Club Focus – Milan – Ronaldinho looks to extend his stay

Coach Leonardo’s days with Milan appear to be numbered as he looks increasingly destined to leave the club he served well in various capacities. The dedicated Rossoneri boss has done remarkably well considering the mediocre squad at his disposal with aging players and stars past their best – the defining features of the club’s playing staff. Leonardo has been able to get the best out of his compatriot Ronaldinho and has continued to nurture young star Alexandre Pato while foreseeing Alessandro Nesta’s return to form. The Italian centre-back was one of the key players behind the Rossoneri revival during the middle of the current Serie A season, which was punctuated by Ronaldinho’s rise after a slow start to the season. Nesta along with Ronaldinho and Pato were the key trio driving the Rossoneri engine and leading the club to challenge Inter for the Scudetto for a stretch of the season despite the dismal start to the campaign.

Injuries to Nesta and Pato have practically ended Milan’s challenge for trophies while Ronaldinho has witnessed a drop of form, yet he remains the leader in Italy’s top division in one important category with assists on goals scored by teammates. The Brazilian has continued to stress he is happy to be with Milan and satisfied with life in the peninsula. Ronaldinho, who is likely to miss out on South Africa 2010, told the Italian Press he has been delighted with his form this year and he expects to remain with the Rossoneri. With Leonardo closing in on the end of his short stint as the club’s Coach, the playmaker’s status might become more complicated considering he is wanted back home and in England with Manchester City reportedly willing to fork out a reasonable sum to tempt him to join their ranks. Leonardo has been a loyal servant to the Rossoneri and prior to taking over as Coach this season he was the main liaison with the Brazilian contingent.

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Leonardo’s future will be known in 10 days once the current campaign is over, but all indications point to his departure considering his fractious relationship with President Silvio Berlusconi and the club’s inconsistency in providing him with the necessary support in the media. Initially, Vice-President Adriano Galliani was a staunch supporter insisting time and again the Brazilian will remain at Milanello for another season only to have a change in tone in recent weeks. Milan’s stumbling against European contenders Sampdoria and Palermo have not helped Leonardo’s cause while injuries have taken their toll, diminishing the pool of players the Coach can choose from. The club’s plans for the summer appear to conflict with Leonardo’s ambitions as the nascent Coach has shown he is more than capable of handling the intense pressure associated with managing a top side while exuding confidence and displaying some of the traits reserved for more renowned tacticians.

Amid this turbulent period the Rossoneri will travel to take on Genoa in a tricky clash, knowing they must win or risk having Sampdoria breathing right down their neck in anticipation of another slip up against Juventus in the last game of the season. Achieving third place is by no means a measure of success by Milan’s standards, yet considering the current squad’s limitations finishing behind Inter and Roma will be a phenomenal result. The end of the season has been marred by the persistent rumours involving certain key players such as Alexandre Pato who has been linked with both Chelsea and Real Madrid, while Dutchman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar appears to be heading for the exit door following a poor first season at the San Siro.

Huntelaar’s signing raises the question as to whether the club’s hierarchy took the decision without consulting with Leonardo since the Coach appears to prefer using Marco Borriello and resorted to Filippo Inzaghi in other cases before being forced to use the Dutchman as the injury crisis got worse. Leonardo would probably have favoured bringing in his compatriot and proven goal scorer Luís Fabiano, yet the Rossoneri were put off by the asking price demanded by Sevilla. The Brazilian striker will be spearhead the attacking line for Brazil in South Africa and has a knack of scoring goals for both club and country. Huntelaar might still be of use to the Rossoneri but as a bargaining chip considering some Premiership clubs are still remarkably interested in a player who failed to impress with Real Madrid and now Milan.

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