The once feared Milan has lost much of its luster under the tutelage of the current Coach Leonardo and the club’s management. The respect for the Rossoneri has diminished in the sense that other team players have little fear of Milan. The San Siro faithful have witnessed opposing clubs visit with a willingness to match their team blow for blow, and in some cases even take the game to the home team.
Bari departed Milan with a point with the club’s players and Coach were left to rue the wasted opportunity to record a famous win over one of Italy’s established powers. Massimo Donati was disappointed with the chances missed by Bari, in particular his sliced effort near the hour mark when he was well-positioned to break the deadlock. The former Milan player was pleased with the draw but was aggrieved for not capturing all three points, a sentiment shared by his Coach Giampiero Ventura. He was satisfied with his team’s performance and praised his players while also expressing some regret at not having sealed all three points. The nature of these comments raises the question of how low the famous Milan shirt will stoop to before some serious intervention by the management. The Rossoneri won the Champions League in 2007 and was often a protagonist in the domestic league, except for two seasons ago when a mere UEFA Cup qualification was achieved, but this season might be a startling failure unless matters are addressed as soon as possible.
The problem extends beyond the players and the Coach to include the downbeat mood and the culture of complacency prevailing within the club’s ranks. The players face little, if any, competition for playing time. Brazilian Alexandre Pato finally got some rest at the weekend, although he was called upon in the second half to give impetus to a lethargic team. The season’s marquee signing, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, continues to look out of place and seems incompatible with the team’s strategies. The Dutch striker obviously needs time to settle down and will probably show improvement, yet for now that seems like a far-fetched dream. Huntelaar needs quality service in order to deliver a healthy goal return but given the current circumstances, Milan’s formation is unlikely to provide him with such service.
While Huntelaar was anonymous against Bari, goalkeeper Marco Storari continued his steady start to the season and was il Diavolo’s best player. The other bright spot in an otherwise below par display was winger-turned-right-back Ignazio Abate’s showing. The young winger seems to have adapted fairly well to shifting back into a more defensive role and is putting in committed performances on the right flank. It is still too early to draw comparisons between him and teammate Gianluca Zambrotta – a once formidable force on the flanks who was also switched from a more offensive right-midfield position into a full-back. Zambrotta is perhaps the best example of Milan’s current stigma – a once proud player who has now turned into an inept footballer more so as a result of declining stamina than his commitment. A remedy to the Rossoneri’s concerns can be temporarily found in a few signings during the January transfer window before a full assault on the market is instigated during the upcoming summer. To argue that Milan needs full-backs and one creative force is now mute because the club really needs an overhaul of the current roster. In the long-run, they must offload the older players, such as Giuseppe Favalli and Massimo Oddo, and seriously think about replacements for midfield terrier Gennaro Gattuso and deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo. The Chelsea offer for Pirlo now seems like a lost opportunity for il Diavalo to bring in some needed funds and perhaps some fresh legs in midfield enforcer Michael Essien. The Ghanaian star would have been a great addition to the team and heir apparent to the aging Gattuso.
With the league title beyond reach barring a miracle, the Rossoneri will again turn its attention to the Champions League hoping for a customary showing from goal-poacher Filippo Inzaghi. The midweek clash against FC Zürich will offer the team an opportunity to solidify their position in the group. The tifosi will be looking to Inzaghi to provide the goals, but the question remains whether Ronaldinho will finally deliver this season. The match against the Swiss club is perhaps one of his last chances to stake a claim as a starter.
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