Seven wins in eight games, with six clean sheets in that period. Onlookers must be wondering why there is such speculation over the position of Carlo Ancelotti as Coach, especially when glances are cast towards Turin to chuckle at the mess that Juventus is currently in. Unfortunately, rumours of the Coach’s departure continued this week despite the good form of the side, and Adriano Galliani’s rather confident claim that the Emilia-Romagna born Tactician will be at the club next year.
Luciano Spalletti and Frank Rijkaard are the latest individuals to be linked with the job. The former seems to be experiencing all kinds of problems with his current employers Roma, with reports of in-fighting and decisions being made over his head rife around the capital. As such, he makes a very convincing candidate as far as the media are concerned. Certainly, his record at Roma is impressive when you consider the financial backing he has in the transfer market is not at the same level as Italy’s big three clubs.
Dutchman Rijkaard cropped up into the debate after comments made by his agent this week: “AC Milan has confirmed to me that his name is a possibility to succeed Carlo Ancelotti,” before going on to state that “there has been no contact between the Rossoneri and my client.” Whilst Spalletti does seem to be a realistic option for the role, these remarks smack of an agent desperately trying to get his man into the frame, taking advantage of the strong links between the former-Barcelona Boss and Milan, rather than a genuine contender.
In any case, Silvio Berlusconi’s interview with Sky Sport 24 provided possibly the biggest hint as to where the club will look in their search for a new Coach, should Carletto leave. He hinted that he is more inclined to appoint a new man, for whom Milan will be their first big club, their first taste of leading a major outfit in European football. He cited Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello, both relatively unproven at the top level (in Capello’s case, Milan was his first job), as examples of his golden touch with new Tacticians. This strengthens the case for someone like Mauro Tassotti, who was discussed in this column last week.
Nevertheless, if the current form of the team continues, then removing Ancelotti will be the last thing on the minds of Berlusconi and Galliani. He is still more than capable of leading this club and producing results. Even the performances of late have shown that Carlo can drag out the best from an ageing group. The display on Sunday was a throwback to the Milan of a few years ago – dominant in possession and controlling the tempo of the game, able to increase or decrease it at will. Andrea Pirlo looked something like his old self, Kaká showed glimpses of recovery from his injuries and Filippo Inzaghi continued his remarkable run of form. When the team plays like this, they are easily one of the best sides in Europe. The number of chances created (clear-cut ones too) meant the score line could have been worse for poor Catania. Unfortunately, there is a downside to such a continued run of good results, in that the hierarchy responsible for planning the summer mercato may see this as a sign that all is well, and may not take the necessary transfer business that must be undertaken seriously enough. Galliani has made it clear on a number of occasions that he believes injuries are the main reason for the failure this season, which is not the case.
It is almost certain a defender will be purchased considering that a new one is linked every day. Adil Rami, the 23-year-old Lille centre-back, was the latest in a very long line this week. At the same time, Jesus Lopes, key component of São Paolo’s boardroom, stated that €8m for their Brazilian centre-back Miranda would not be enough to prise him from the club. Disappointment no doubt echoing around Via Turati at hearing those comments as the Brazilian colony would not be augmented. That was quickly addressed by Il Corriere dello Sport, who decided that Galliani wanted Alex Silva of Hamburg to step into the centre-back void soon to be left by Paolo Maldini. What would be nice is to see an Italian name mentioned as a possible target. The distinct lack over the past few months is indicative of one of two things – the club’s questionable policy of trying to sign Brazilian defenders, or Italy’s dearth of top centre-backs. Young central defender Matteo Darmian, a product of the youth system, has been floating between the Primavera, reserve and first-team squads for a couple of years now. It would be rather nice to see a young Italian given a go, in the same way Davide Santon has been given his head at Inter, at some point between now and the end of the season.
That will not happen on Sunday, when the Rossoneri meet Juventus, unless Swine Flu hits the entire defence before kick-off. Alexandre Pato’s return from injury (sporting a new shaved haircut) has given Ancelotti a dilemma as to his team selection. He is, in all likelihood, going to stick with the same line-up that was so impressive against Catania. This means the young Brazilian will have to make do with a place on the bench once more. In stark contrast to last year, the home form of the team has been incredible. Only three sides have left San Siro with any points – Bologna, who won on the first day of the season, Genoa and Reggina, who both drew 1-1. It does not look good for a Juventus side that has to win to claw themselves back within distance of regaining second place. There is no better time to be meeting the Bianconeri, with the club in turmoil over poor performances, rumours over the short-term future of Claudio Ranieri and Gigi Buffon’s apparent walk-out at the half-time interval on Sunday. Their collapse has certainly been spectacular, and the last thing needed is a trip to the most in-form team in Serie A at the moment. The reverse fixture earlier in the year saw Juventus run out 4-2 winners – bettering that result may well be in the minds of the Rossoneri players come Sunday evening.