Club Focus – Milan – The distant dream of a Scudetto

Milan’s negative run continued following a 1-1 draw with Lazio which did not appease the tifosi and piled more pressure on the struggling Rossoneri. League leaders Inter presented Milan with another opportunity to close the gap to a single point yet the key absentees have clearly stripped Coach Leonardo of his most potent weapons.

The lack of a threatening player such as Alexandre Pato and the absence due to the suspensions of midfield schemer Andrea Pirlo and Ronaldinho have dented Milan’s hopes. All is not lost however, as victory this coming weekend against Cagliari could easily propel the Rossoneri back into the Serie A title race. Milan remain just three points behind Inter. Inter’s recent performances have left a lot to be desired despite the fact the Nerazzurri squad is considered the deepest and most talented amongst the Italian clubs. The team which is actually performing the best at the moment is Roma. The positive aspect is the fact Milan can remain in the race till the end as long as they start winning because they cannot keep counting on their city rivals to drop points while Roma appear unstoppable at this stage.

Going back to the draw with Lazio – the Rossoneri once again struggled to score. Leonardo’s players might have actually failed to score if they were not awarded the fortunate penalty after Aleksandar Kolarov felled Mathieu Flamini. The absence of both Pirlo and Ronaldinho provides ample excuse for the lack of creativity and goalscoring opportunities yet the Nerazzurri have not used such excuses while missing various players through injury or suspension. Fiorentina have not deluded their fans or relied on using the suspension of forward Adrian Mutu as an excuse for their inconsistency. In fact the Gigliati have successfully used Mutu’s ban to promote younger emerging players such as Stevan Jovetić and Khouma Babacar.

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It is quite stunning to compare the situation in Florence with the dearth of emerging young talent at Milanello, where one of the perennial contenders in European football is struggling to field a respectable starting XI against opponents in the league. The policy pursued by the management must be altered soon or the club will continue to suffer the dire consequences as witnessed in recent years. A club of Milan’s stature and prestigious history cannot rely on older players nearing the retirement age and others brought in on free transfer or at cheap prices. When the club’s management focuses on a couple of targets to bring in then these players must be brought in instead of settling for alternatives or less desirable players. The best such example is the case of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who was clearly brought in after negotiations for Sevilla’s Luís Fabiano failed to materialise and following the high asking price slapped on Edin Džeko by his German club Wolfsburg.

One could sit down and spend hours highlighting the ineffective and misplaced judgment of the Rossoneri management and the wrong decisions made in the transfer market, yet despite all the negatives Leonardo still has his players well placed to pounced on the failures of Inter and Roma. Three points is not a huge difference but the problem is Milan’s schedule is not very kind with home clashes against Fiorentina and Juventus set to conclude the season with an away match to Genoa sandwiched in between. Prior to those anticipated clashes Milan will have to carefully navigate through two tricky away matches against Sampdoria and Palermo. All the aforementioned teams still have a vested interest in winning games in order to secure a place in either the qualifying round of the Champions League or at least guarantee making the Europa League.

On the transfer front the rumours have ceased with Ronaldinho edging ever closer to remaining at Milanello for next season, while the future of the Coach remains rather ambiguous. Some of the older players will obviously be sacrificed but this has nothing to do with the future of Leonardo who might be gone once the season is over. A strong finish to the campaign might ensure he remains in Milan, which makes the next few matches quite critical for the tactician and players.

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