pay Aguero for about a week thats also assuming he would choose this Milan over Barca, PSG or Madrid. If that dream were to fail, i can't see how but icardi is an option providing we still sell our key ITALIAN players to fund about 3 weeks worth of his wages we would only then need to convince his wife to return I think thats the only thing needed for us to finally win lo scudetto and champs league.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 8:00am
PT2. Reality being that we are not real contenders for anything. We couldn't even beat an even worse than us Man Utd and there are people on here wanting us to pay 20m plus for the likes of Tomori and miete why they are terrible at best. We lack creative players, goal scorers we are physically weak. Theres only 5-6 players in this whole squad that we can class as good so dreaming of an icardi wanting to be part of this fantasy is a crazy as asking if Lewandoski is bored.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 7:37am
Love the confidence guys but as you said viktor, juve Napoli and Atalanta are only a couple games behind and you could be out of the top in the next couple of rounds.. that’s most likely, you have no chance of catching inter (who will drop some points but not as many as Milan does). Lukaku goes out, Sanchez comes in who’s finally gotten his fitness up. We create chances at will, wev been winning whether lukaku plays or not since Christmas and conte got Eriksen and perisic firing
on the 24th March, 2021 at 7:33am
Maldini heir spent the last 5 years telling us to stop buying players now he wants us to buy marginally better players. Be under no illusion here, Milan are where they are ONLY due to Juve going through an identity crisis. All Milan being second (for now) does is highlight the terrible state of Serie A.
The ridiculous Qs of is 'Lewandowski not bored yet?' Of what winning? Why would kane go from one failure to another? Our heads should be on focusing on the reality.. PT1
on the 24th March, 2021 at 7:28am
@maldini heir - Milan are second and so are the second best team in serie a - this is a fact? Lol your whole argument is null and void after this. So the fact you were destroyed by inter, Atalanta and juve means nothing as you had a good run of form (which ended 3 months ago?) and before the run of form you were terrible. What makes you think that the current dip is temporary and the good run was just a fluke taking advantage of COVID cramming fixtures and distracting everyone?
on the 24th March, 2021 at 7:27am

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