The Rossoneri have faced adversity throughout this season with injuries, persistent rumours, Leonardo’s uncertain status, humiliating defeats against Inter and Manchester United as well as sharp criticism from President Silvio Berlusconi – with all playing a crucial factor in defining this season. If it were to end today then the management will have been satisfied despite the disappointment of the tifosi at not having won any silverware.
To be fair to Leonardo he was handed a squad in need of major retooling and Vice-President Adriano Galliani, along with his subordinates, might have thought it was worth taking a gamble on him during a transitional period. Publicly Galliani would say the right things such as believing in winning Serie A and competing in Europe yet the club’s objectives appeared beyond reach from the onset. Galliani is following an appeasement plan to keep the tifosi from turning against the management and this week he declared the focus will be on developing players through the youth system. Ironically, reports then emerge about Milan’s supposed plans to extend the contract of 36-year-old goalkeeper Dida and to permanently sign Amantino Mancini. To think Galliani would stress on relying on youngsters but then approve the move to sign Mancini from Inter is mind boggling. The Brazilian has failed to impress since moving across town during the January transfer window and keeping him would be nothing more than a waste of funds which can be better used elsewhere.
The sense of desperation reached unprecedented levels with media outlets confirming former captain Paolo Maldini was asked to come out of retirement to help Milan’s defensive line in the absence of Alessandro Nesta. Injuries suffered by Nesta and Alexandre Pato have made the team look like a bunch of mercenaries assembled in a fortnight as opposed to a well-oiled machine. The attack has struggled to score goals costing Milan the opportunity to claim first spot while the back-line has become the laughing stock of teams seeking to achieve glory at the expense of the prestigious Rossoneri. Centre-back Thiago Silva has struggled in Nesta’s absence while Leonardo has refused to experiment besides using veteran left-back Giuseppe Favalli to partner him.
Moving Massimo Ambrosini or utilising Mathieu Flamini defensively could work considering both display battling tendencies and are good performing their defensive duties. Ambrosini as centre-back and Flamini as full-back could succeed with the Frenchman previously used in defensive positions when needed. Under the guidance of Carlo Ancelotti, Ambrosini was used on a number of occasions as an emergency striker when Milan was in desperate need of goals. Leonardo has shown great ability in sticking to his tactics and employing the right players to get the best results yet he certainly looks inept when it comes to implementing change and adjusting to circumstances. Leonardo seems unwilling to use certain players unless an emergency dictated as such. The Coach must be commended for benching the likes of Gianluca Zambrotta and Gennaro Gattuso yet he has failed to experiment with the backline and did not provide alternatives up-front. He appears uncomfortable using Klaas-Jan Huntelaar but with Pato’s and Marco Borriello’s injuries he is often left with veteran Filippo Inzaghi to play. If age is the reason behind barely using the predatory instincts of Inzaghi then why not give Dominic Adiyiah the opportunity to prove himself. The project for the future starts today and should have started from the moment Manchester hammered the Milan.
Reports that Milan are looking to offload Pato in order to create a wage-structure which does not burden the club’s finances is another blow for the club. If Pato is sold for a considerable sum then some quality players can be brought in – but this did not happen with Kaká. Selling Pato following the departure of Kaká would imply Milan are not in the building process but rather in the business of honing talents before farming them out to European clubs willing to pay hefty fees. Milan cannot afford to be known as a selling club, but with their only major deal since the Kaká sale coming in the shape of Huntelaar, they are fast gaining that reputation.
Fiorentina signed some talented prospects such as Adem Ljajić and Keirrison while relying on the old guard like Sebastien Frey and there is no reason why Milan is not able to pursue the same policy. Players would cherish wearing the Rossoneri shirt and the aura surrounding Milan should suffice to attract the attention of quality signings. In the midst of all these distractions the squad must focus on the trip to Genoa against Sampdoria in the last chance to challenge for the Scudetto. A Roma and Inter slip could propel Milan back into the title race.