Club Focus – Milan – Uncertainty overshadows the Scudetto chase

The Rossoneri have struggled as of late and their lack of scoring has drawn the ire of President Silvio Berlusconi, who once again criticised the club’s attacking approach and ineptitude facing the target. In a veiled attack against Coach Leonardo the Rossoneri President blamed the tactics used and the unconvincing performances behind Milan’s poor scoring record which has yielded only nine goals in eight matches in all competitions.

One player who is being urged to attack and take more shots on target is Ronaldinho who has been relatively calm in recent weeks after a great scoring run a couple of months ago. Ronaldinho has not scored since January, and in the absence of his compatriot Alexandre Pato, much of the scoring load will hinge on the Brazilian’s shoulders. Ronaldinho’s future remains uncertain due to the rumours linking him to a return to his home country or a move to the Premiership where a number of the English clubs can afford to pay his hefty salary. Milan’s proposed contract requires Ronaldinho to accept a pay cut and it is unclear whether the Brazilian enigma will sign the extension.

Milan’s season has mirrored Ronaldinho’s performances with a slow and unimpressive start to the season followed by a solid run which brought Milan to second place before the current struggles cost the side second spot to Roma. Ronaldinho must not only pick up his game in order for the Rossoneri to continue their challenge to win Serie A but to impress Brazil’s Carlos , who will likely exclude the former World Cup winner if he does not shift into top gear in the remaining matches.

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Berlusconi’s criticism of the system employed is not surprising as he used to publicly berate former Coach Carlo Ancelotti for not using a more attacking strategy. Leonardo has not been supported by his President this season with most of the compliments and reassurances regarding the Coach’s status coming from Vice-President Adriano Galliani. Leonardo has been one of the few bright spots in Milan’s inconsistent season because he has shown he believes in a certain set of tactics and consistently defers to them. The strategy used by Leonardo has given little space for summer signing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to shine and forced veteran midfielder Gennaro Gattuso to settle for the bench. All these factors tend to create tension in Milanello even if details about squabbles do not always surface in the media. The management, coaching staff and players are supposed to form a united front with the title within reach provided the Rossoneri can get their act together and overcome these issues as well as some key injuries.

The return of Pato and Alessandro Nesta has been touted as a certainty before the season’s end yet Milan cannot wait for the star duo because there are few matches left and every game must be treated as if it were a cup final. The Rossoneri have only one option for the remaining fixtures which is to keep winning, but the fixture list might dent the club’s hopes with five of the last six matches coming against clubs fighting for European places. The Giallorossi have the easiest schedule amongst the three leading clubs and appear to be in the best shape with Francesco Totti returning from injury, Luca Toni giving his share of contribution and Daniele De Rossi in fine form. Contrast the situation in Rome with the inconsistency, injuries and lack of cutting edge in Milan and it is obvious the Rossoneri do not look like a club capable in pulling off a historic triumph in Serie A.

The rebuilding process at Milanello should have started a few years ago yet the management has held off on investing the necessary funds to properly reconstruct an ageing and depleted squad. Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, Giuseppe Favalli, Gianluca Zambrotta, Massimo Oddo, Dida, Christian Abbiati, Nesta, Gattuso, Ronaldinho and Massimo Ambrosini are all over 30-years-old. Even the unfortunate loan signing David Beckham is nearing the retirement age which is further proof of the club’s inadequate policy of trying to paper over the deficiencies with temporary and short-term measures. Milan’s prestige and glorious history was not built on shaky foundations and cannot be restructured by drafting in loan signings, free agents and aging players.

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