Kaká has had a lot to say recently. Having kept relatively quiet for most of his time at the club, his recent comments (first an attack on the medical staff, followed by his belief this week that the current cycle is over at Milan) are something of a surprise, if only due to the out-of-character nature of the remarks. Of course, such musings of the star player lead to various media outlets going into rumour overdrive. Naturally this led to new links with Real Madrid, boosted by theories that the Brazilian is attempting to engineer a move through expression of his unhappiness at the situation the club finds itself.
As much as this theory cannot be ruled out, it is more likely the signs of a player frustrated with the direction the club is heading. It is difficult to disagree with the No.22, on either count (unless you are Carlo Ancelotti, who did just that with both issues). There have been an unhealthy number of injuries at the club this season, and there is only so long that you can continue to pair that with the age of the squad. Yes, older players will suffer more injuries, and will take longer to recover, yet that does not excuse what appears to be comical incompetence from the medical staff. Misdiagnosis of injuries and inability to effectively treat injuries that are diagnosed are just some of the complaints with the current set of physicians and physiotherapists. Far too many squad members have had ailments this year that have kept them on the sidelines for periods of time that have stretched into months, and that has played it’s part in hampering team performance.
It is not the sole reason, nor the primary one, as Vice President Adriano Galliani would have us believe. That dubious honour belongs to the second of Kaká’s grumbles – the squad. Whilst he did not single out any members, it was made perfectly clear that he believes that the current crop available to the Coach needs to be revitalised. The fans of course have known this for a long time. It is however, rather pleasing that an individual who, if he is to be believed intends to stay at the club for a considerable length of time, has spoken out at what he thinks needs to happen this summer. The questionable transfer strategy has continued for too long now, and although a player speaking against the club is not an ideal situation, it does feel as if this is what is needed to kick the hierarchy into action. And if there is one person Galliani and the board will take notice of, it is Kaká.
We can only hope Ancelotti privately agrees, because publicly he is doing all he can to refute any such ideas that this cycle is over. After Sunday evening’s 5-1 victory over Torino, he continued to affirm that a major overhaul for the squad was not needed, claiming “this team has a good base to continue to be competitive, but we need the right reinforcements to stay at these levels.” This, as true as it is, does not quite tell the entire story of what is needed. Acquiring the correct reinforcements will indeed be crucial, but so is ensuring those who are too old or who no longer offer the necessary quality are jettisoned. Primarily, we are referring to Zeljko Kalac, Giuseppe Favalli, and Andriy Shevchenko. Emerson’s contract has, thankfully, been terminated, which is a step in the right direction. There are many other ageing members of the side, but for now they are offering just enough to warrant their place.
That may not be the case for much longer where Massimo Ambrosini is concerned. Rumours of a departure to Napoli in the summer picked up this week with his agent, Moreno Roggi, refusing to rule out the possibility in an interview with Radio Kiss Kiss. Having started 24 out of a possible 42 games this season, a lack of first-team action is unlikely to be the reason for considering a move away, especially when you account for some games being missed through injury, and the fact that he has been lucky in many of those to keep his place ahead of the excellent Mathieu Flamini. Rather irritatingly, he has also been anointed as next season’s captain by Paolo Maldini, by virtue of the fact that he has appeared the most times for the club after the legendary defender. Now, this is a long standing tradition in Italy to give the captain’s armband to the individual with the most appearances, and generally it is one that works very well. However, Carlo Ancelotti could potentially be left in a situation whereby his captain for the new campaign is not one of his best eleven players. For Maldini to publicly announce Ambrosini as the new captain has not done his Coach any favours whatsoever – since when did a retiring player (albeit a one who carries much weight) decide on-the-pitch matters? It is debatable whether the long-serving midfielder is part of Ancelotti’s best eleven at this current moment, let alone after the summer when new signings are expected.
It does lead us to speculate whether Carletto is unhappy with appointing the midfielder as his captain, and that this could be the possible reason for his agent sounding out a transfer. Nevertheless, whether he is a first-choice player or not (this writer does not believe he should be), he still remains a valuable asset to the squad and his loss would hit hard if a replacement could not be found.
The same can also be said for Clarence Seedorf, whose relationship with the fans has become increasingly rocky over the past few weeks. This culminated in the tifosi cheering his substitution in the game against Lecce a couple of weeks ago. He has developed the unfortunate tag of “cocco di Ancelotti” (love of Ancelotti) as the fans clearly believe his place in the team is due to favouritism from the Coach. He was benched for the weekend’s game against Torino, with David Beckham favoured in his place. Whether this is down to the fan pressure or simply poor performances, there is every chance the Dutchman could be following Ambrosini and indeed Philippe Senderos (whose loan deal is unlikely to converted into a permanent one as the club are unwilling to pay the €8m fee) through the exit door. He has not been at his best this year, but injuries have left Ancelotti with little choice but to continue to play him. Ronaldinho, a player who can replace Seedorf effectively as an attacking force, has been equally as woeful this campaign, if not more so. This issue brings us back to that of the squad cycle. Players do have to be replaced, and the Rossoneri have been guilty of not replacing those who are past their sell-by date quick enough. The continued sub-standard performances of the team may force this to occur, with Seedorf one of the prime targets.
For the remainder of the season, we will have to put up with the average and inconsistent displays as the team crawl towards the end of the season, and the summer mercato. The thrashing of Torino on Sunday was an assured display, but one which contained all the usual frailties we have come to expect. They are well documented, and as such there is little need to go into them again. We simply must accept that there are problems, and hope they are sorted come the start of season. A tough run-in ensures these will be highlighted to the maximum between now and then, starting with the visit of Palermo, who recently walked out of the San Siro having held Inter to a 2-2 draw.
The match contains two teams who still have targets to play for. The tricky remaining fixtures mean that Milan’s place in the top three is not quite guaranteed, while the Rosanero are still chasing a spot in the Europa League for next season. It is a measure of il Diavolo’s recent consistency that they now have a renewed target of second place in their sights, having closed the gap to Juventus that at one point stood at eight points. Yet such has been the level of mediocrity witnessed this year, that second place would possibly represent an achievement. They are up against the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde outfit in Davide Ballardini’s men, a team who will lose to Torino, before hammering Milan, beating Juventus and taking a point from the champions in their own backyard. The hosts required a 90th minute Filippo Inzaghi goal to seal victory in the corresponding fixture last year, and with the form he is in at the moment (10 goals in his last nine appearances, including two hat-tricks), you would not bet against a repeat performance.