It’s a revolution for the Rossoneri, who after years of penny-pinching broke the bank on new buys for Sinisa Mihajlovic. Susy Campanale wonders if it’ll pay off.
In so many ways, 2015-16 marks the start of a new era for Milan. Having another Coach is no big surprise, as since Max Allegri was canned they’ve been through Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi with no clear strategy in place. Sinisa Mihajlovic is almost an afterthought in this scenario. The real novelty is that after years of turning the ‘world’s most successful club’ into a supermarket for other teams, they’re finally investing again.
Last season the Rossoneri were capable of fielding an entire XI that didn’t cost a penny, made up entirely of loans, free agents and the odd youth academy product (namely Mattia De Sciglio). Fan protests with the slogan ‘Save Milan’ and above all disastrous results prompted President Silvio Berlusconi to change tack. He couldn’t bring himself to follow Massimo Moratti’s example of selling off a majority share, so gave 48 per cent of the club to Thai investor Bee Taechaubol for a reported €485m.
The money wasn’t even in the bank before it was being spent on targets Milan never would’ve dreamed of in recent campaigns. They were under 30, for a start. Sevilla hitman Carlos Bacca cost €30m and arrived after being instrumental in their second consecutive Europa League triumph. Luiz Adriano was snapped up from Shakhtar Donetsk for €8m, confirming this club’s love affair with Brazilians and hoping he’s not reminiscent of Robinho.
Surprisingly, some of their biggest transfers were young Italians from within Serie A. Roma made €50m this summer from Milan, sending midfielder Andrea Bertolacci and defender Alessio Romagnoli to San Siro. Bertolacci had already impressed in a co-ownership deal with Genoa, but Romagnoli cost a staggering €25m plus sell-on percentage for a 20-year-old with only one full top flight campaign under his belt.
Mihajlovic personally vouched for Romagnoli, having worked with him at Sampdoria, and the risk of this huge gamble rests on the Serbian’s shoulders. Nobody can argue Milan’s defence has been in dire need of a revamp for years, so the fact they even signed a centre-back – let alone a young player with potential and the ability to sprint for more than 10 metres without getting cramp – is in itself an achievement.
Pre-season has shown precisely why ex-Inter man Mihajlovic was brought in, as the squad was worked harder than it had been in years. Sinisa can be a fiery and divisive character, but he is a strict disciplinarian who breaks into a rage when players don’t give their all. After a season of Inzaghi assuring he was ‘satisfied’ with every dire performance to avoid disheartening his men, this was sorely needed. The SuperPippo platitudes in the face of failure had become so comical that ex-teammate Zvonimir Boban even mocked him during post-match interviews.
Philippe Mexes was given another contract by Berlusconi, but so much dead wood was cut loose. Daniele Bonera, Pablo Armero, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Giampaolo Pazzini and Adil Rami all gone. Stephan El Shaarawy was sacrificed, but he’s better off at Monaco rather than spend another season being a tactical square peg in a round hole.
There is the risk that the spending spree and transfer battles with Inter raise expectations beyond a top three finish, but for the first time in years fans can feel some optimism about Milan.
The Serbian demands effort and discipline above all else, which is precisely what this Milan needed. He can also focus on solidity at the back and a hard-working midfield. The former Inter player and assistant manager said he’d never cross the city, but it’ll make the Derby della Madonnina even more interesting.
It might seem unfair to put so much pressure on a 20-year-old, but a €25m price-tag including bonuses will do that. Milan desperately required a leader in defence and even at his tender age he proved at Samp that he can fill that role. If he doesn’t, the Rossoneri are in trouble.
The Colombian hasn’t been able to stop scoring over the last two years and turning 29 in September he’s still in his prime. All the top clubs wanted Bacca on their books this summer and the fact Milan won the race went a long way to restoring their reputation.
The former Genoa midfielder was already breaking into the Azzurri side with three caps, so playing for Milan with Jack Bonaventura and fit-again Riccardo Montolivo will only boost those prospects. Hard-working, an eye for goal and prized for his versatility, Bertolacci is a real investment.
Diego Lopez; De Sciglio, ROMAGNOLI, Zapata, Antonelli; Montolivo, De Jong, BERTOLACCI; Bonaventura; BACCA, LUIZ ADRIANO
Quite simply, anything less than that will be considered a failure. They’ve spent big and don’t have European commitments to distract them – again.
Keep up to date with all the Serie A transfers with Football Italia's summer 2015 transfer table.