Coppa Italia: Quarter-finals / Team rating: 3 / Top scorer: Menez (16)
The hopes for a redemption season under returning hero Filippo Inzaghi quickly faded as Milan went through perhaps their most disastrous season in decades. Sam Lewis considers the year.
It all began so hopefully. A sprightly 3-1 win over Lazio in Filippo Inzaghi’s opening Serie A fixture gave fans the hope of seeing a fun, fighting Milan in direct contrast to the drudgery of Massimiliano Allegri and Clarence Seedorf.
A thrilling 5-4 victory over Parma only extended what turned out to be an illusion, Jeremy Menez’s backheeled flick perhaps the apex of what turned out to be an exercise in misery for Milanisti. The Frenchman’s touch of fantasy was a joyful moment in an otherwise joyless season. Fernando Torres arrived from Chelsea and there was a genuine hope he could recapture some of his spark in a more forgiving environment. It happened, just not for Milan.
The Diavolo lost in expected fashion against defending champions Juventus before continuing to drop points and lose momentum, drawing five and losing two of their next eight matches including an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at home to newly promoted Palermo.
A draw against Inter in the first derby of the season led Inzaghi’s men on a decent run - beating Udinese and Napoli in convincing fashion before holding Roma scoreless at the Olimpico, a noble feat considering the attacking talent at the Giallorossi’s disposal.
After rumours of disappointment from management, the board acted quickly and with regularity in the January transfer window, adding Alessio Cerci, Mattia Destro, Salvatore Bocchetti, Gabriel Palletta and Suso to their ranks in the hope of bolstering the squad and keep the fading dream of a European place alive.
Sadly that plan never came to be - Destro struggled to score without service, Cerci looked like the player he was during the latter half of his Fiorentina days rather than the game changer he was at Torino last season and Milan tumbled further. January provided five players, five goals and four losses.
One particular loss, a 3-1 defeat to Lazio, also provided wrestling fans a treat as defender Philippe Mexes decided to try and strangle Stefano Mauri. He returned to the team following a lengthy ban, and later received an award for reaching 100 appearances for Milan. Clearly the disparity between this team and the Rossoneri sides of yesteryear wasn’t obvious enough.
Inzaghi’s seat grew ever hotter through February and March, as reports circulated about how the result of every match was to determine whether the former striker would even last the season as Coach - the temptation to give up and hand the keys to youth Coach Christian Brocchi and ever-present Mauro Tasotti increased as results continued to embarrass.
Summits began to be called, Inzaghi looked ever more uncomfortable and Adriano Galliani unwittingly confirmed how thin the ice was under Pippo’s feet when he was pranked by an Italian radio station RDS, who pretended to be Sampdoria President Massimo Ferrero: “Unless there is a massive catastrophe, we’ll stick with him until the end of the season. Then, we’ll see.”
The results remained disappointing, being outclassed by Allegri’s Juventus another time before a stalemate with Empoli.
The Rossoneri’s situation worsened, with Inzaghi’s role in growing disrepute and whispers of a Milan sale to an ever-changing list of suitors the only thing keeping any lingering hope for the future alive. The apathy among supporters was never clearer when during a March victory over Cagliari at San Siro - just the team’s third since Christmas - was witnessed by an all-time low crowd.
The Curva Sud, usually the picture of consistency and passion in these dark times had abandoned the team, leaving a sign that read ‘Game Over Insert Coin and & Save AC Milan’. A far cry from the angry conversations Curva leaders had with Ricky Kaka and Christian Abbiati about effort during the 2013-14 season. This time, the apathy was there for all to see - on and off the field.
Fans stopped attending games and suddenly it seemed players forgot that they were being employed to play football too - Sulley Muntari, a man who had continually provided dubious performances since his 2012 arrival, decided Milan weren’t worth the rest of the season when he found out that it would be his last at Milanello. He refused to play against Palermo in April, and from then was frozen out of the squad.
Milan continued to disappoint with the occasional upturn in fortunes - a five match unbeaten streak including another dull draw with Inter was followed by a treble of losses. Milan’s final defeat of the season, a 3-2 loss at the hands of Sassuolo and Domenico Berardi was a reminder of the groundhog nature of the Rossoneri’s demise.
Berardi, whose inspired effort ended Massimiliano Allegri’s tenure in January 2014, almost certainly handed Filippo Inzaghi his final blow in his short-lived coaching career at Via Turati. The two victories to end the season, a 3-0 victory over Torino and a 2-1 victory over Atalanta, will not be enough to keep the Champions League winner on the San Siro sideline.
Coaching replacements from Vincenzo Montella, Unai Emery and Antonio Conte had been rumoured all season, the search for a replacement confirmed by Milan’s open courtship of Carlo Ancelotti despite games still ongoing. Like many of the fans, it was clear that the board had already begun to look forward, hoping there is favour, not failure, looming on the horizon.
A mass exodus once again faces this team, from the Coach to several of the players - Philippe Mexes, Giampaolo Pazzini and Nigel de Jong have expiring contracts while Christian Abbiati could retire and Daniele Bonera could leave too. The Rossoneri are expected to sell the unruly Muntari, the useless Christian Zaccardo, and Adil Rami, who told French TV that: “If Inzaghi is Coach next season I’m not playing.” Luckily for the Frenchman, it appears that neither one of them will be playing at San Siro much longer.
It is nine months since Milan beat Lazio 3-1, giving fans hope that this new era of Rossoneri football under Filippo Inzaghi would reflect their exuberant hero’s finest moments - full of passion, effort and success. 37 games later that hasn’t been the case, as Diavolo fans around the peninsula and beyond breathed a collective sigh of relief when the curtain closed on the 2014-15 Serie A season, a forgettable rollercoaster of mismanagement.
Although handed a poisoned chalice to begin with, Inzaghi looked exactly like what he was for the majority of the season - a rookie Coach. Consistently outclassed in the unforgiving Serie A, he is not expected to return to Milan next season. A sad end for a Rossoneri hero.
16 goals and often the only player with any real consistent offensive threat – Menez was a spark that occasionally lit up a damp Rossoneri, though his frustrating selfishness and penalty record pad his numbers. With Stephan El Shaarawy unfit and Alessio Cerci underperforming, the Frenchman stepped up.
- Milan’s 3-0 victory against Torino was the only time they won by a three-goal margin all season.
- This is only the third time Milan have finished below fifth in consecutive Serie A seasons since 1965.
- The Rossoneri finished closer in points to 20th placed Parma (33) than first placed Juventus (35).
|2||D||Mattia De Sciglio||16 (1)||0||0|
|13||D||Adil Rami||18 (3)||1||1|
|5||D||Philippe Mexes||18 (2)||2||0|
|29||D||Gabriel Paletta||13 (1)||0||0|
|17||D||Cristian Zapata||8 (4)||0||1|
|20||D||Ignazio Abate||21 (2)||0||6|
|19||D||Salvatore Bocchetti||6 (3)||0||0|
|25||D||Daniele Bonera||13 (3)||0||0|
|27||D||Pablo Armero||6 (2)||0||1|
|34||M||Nigel De Jong||29||3||0|
|10||M||Keisuke Honda||26 (3)||6||4|
|21||M||Marco Van Ginkel||16 (1)||1||1|
|18||M||Riccardo Montolivo||9 (1)||0||0|
|4||M||Sulley Muntari||12 (4)2||0|
|15||M||Michael Essien||7 (6)||0||0|
|7||A||Jeremy Menez||31 (2)||16||4|
|92||A||Stephen El Shaarawy||14 (4)||3||3|
|9||A||Fernando Torres||7 (3)||1||0|
|9||A||Mattia Destro||11 (4)||3||0|
|78||A||M'Baye Niang||1 (4)||0||0|
|11||A||Giampaolo Pazzini||4 (22)||4||0|