It has been suggested that Milan bought the title when they signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Undoubtedly, the arrival of the Swede was crucial in spearheading the Rossoneri’s triumphant Scudetto-winning season but there are a number of other factors that come into play when assessing Coach Massimiliano Allegri’s title success.
For the best part of a decade, Milan has been associated with having a largely elderly squad. Despite the nucleus of this being pivotal in Champions League success, the golden generation has arguably past its sell-by-date. The departure this summer of midfield keystone Andrea Pirlo has signified the beginning of the end for Milan’s old guard, and a new focus on youth coupled with a complete overhaul in style. Despite rarely featuring last season due to injury, Pirlo is an example of the kind of player who has been, quite literally, slowing Milan down over the last few seasons.
Metronomic in the centre of midfield and a set-piece expert, the Italian international has undoubtedly been one of the most lamentable performers to have graced the San Siro in recent times. However, he also represents the veterans of Milan – slow and lacking in agility.
What Allegri achieved last season was a fine balance in youth, experience and an outright cutting edge. Ignazio Abate, Robinho and surprise package Kevin-Prince Boateng provided the much of the youthful spark to the Rossoneri, with all three possessing pace, technical ability and an abundance of stamina. The worldly shoulders of Alessandro Nesta marshalled the backline, while Rino Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini offered grit and know-how in midfield. Then there was Ibrahimovic at the focal point of Milan’s attack – the player who can offer the difference between winning and losing games. This concoction of attributes gave Allegri the ideal formula for seeing off all competition at domestic level and securing the title.
Enough was done to secure domestic success, however Milan’s Champions League campaign left a lot to be desired. A solid group phase performance failed to paper over the cracks of a disappointing exit to Tottenham in the second round – a two-legged affair which the Rossoneri largely dominated in spells but had no more gears to move up into. Milan seemed plodding compared to their English opponents and a creative driving force from midfield was one of the glaringly obvious omissions. The return of Kaka has been casually talked of and the Brazilian’s burst of sporadic guile are exactly what Milan crave. Such a move seems unlikely, yet Allegri boasts decent compensation in the form of Alexander Merkel. Somewhat unproven with only ten appearances to date, the midfielder hails from a crop of young, talented German midfielders including Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, and Mesut Ozil. Should Milan choose not to buy big this summer, a potential star could be born in Merkel, as the shift in old to new moves to the next level.
Nevertheless, as the likes of Clarence Seedorf follow Pirlo out of the exit door, a phasing out of the old faithful has undoubtedly begun as Milan look to launch a fresh assault on the Champions League next season.