Club Focus – Milan – He’s edging closer

The Rossoneri have finally returned to winning ways after managing a single point in their previous three fixtures. All of Milan’s dangerous moves were initiated by the rejuvenated Ronaldinho, who looked determined to create scoring opportunities for his teammates and was generous with his slick and incisive passing to the attackers. Ronaldinho was behind the final ball which led to the spot-kick and he converted the penalty in fine manner, with Frey inches away from stopping it. This was a remarkable battle between the Brazilian star and the highly regarded French goalkeeper who is wanted by clubs across the peninsula and Europe.

On three occasions Frey saved goals from Ronaldinho to keep the score a respectable one but it was apparent to all those at San Siro how important the Brazilian playmaker is to the team with nearly every ball going through him whether on the left flank or in the middle of the pitch, depending on his movements. While Ronaldinho deserves praise for his industrious performance and generous mood as he provided teammates with opportunities, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was again peripheral and wasted the one major ball presented to him by opting to shoot from a tight angle instead of crossing for the unmarked Marco Borriello. Huntelaar’s future lies elsewhere after the Dutchman once again failed to shine when given the opportunity by Coach Leonardo.

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Speaking of Leonardo, he appears to be close to leaving the club as once again he failed to confirm whether he will be staying, and actually took the step of refusing to commit his future to the club in the latest twist of events pertaining to his tense relationship with President Silvio Berlusconi. It would be a shame to see the rookie Coach leave as he has proved to have the proper approach, acumen and ability to cope with big egos and get the best out of the players at his disposal while showing fiery passion for the club. Leonardo was classy in thanking Milan for granting him the opportunity to guide the team but sidestepped the Berlusconi topic in what could be the clearest signal yet he is headed out the door.

The victory against the Gigliati all but confirms third place, yet there is still a mathematical risk of seeing Sampdoria overtake them. With two rounds left, four points separate both sides with Milan having a tricky trip to Genoa and a clash with fallen giants Juventus at the conclusion of the season. Obviously, Milan would like to avoid starting their season earlier than expected considering there is the World Cup to contend with and the team might need an injection of fresh faces who will need time to gel and become familiar with their surroundings.

Azzurri Coach Marcello Lippi opted to go with experience at the expense of form when selecting his 29-man squad for a meet-up this week, opting to choose both Gianluca Zambrotta and Gennaro Gattuso along with Andrea Pirlo despite the first two struggling for form. Striker Marco Borriello was rewarded for his goals with inclusion in the initial set-up. While Borriello’s inclusion can be justified and Pirlo can still offer the occasional game changing pass or assist, both Zambrotta and Gattuso appear as a spent force well into their decline. If all four are picked then they would certainly need to get additional time off prior to the start of next season and this is why it is crucial for the Rossoneri to avoid having to engage in additional qualifying rounds for the Champions League. Claiming third place is imperative and it is obvious Leonardo wants to end the season on a high, which means winning the remaining two games, including a morale boosting win against old rivals Juventus, and finishing in third.

Luckily for Milan they do not have many internationals within their squad considering most of the players are either veterans past their best or players trying to rebuild their career. Brazilian duo Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato are most likely going to miss on South Africa 2010 because Coach Dunga seems set on excluding the pair for various reasons. Only Dutchman Huntelaar and perhaps Brazilian Thiago Silva stand a chance of making the world’s greatest sporting event in June.

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