Friday September 4 2015
Milan’s summer of futility

Despite heavy investment this summer, Sam Lewis explains that nothing appears to have changed at Milan.

“Nothing has changed from last year, there was too much fear,” Milan coach Sinisia Mihajlovic raged to press following Milan’s 2-1 win over Empoli.

However, on paper and in the pagelle it seems like a fair bit has changed at the Rossoneri – Milan winning was a rare occurrence last season and several new faces saw the San Siro grass for the first time as a member of the home team. Yet, Sinisa – a new part of Milan himself – was right, the Diavolo looking as passive as they had been under Filippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf and Massimiliano Allegri.

Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano’s first Serie A goals for Milan saved the Rossoneri the indignity of failing to win their opening two games in the league, a contribution recognised by their boss.

“Milan would’ve lost this game a year ago, but that is only because they didn’t have these strikers. Nothing else is different.”

The Serbian was correct in his diagnosis. Despite the additions of Andrea Bertolacci, Jose Mauri and re-signing of Nigel De Jong, the Milan midfield was dire in a game they should have dominated. The passing was slow and unimaginative, each midfielder hoping another red-shirt would have the insight to challenge the Empoli defence. Ironically, a player like the Azzurri’s Riccardo Saponara may have come in useful – had Milan not sold him back to the club. The Italian certainly looked better than former Liverpool starlet Suso, Genoa signing Juraj Kucka or €20m Andrea Bertolacci, who looked a lot like a good deal for Roma as he misplaced passes for an hour on Saturday night.

It was a clear symbol for Adriano Galliani, who admitted Milan “need something” in midfield – it was clear on Saturday that reinforcements still were necessary. Spending €38m on a new strikeforce doesn’t mean a thing if no-one can get them the ball, right?

It seems the Rossoneri’s inactivity stretched to the transfer in the final days, too. So often known as Adriano Galliani’s “zone” with so many Milan fans eulogising previous deadline day deals including the one that brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho to the club in 2010, many were expecting a repeat performance with a midfielder like Axel Witsel being the target.

Milan made space, off-loading Christian Zaccardo and loaning out Alessandro Matri but no-one came. The Rossoneri backed out of the Roberto Soriano deal and stalled on Witsel, refusing to alter their “option” to buy to “obligation.” Despite the Russian club lowering their demands over the summer from €35m to €25m, Milan’s refusal to sacrifice the option to back-out may cost them as they struggle to compete with their rivals over the course of the season.

When all is said and done, that may be one of the reasons that people will point to if the Rossoneri do miss out on Champions League. Even putting aside the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-Carlo Ancelotti-Bee Taechauboul optimism that bordered on fantasy at various points during the summer, Milan had a tangible opportunity to close the gap with their rivals and failed to act. Meanwhile, Juventus added Hernanes to a midfield that already has Paul Pogba, Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio while Inter added Ljajic to an attack that had already recruited Stevan Jovetic and Ivan Perisic.

Maybe Mihajlovic is right about more than he thinks: nothing has changed since last year.

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Have your say...
For too long now Milan have acquired players based on past performance and paid a premium for the privilege. They need to look to the present, and more importantly the future. By players who are of good value now, and have re-sale value in the future. It's the only way to start the cycle of building a competitive squad.
on the 8th September, 2015 at 5:40pm
LOL Inter has contributed a lot of Italians to the NT over the years. Right now Italian players are utter garbage, proven by the fact Conte is calling up a 100 year old Pirlo and other MLS-based players like Giovinco, and proven by the horrible results. Why would we waste money on garbage players? We don't have this illogical sense of racist patriotism, club football is a business and about pleasing fans.
on the 8th September, 2015 at 4:39pm
On a separate note, it is worrisome to read reports of squad members complaining to the club hierarchy about Mihajlovic's harsh manner. It calls to mind children complaining to their parents because the teacher has told them off for being bad. A sterner hand may well be required after the last couple of seasons. Hopefully, the club will side with Mihajlovic on this; Di Vaio seems to think they will.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 7:29pm
What would make this all the more galling is that Maldini seems to have demonstrated more sense than Milan's celebrated transfer guru – after the 2007 Champions League victory Maldini already had in mind that Milan needed to prepare for the future, reinforcing the squad with youth, and yet this went unheeded. It is arguably no exaggeration to say that the disappointing fall of the club has been caused entirely by mismanagement at the top.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 6:28pm
This particular fact apparently continues to confuse. One suspects there are many that would want to see Maldini restored to the club, and his continued exclusion is suspected to be because of a poor relationship with Galliani (Gattuso all but confirmed this in an interview when asked about the matter). If such is true then it is tempting to draw the conclusion that Galliani won't countenance Maldini's return simply out of spite.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 6:24pm
Eric makes a very pertinent point by mentioning the veterans. Indeed, Milan used to be a club well known for its family philosophy – the 'Milan family' was a recognised concept. In the last few years this seems to have changed, unless one counts nostalgia signings. A succession of club legends have been let go in unceremonious fashion. Whereas Inter venerate Javier Zanetti and have made a place for him at the club, Maldini continues to be left in the wilderness.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 6:19pm
Our team is good enough, they're not a bad bunch. Berlusconi and Galliani ARE THE PROBLEM. It summed it all up when Berlusconi blocked our move for Soriano because we lost to the Viola. WHAT SENSE IS THERE IN THAT?! HE BLOCKED US STRENGTHENING BECAUSE WE LOST?! He's clearly completely diluded and INSANE, Galliani more so.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 3:29pm
@ St Ambrose Excellent post. I agree with everything you have said. I just think at this stage the fans need to look passed the players and the coach and focus all frustration on those in charge.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 3:16pm
@dami it's true, I really dislike Inter purely because of how anti-Italy they are. It would be hard to feel proud of Inter doing well in Europe with the squad that they have. Juventus on the other hand were a wonderful advertisement for Italian football last season. I hope Milan (who are extremely pro-Italy)clinch third this season(especially over Inter).
on the 5th September, 2015 at 6:06pm
@Interista At least Milan bought and have Italians. They actually support the national team unlike anti-Italy Inter who are hardly a part of Calcio. They may aswell be in the BPL with the amount of foreigners they have.
on the 5th September, 2015 at 12:23pm

Romagnoli a nobody lol????? He's the future as a center back for Italy.
on the 5th September, 2015 at 10:01am
i have to disagree even without the transfer campaign milan have changed significantly, the family philosophy is dead for a start tassotti cast out along side inazghi seedorf and leonardo with maldini left in the dark. Overall i have to concur if milan is going to change for the better galliani has to go berlusconi probably as well unless one of kids is going to get on the mantle.
on the 5th September, 2015 at 9:15am
Unfortunately, recent history suggests that Berlusconi will not heed the outcry from the ultras – he certainly didn't when they pleaded with him to find a sensible replacement for Allegri, if he absolutely had to get rid of him. Cathartic as the ultras' statement against Galliani has been, it is unlikely to make any difference unless a more sustained protest is carried out.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 10:12pm
It still looks very likely that nothing will improve for the club until at least Galliani steps down from his position, or at least is no longer in control of transfers. The ultras made a compelling point in their open letter by pointing to the work of Ariedo Braida since his move from Milan to Barcelona; his work as a technical director at Milan was overshadowed by Galliani's control, yet his new role enables him to demonstrate a good eye for potential.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 10:09pm
Allegri may have been alluding to this when he apparently said - in response to a fan's question during an online Q&A - that one of the things he likes most about Juventus is how everything at the club is so well organised, that everything runs like clockwork. It is not difficult to imagine an opposite situation at Milan, given the evident U-turns in direction that the club has undergone in the last few years, both on the transfer market and in other aspects.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 10:03pm
It is almost certainly too soon to tell if Mihajlovic will be able to positively change the mentality of the squad at Milan. However, if he fails, one must wonder if the finest coach in the world could have made the difference. The fear and negativity reported in the attitude of the squad may well come from the wider environment at the club rather than a recent history of poor results or the weakness of rookie coaches.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 9:59pm
To an outsider, it might appear than Milan have an active policy of raising talent in their youth academy and sending it on to other destinations without capitalising themselves. The reality is more likely that Milan do not have a policy, but operate on an impromptu basis according to the whims of Berlusconi and Galliani.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 9:57pm
As for other promising Milan players who have been sent away without much of a chance to prove themselves, Saponara is perhaps the most immediately galling, though the loss of El Shaarawy still stings, to say nothing for other prospects who have been cut loose before their time.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 9:55pm
Some fans may find it galling that there is apparently a lack of creativity in midfield, and yet the club has loaned out Hachim Mastour for the next two seasons. It is somewhat baffling when the player has already been called up to the senior squad and has even been available on the substitute bench for Milan matches, so clearly there was belief that he is ready to play for the team. Yet now he has been loaned out with an option to buy, set in the region of €6m, which some might consider a steal
on the 4th September, 2015 at 9:53pm
@anonymous The problem with Milan playing 3-5-2 is that we barely have 1 centre back who can defend let alone 3.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 4:32pm
If you're going to play midfielders like Bertolacci, Nocerino, Poli, and Kucka then play them in a 3-5-2 and let your fullbacks get forward. Those midfielders are industrial at best, so where is the creativity coming from? Honda and Suso; that's a pretty big burden.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 3:35pm
"€20m Andrea Bertolacci, who looked a lot like a good deal for Roma as he misplaced passes for an hour on Saturday night." Ouch! hahaha

Might be hard to create something when you have the likes of Bertoacci, Poli, Nocerino, etc. Play Montolivo anywhere in midfield and you're already better off. Add Honda and Bonaventura to the mix and there you go.. Or add Cerci for some flare!

Not a Milan fan by any means but they have the squad, maybe it's a problem with lineups or coach
on the 4th September, 2015 at 3:32pm
Its the same old Milan, I thought maybe they'd changed when they bought Bacca and Adriano, but then fail to properly reinforce the rest of the areas they desperately need to reinforce by wasting 50m on two nobodies like Bertolacci and Romagnoli. Then in a baffling decision they get Balotelli, someone they don't need at all, and the fans are all of a sudden happy. Once again Berlusconi has managed to get the Milan fans to forget the problems at the club by making a clown signing.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 2:20pm
Desperate. That is Milan's current state. Inter on the other hand are built & ready to challenge for years to come. Juve, Roma & Inter are way ahead in terms of quality.
on the 4th September, 2015 at 2:13pm

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