In what has been representative of Milan’s season, the club was able to slip through to the round of 16 in Europe, but only after losing Brazilian defender Thiago Silva to injury. The centre-back has been consistent this season and showing improvement with every match played so his absence will sorely be felt. He was substituted after 20 minutes in Zurich with a calf problem, and while early reports claimed he will be out anywhere between four to eight weeks, the club issued an official statement confirming a scan will be done Friday to assess his injury.
Coach Leonardo will be holding his breath as an extended layoff could mean missing the defender for the clash with Juventus, and potentially the return derby against Inter. The available back-up players are the struggling Kakha Kaladze and the ageing Giuseppe Favalli. The Georgian Kaladze is having one of his worst seasons to date, blighted by injuries and poor form, while the veteran Favalli is a left-back who has failed to impress in a central position. The onus will be on the irreplaceable Alessandro Nesta to carry the load while his defensive partner is out injured. The Rossoneri have two tricky tests prior to the Winter break against Palermo at the Giuseppe Meazza followed by a trip to Florence to face the dangerous Fiorentina.
Results will always be the measuring stick of success in football, but the Rossoneri have had a few results elsewhere go their way, such as Wednesday’s home defeat suffered by Marseille, which effectively sealed qualification. At one point Marseille were tied with Spanish giants Real Madrid while il Diavolo were trailing the Swiss side. Fortunately, results fell Milan’s way as even a draw in Switzerland would have been insufficient had Marseille been able to defeat los Galácticos. The possibilities were there yet it is now meaningless to discuss them in further detail. It is essential for the tifosi to remain realistic in terms of their expectations as a swing of negative results can pull the side into turmoil once again.
On the positive side, Leonardo can go into the festive break with a positive outlook provided the players can navigate through the two fixtures remaining in 2009, in particular the clash against Fiorentina. The club’s qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League guarantees more revenue and this could potentially convince Silvio Berlusconi to finally resort to opening his cheque book to spend some money on buying quality players. The summer witnessed one costly expenditure – the signing of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from los Blancos.
Speaking of the Dutchman, the striker has not had a chance to build on his two-goal tally as he remains on the bench despite his heroics against Catania. He only featured against Sampdoria off the bench and did not get any playing time against FC Zürich. This raises the question whether Huntelaar was signed based on Berlusconi’s or Adriano Galliani’s request without consulting first with their newly appointed Coach. Leonardo’s designs for the club and his tactics do not appear to include Huntelaar as Marco Borriello has won over the Tactician while veteran Filippo Inzaghi seems to get the nod ahead of the Dutchman when an attacking substitution needs to be made.
Much has been said about Gennaro Gattuso’s future at the San Siro but, like Huntelaar, it increasingly looks like he will be departing come the January transfer window or perhaps the summer. Both players are vying for a spot on their respective country’s World Cup roster and it is hard to see Gattuso remain with Milan if he is not getting any playing time. While Huntelaar has come out publicly to declare he wants to stay in Milan, vowing to fight for a starring role, the Azzurri midfielder has not voiced similar passion about sticking with the side. He seemed disillusioned and reports of a rift between him and Leonardo appear to be of substance. If Gattuso opts to leaves in January, then Milan will continue on the slow yet steady path to reinvent the side after the departure of former Coach Carlo Ancelotti to London, the retirement of defensive legend Paolo Maldini, and the controversial sale of San Siro icon Kaká to Madrid.
Early in the season Leonardo was deemed a risky proposition while Bianconeri Coach Ciro Ferrara was receiving praise for an early season push. The Brazilian Tactician was being rubbished for the inconsistent start. How times have changed, as Leonardo is being hailed and Ferrara is potentially facing the axe if Bari can secure victory against the Bianconeri. As Leonardo mentioned recently, it is best to consider things on a match-by-match basis.
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
The Rossoneri challenging Juventus for second place – November 10, 2009
International week (Italy-Holland, Italy-Sweden)
Crucial stretch begins as Dzeko linked again – November 20, 2009
Rossoneri continue impressive run – November 24, 2009
Missed opportunity to qualify – November 27, 2009
Huntelaar breaks his duck with a late double to lift Mila to second – December 1, 2009
Season-defining week looms ahead – December 4, 2009
Sunshine glimmers from the San Siro, but those clouds won’t leave – December 8, 2009
Qualification secured after a scare – December 11, 2009