The Rossoneri are facing a crucial week which will determine to a large extent whether the season has been a success, and by default if the hiring of Coach Leonardo and the selling of Kaká were justified. Milan will be hosting fourth place Sampdoria at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza hoping to win and close in on league leaders Inter. The Nerazzurri will be visiting third place Juventus in a clash that will present the opportunity for Milan to either close in on the Nerazzuri or create distance with the Bianconeri and Sampdoria.
The season can probably be divided into three stages up till now with two defining moments – the catastrophic defeat to bitter rivals Inter and the stunning away win against Real Madrid in Europe. Between those two monumental matches, the club went through a period of uncertainty highlighted by inconsistency, unconvincing displays and increased pressure on Leonardo and the players. Overcoming Sampdoria and then beating Zürich in Switzerland will ensure the positive run will continue while a defeat in either match will have the skeptics jumping ship to ridicule Milan’s decision to hire Leonardo and sell Kaká.
From a financial standpoint, the club cannot afford to miss out on the generous European revenue which will enter the club’s accounts if the San Siro side can avenge the home defeat to Zürich. On the league front, the clash against the Sampdoria has become even more important considering the Bianconeri are a mere point behind while Sampdoria are only four points further. Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini told la Gazzetta dello Sport the squad believes in winning the Scudetto provided the players continue the current run and the Nerazzurri start dropping points.
One player perhaps on the verge of jumping ship is long-time Rossonero Gennaro Gattuso, who has been with the club for over 10 years. Rumours insinuate he is ever closer to a move away from the Milan. Gattuso is unhappy with his lack of playing time and does not see eye-to-eye with Leonardo, despite the pair denying any rift. Milan’s Vice-President Adriano Galliani insisted to Sky Sport Italia he tried all reasonable means to persuade the midfield terrier to remain with the club. Galliani seemed uncertain of the outcome, leaving it up to the hard-tackling former Rangers player to decide his future. The Rossoneri chief’s attempts to keep the player went as far as stating that Milan have offered Gattuso a new contract to keep him at the San Siro for the rest of his career.
South Africa 2010 will surely enter Ringhio’s mind when it comes to making his decision. This may persuade him to depart to secure playing time and make Italy’s final World Cup squad. Gattuso must contend with competition in the shape of Massimo Ambrosini, Mathieu Flamini and Andrea Pirlo if he opts to extend his contract. Pirlo has different characteristics and plays the game with a visibly different approach, yet Leonardo’s tactics have dropped Gattuso behind captain Ambrosini and Frenchman Flamini in the defensive midfield position. Pirlo has no natural replacement on the bench but he is considered as one of the holding midfield players, despite having a wider role in terms of creating opportunities for the side.
The potential departure of Gattuso will not be as critical compared to Kaká’s sale. Leonardo’s formation and choices do not necessitate his presence unless there are injuries. Gattuso’s real value is limited to the sentimental connection of having been in Milan for over a decade. In the grand scheme of things, his exit could work to the benefit of both parties as earlier in the season we focused on the need to bring in fresh legs and new faces while dispensing of older players who can no longer contribute to bringing back success. Football is a business and sadly success and finances will consistently prevail over feelings and sentiment.
Milan’s hierarchy often built a reputation fostering ties with long-time servants and former players such as the legendary Paolo Maldini, Carlo Ancelotti, who both played and coached the side (he featured most for Roma), and club icon Franco Baresi, who like Maldini played only for Milan (Baresi even stayed loyal to Milan when it was demoted to Serie B in the 1980s). Other names crop up, such as Mauro Tassotti, who played most of his career in Milan and is Leo’s assistant on the Milan bench. In this case it seems Galliani wants to continue the trend which sometimes yielded results, but often caused imbalance to the squad. It remains to be seen whether Gattuso will sign-off on the contract offer.
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