The Rossoneri’s week has been eventful with the 2-0 victory over Parma followed by the much anticipated clash with Real Madrid, which ended in an entertaining, albeit agonizing, 1-1 draw. Milan did well to recover from going down to a Karim Benzema strike but Alexandre Pato’s goal, called off for some imaginary infringement, remains a contentious point. Such calls can be quite costly and in this particular case conspiracy theorists were already jumping on the opportunity to refer to a potential ploy by UEFA to ensure the nine-time European Cup winners do not miss out on qualification. In all fairness, referees are human beings and are prone to making mistakes, particularly with decisions being made on the spot.
Off the pitch, out of favour Dutchman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was thankfully able to avoid serious injury following a road accident. His car was heavily damaged and he was fortunate to emerge unhurt. He is not receiving similar luck on the field, however, as his contribution has been disappointing thus far. Huntelaar no longer seems to be part of Coach Leonardo’s plan, as evidenced by the Brazilian’s deference to Marco Borriello or veteran Filippo Inzaghi as the lone striker. Rumours continue to intensify about the player’s future as it has been claimed that Adriano Galliani will be looking to cut losses and offload him come this January transfer window. A mooted swap involving Fiorentina’s Adrian Mutu was recently discussed by the Italian press yet it appears the Romanian will remain with la Viola for now following his steady improvement after a difficult start to the season. Huntelaar’s position on the bench might be at risk too if the deal for promising Ghanian Dominic Adiyiah is confirmed in the near future. With Pato, Borriello, Inzaghi and Adiyiah, the club will feel it has adequate cover in attack and will likely focus on getting a monetary return for Huntelaar in order to invest in reinforcing the frailties in the squad – namely the two full-back positions.
While the result in itself is by no means disastrous, the tifosi were certainly hoping to put one over former icon Kaká, who was kept relatively quiet by captain Massimo Ambrosini, barring the drive that led to Benzema’s opener. The group currently hangs in the balance, with Milan and Madrid on seven points while Marseille is a mere point behind. Leonardo must certainly be ruing the shocking home defeat to Swiss side FC Zürich during the second week, which may still cost the San Siro outfit dearly if the players fail in qualifying for the next round.
Despite the draw, Leonardo must have been encouraged with the efforts and displays by a number of his players, particularly Dutchman Clarence Seedorf, Brazilian Ronaldinho and even Gianluca Zambrotta to a certain extent. Both Seedorf and Ronaldinho were incisive with their passing and Seedorf was consistently making runs up the field as Ronaldinho tracked back on a number of occasions to help recover loose balls or tackle players in white. Zambrotta is certainly not the player he used to be, but he was a willing runner during the match and his foray into Madrid’s penalty area led to the handball from which Ronaldinho fired in the resultant penalty. Overall it was an encouraging display although Brazilian ‘keeper Dida remains a concern for Leonardo after his Jekyll and Hyde performance, with a series of unacceptable parries and some fumbles followed by a crucial and remarkable save from Raúl towards the end of the match.
On the injury front, tenacious midfielder Gennaro Gattuso appears to have picked up another injury with the extent of the damage yet to be assessed. Gattuso has had a disappointing season so far marred with injuries and sadly defined by his sending-off during the loss to city rivals Inter early in the season. With Ambrosini’s and Frenchman Mathieu Flamini’s performances veering between the unconvincing and mediocre, Gattuso’s lack of fitness and poor form could force the club to delve into the market during the January transfer window in search of a capable holding midfielder. Sunday’s away clash at struggling Lazio should offer another opportunity for Leonardo’s charges to continue their climb up the league standings.
Milan Club Focus 2009/10
Pre-season expectation – August 18, 2009
Leonardo breathes as Brazilians relieve pressure – August 25, 2009
Kaka returns to the San Siro – August 27, 2009
How to play 4-3-1-2, a lesson from their rivals – September 1, 2009
Reshuffle the current squad, regain the winning mentality – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Leonardo’s time to react – September 7, 2009
Livorno springs opportunity to end crisis – September 11, 2009
Serie A slides down priority list – September 15, 2009
Leonardo lurches into decision-making territory – September 18, 2009
Off the pitch rumours continue to swirl – September 22, 2009
Old legs cannot win forever, will Berlusconi follow in Della Valle’s footsteps? – September 25, 2009
A powerhouse that no longer strikes fear – September 29, 2009
Time is running out to save il Diavolo’s season – October 2, 2009
A draw as bitter as a defeat – October 6, 2009
The club is not for sale – October 9, 2009
International week (Republic of Ireland-Italy, Italy-Cyprus)
In search of strikers and defenders – October 13, 2009
Berlusconi reiterates he will not sell as the Rossoneri prepare for Roma – October 16, 2009
Brazilian duo see off Roma – October 20, 2009
Rossoneri record famous win in Madrid – October 23, 2009
Leonardo stumbles upon the 4-2-3-1 – October 27, 2009
Two precious points dropped – October 30, 2009
Borriello strikes twice as Milan continue climbing the table – November 3, 2009
A bitter draw after Pato’s disallowed ‘goal’ as Huntelaar emerges unscathed – November 6, 2009