The Rossoneri have won five of their last seven games, all five victories coming in Serie A, while drawing the other two in Europe. Coach Leonardo has received praise for emerging from a sticky situation after the inconsistent start to the season. Whatever one thinks of his coaching abilities, Leonardo deserves credit for guiding his side through the intense pressure and negative media reports which hounded the Coach, players and management.
On the flip side, Milan had really no other option early in the season because sacking the Brazilian would have been a glaring admission by Milan’s leadership of the wrong decision they made by hiring the inexperienced Leonardo. The coaching market may have offered alternatives, albeit none who would fit into the Rossoneri’s criteria (namely the one of the best available was Inter’s Roberto Mancini). Sources close to the club discreetly admitted the main reason Leonardo was kept pertains to the management’s fears of instability after Kaka’s sale. The Rossoneri’s hierarchy felt the tifosi would turn against the directors if Leonardo was not there to shoulder the blame for the stuttering start.
Results are the defining measure of success in football, and Leonardo has turned things around with the help of key veteran players who will long be considered as part of the Milan family. Alessandro Nesta has been consistent in defence, Clarence Seedorf is playing perhaps some of the better football in his career despite visible fluctuation in displays, Ronaldinho is finally performing closer to expectations whilst established young prodigy Alexandre Pato continues to knock in the goals. One veteran who deserves particular praise is Filippo Inzaghi. Opposing fans often cannot stand him for his perceived lackadaisical approach to the game and his knack for roaming near the offside position, but his expertly taken brace against Marseille was the initial injection of faith the Milan players needed. Perhaps even more important is the fact his double in France is the reason why Milan remains in contention for Last 16 in the Champions League. Many dislike Inzaghi’s game but no-one can argue this goal-poacher lives every moment in front of the target as if it is his last. From the disappointment and irked look on his face after a near miss to his fanatical goal celebrations, one can easily tell how much passion Inzaghi still has for the game.
The positive run boils down to a chain reaction as the club stuck with one of its former players as Coach (which has become a signature move in what one can term as the ‘extended Milan family’) who in turn displayed measured faith in a bunch of flailing stars, in particular Ronaldinho, to climb the table to second place and inch closer to the Nerazzurri. Leonardo made good use of Pato’s abilities while benefitting from the reinvigorated Nesta who has been performing at a phenomenal level with the exception of a couple of games. The defensive expert has sparked a debate calling for his return to la Nazionale to assist with defending the World Cup. Marcello Lippi will likely welcome his return but Nesta has so far shied away from declaring his eligibility.
The tifosi must keep things in perspective as a defeat or even a draw in Switzerland against FC Zurich will reignite the talk of a crisis at the San Siro. Il Diavolo have struggled at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza which does not come as a shock since the players struggle to break down teams which defend deep as opposed to those willing to play a more open game. Milan beat both Real Madrid and Marseille away from home but struggled to draw with both teams when they visited Italy. The proud club even suffered a humiliating home defeat to minnows Zurich. Qualifying for the knockout stages of Europe is paramount for team and tifosi alike as revenue and the excitement of high-quality football are too tempting to overlook.
Milan and Leonardo are receiving praise at the moment but it can all change if the team is eliminated in Europe leading to criticism and the return of the media circus surrounding Milanello.
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