Club Focus – Milan – Is Mauro the man?

The Rossoneri are being linked with a plethora of defenders but at this stage all these reports remain speculative. Milan are reportedly testing Real Madrid’s resolve regarding right-back Sergio Ramos, an established international with Spain. The management is finally acknowledging the desperate need for reinforcements in both full-back positions with the current players all on the wrong side of 30 (if Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini are excluded) as Giuseppe Favalli, Massimo Oddo and Gianluca Zambrotta are all nearing retirement. It is unlikely Milan will be able to secure Ramos given los Galácticos see him as part of their project and will demand a hefty fee to release him. If Inter’s Maicon does move to Madrid then they will likely be open to business provided they get a considerable sum for Ramos.

A more realistic target would be Davide Astori, who graduated through the club’s ranks before joining Cagliari on a co-ownership deal. Astori did not hide his desire to return to Milan, admitting it would be a dream to play alongside the legendary Alessandro Nesta. The reports have not been limited to defensive reinforcements with links with another Real Madrid player, Karim Benzema. The French striker signed from Lyon this summer and has failed to shine with the premature elimination from the Champions League casting more doubt on his future in Madrid. He has been overshadowed by Gonzalo Higuaín while record signing Cristiano Ronaldo has taken the plaudits with Benzema and Brazilian Kaká left to deal with media criticism for their perceived inability to rise to the occasion. Milan would like to replace Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who failed to convince and has grown accustomed to second-half and cameo appearances.

Leonardo’s future is still in doubt, with current assistant Mauro Tassotti linked to the job. The former Milan defender has been earmarked as the successor to Leonardo in case the Brazilian takes over coaching his country after the World Cup. Il Corriere dello Sport went as far as claiming Leonardo’s potential resignation at the end of the season will be immediately countered by Milan’s announcement of Tassotti as the new Coach.

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A lot will have to do with the manner with which Milan end the season given the current dismal run which allowed in-form Roma to snatch second-place. They cannot afford to drop anymore points particularly when a number of players are claiming the Rossoneri are focused on winning the Scudetto. Alexandre Pato and Ignazio Abate have declared the squad is a firm believer in the possibility of dethroning city rivals Inter. The Nerazzurri have brushed aside the Rossoneri in the head-to-head matchups yet the two clubs are only separated by three points. Milan’s schedule is not easy relative to Inter’s and Roma’s remaining fixtures. Despite having the distraction of the Champions League and Coppa Italia, the Nerazzurri only have to deal with a tricky away match against Fiorentina and an unpredictable home clash against Juventus. The rest of Inter’s fixtures appear to be relatively easy on paper.

The Rossoneri must first overcome their current lack of form to cope with tricky away fixtures against Sampdoria and Palermo before hosting Fiorentina and traditional rivals Juventus. A match against Juventus is always a special occasion regardless of the standing of either team. This match is the last game of the season, offering quite a challenge for the Rossoneri. If Milan remain in the title chase till the last round then they will face a wounded Bianconeri side looking to impress after a disastrous season. Some Bianconeri players will be looking to impress to secure their stay in Turin or perhaps guarantee a lucrative deal elsewhere.

The dynamics point to a growing number of obstacles stacked against the Rossoneri in their quest to overtake Inter as Italian champions. Alexandre Pato and Alessandro Nesta are optimistic about making a return prior to the end of the season but it remains to be seen how effective they can be. In the meantime Leonardo will have to rely on 38-year-old Favalli to support Thiago Silva at the heart of Milan’s defensive line. Favalli might be experienced but his legs can no longer cope with young and bustling forwards.

Off the pitch Clarence Seedorf’s charitable work must be commended as he plans to support projects to build playgrounds worldwide. Seedorf will hold events to raise funds to finance these ambitious projects, with one for South Africa where he hopes to have a playground setup in Cape Town by the time the World Cup is over.

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