Once upon a time in a land which seems far, far, far away, AC Milan were a European superpower.
Having contested two Champions League Finals within the past ten years – winning one and losing the other (both against Liverpool) – it seemed to be written in the stars that this Milan team would go on to great things.
Alas, that has not been the case. The club has struggled in recent years and here we will try to figure out just what went wrong at one of Italy’s biggest clubs.
By Conor Carroll – Lead Football Writer – @mrstability
The 2006 Calciopoli controversy in Italian football shook the league to its core, but ultimately should have benefitted Milan with Juventus – chief offenders in the scandal – facing relegation for their part in match fixing. However, barring the 2007 Champions League win, the team struggled to find success until eventually lifting the Serie A title in the 2010-11 season. But instead of being the start of something bright and beautiful for fans of one of Italy’s most illustrious clubs, it signalled the beginning of their downfall.
The squad of 2010-11 was amongst the best in Europe, with some notable names spread throughout. Former wonderkid Alexandre Pato wore the number 7, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, Mark van Bommel and Massimo Ambrosini vyed for starting places in the midfield, Ronaldinho and Robinho provided the flare at a high point in their careers and all of that was reinforced by safety net of Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta and finished off with the sheer brilliance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Over the next two years that squad was decimated by age and money – Milan forced to replace their biggest stars with younger, less impressive versions. The club found irself in a position where it needed to sell. This began with Kaka in 2009, but really kicked into place after the aforementioned league triumph. Big money moves for many of their star players allowed the club to stay afloat, with the recent capitulation of Parma an indication to the fragile state of Italian football economics. With the big names gone, and academy products struggling to live up to the bill, the club has since struggled. The current squad is filled with free transfers, loan signings and a smattering of home-grown talents (like Stephan El Shaarawy and fullback duo Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio). Names that used to light up Europe arrived for free, but in truth the players brought in have largely been at the wrong end of their careers. Alex, Michael Essien and Nigel de Jong have provided experience, but, ultimately, with clubs like Roma and Fiorentina resurging, Milan just couldn’t cope at the top.
To add to their woes, there have been three managerial changes since Massimiliano Allegri left the club in 2010 and it doesn’t look like the latest man to get the job, Filippo Inzaghi is capable of recreating the success he had on the pitch as a player.
With limited finances and the impatience of owner Silvio Berlusconi, it would seem that Milan are in need of miracle. Bold plans for a new stadium project and a prospective new owner mean the future might soon look brighter in the stands.
But that’s not Milan. Fans can cope with instability off the pitch when things are going right on it. The sooner they can regain their status as a genuine European superpower the better for football as a whole.