2016-17 preview

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While a Chinese takeover finally seems to be on its way, Milan remain a club trying to achieve the maximum result with minimal effort, warns Susy Campanale.

Another Milan reboot

The seemingly endless saga of Silvio Berlusconi selling the club after 30 years sums up the problem with Milan recently – the club is disorganised, confused and demands far more than it’s prepared to pay. CEO Adriano Galliani’s dinners became a running joke, as he tried to court talented players without any real budget or European football to back up his promises. In August it was announced an off-set of the Chinese conglomerate had finally agreed terms to buy 99 per cent of Milan stock, ending a three-decade Berlusconi tenure, but we’ve all learned to wait until the ink is dry on the contracts before celebrating.

Even if the new owners do pump cash into the club coffers, who is to say they’ll spend it wisely? Vincenzo Montella came in midway through the summer after Berlusconi finally gave up the ghost on his daft idea of keeping Cristian Brocchi, but the new boss is fresh from a disastrous spell at Sampdoria, so not exactly inspiring confidence.

It became fairly obvious under Sinisa Mihajlovic that the succession of tacticians weren’t the real problem at San Siro, taking the blame for a poorly-constructed squad and unrealistic ambitions. Failing to beat Sassuolo to a Europa League spot was the final insult and scared away potential summer signings like Marko Pjaca and Mateo Musacchio.

The dragging on of the take-over talks blocked all transfer activity save for Gianluca Lapadula, a surprise signing from newly-promoted Pescara who had also been of interest to Napoli, Juventus, Leicester City and Roma. No other funds were available, as Carlos Bacca repeatedly rejected West Ham United despite being told he was not part of Montella’s plans. Once again, Milan were a club weighed down by their own self-imposed chaos.

Fans can only hope the season ahead can provide some respite from the years of bitter disappointment. Argentine defender Gustavo Gomez has arrived from Lanus for €8m and one can only hope Suso and M’Baye Niang will finally be given a chance to shine after impressive loan spells at Genoa.

At least some of the dead weight has been removed from the squad in the form of Mario Balotelli, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Jeremy Menez and Philippe Mexes, though Alex may well be missed in central defence where Alessio Romagnoli is still a little green.

Montella’s style of football is focused primarily on possession, so there will have to be more reinforcements in midfield, an area that has been sorely lacking in quality for years now. When Riccardo Montolivo is the most technically-gifted option, it means the team has problems. The pressure is on Andrea Bertolacci after he failed to fulfil the promise of his €20m price-tag last year, but negotiations are continuing with Fiorentina’s Croatia international Milan Badelj to bring some much-needed creativity to the Rossoneri.

It’s yet another Year Zero for Milan who, like their city cousins Inter, have been through this so many times that confidence is ready to evaporate at any moment.

Coach – Vincenzo Montella

The ex-Fiorentina and Roma tactician favours possession football and a creative midfield, all elements singularly lacking from Milan in recent seasons. Fans hope they get the Aeroplanino from those impressive experiences rather than the dire football seen at Sampdoria last term.

Star player – Gianluigi Donnarumma

Shattering records when promoted by Mihajlovic at the age of 16, his summer was more about exams than transfer speculation. It’ll be Donnarumma’s first full campaign in goal and he’s already proved that he has nerves of steel. Can he go on to become the new Gigi Buffon?

Best buy: Gianluca Lapadula

Clubs all over Europe were lining up for Lapadula after his 30 goals on 44 Serie B games, which took Pescara to promotion, but he chose Milan to secure regular first team football. The Italian-Peruvian hitman is hoping to break into the Azzurri squad in his first ‘real’ Serie A campaign.

Azzurri prospect - Davide Calabria

Still only 19, the right-back can also play on the left and is already emerging as the new Mattia De Sciglio – one can only hope without the injury problems and chronic lack of confidence. A loan move to Cagliari was rejected, so Calabria should get decent playing time under Montella.

One who got away – Marko Pjaca

It turns out that multiple dinners with CEO Adriano Galliani don’t cancel out the draw of Juventus and Champions League football, but for weeks the Croatia winger seemed to be on the verge of a Milan move. It’s a situation now all too familiar to Rossoneri fans.

Probable line-up

Donnarumma; De Sciglio, GOMEZ, Romagnoli, Antonelli; Kucka, Montolivo, Bertolacci; Niang, LAPADULA, Bonaventura

Prediction - Europa League