Even the most die-hard of AC Milan supporters will agree that the Rossoneri’s thrashing at the hands of Manchester United last night was thoroughly deserved.
To be frank, it was never a match of equals. When the Champions League draw was made in December last year, everyone eagerly waited for the AC Milan – Manchester United clash. The tie is now behind us and the Milanese giants have been condemned to the most inglorious defeat. Watching the Red Devil’s domination at Old Trafford wonder whether they were playing the same team that had won the Champions League only three years ago. Leonardo and his men looked like the meek Italian army surrendering to the overpowering Allied forces as they lay down their arms and waited for the inevitable. For the second year running, the Italians are in danger of not having a single representative in the quarter finals of Europe’s premier competition.
A lot has been made about Italy losing its fourth Champions League spot to Germany this year as the Bundesliga’s UEFA coefficient rating is set to overtake that of Serie A. Fiorentina’s loss to Bayern albeit heart-breaking, and now Milan’s woeful showing against United has made it even more likely that Italians will cease to be in the top-tier of European football. This may seem shocking to some but the truth is the Serie A has long fallen from grace in Europe. With the exception of the Rossoneri no Italian team has made it to the semifinals of the competition in the past six years. The fallout from the Calciopoli scandal, poor management, crippled finances have pretty much reduced the league to a one team championship. Inter remain Serie A’s only hope of success and now more than ever is it time for the top teams to take a good, hard look at themselves.
The reasons for Milan’s loss and that for the capitulation of the league are heavily interlinked. There is a sudden shortage of talent at the top teams in the division as none offer guaranteed participation at the top levels. Milan’s 2007 win was followed up by their failure to qualify for the Champions League the next year. Roma’s 2008 Scudetto bid raised hopes in the capital only to see them shattered as they failed to qualify for this year’s competition. Juventus who finally seemed to be back on track at the beginning of the year suddenly find themselves in the midst of a heated battle for European spots. This inconsistency from the so-called best teams has seen Inter hardly being challenged for the last four years and moreover has deterred the best talents from joining the Milans, Romas and the Juves.
The talent drain from Serie A has been enormous in recent years as the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kaka left Italy last year. Both players haven’t been particularly successful at their new clubs but they definitely marked the departure of two instantly recognisable names from the league. The current pool of talent is widely spread among various teams as is evident from the performances of the mid-table sides. Marek Hamsik, Edison Cavani, Stevan Jovetic are top talents and if this were England one would have expected them to be signed up with one of the ‘Big Four’ by now. Another issue which has suddenly become a bother for teams has been the drying up of youth products from their academies. Apart from the defensive revelations of Andrea Ranocchia and Leonardo Bonucci, the past four years have hardly delivered Italy’s next promising talent.
Players like Sebastian Giovinco who are enormously gifted find themselves cooling off on the sidelines due to the stubborn Italian ‘grooming’ mentality. Such policies have seen brilliant players like Giuseppe Rossi and Federico Macheda find other avenues. Arsenal’s 5-0 demolition of Porto showed once again that the youth are very much capable of handling the pressure and delivering the goods. But in the case of Milan, Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini are nowhere close to becoming the torchbearers for the Azzurri. It is a sad state of affairs for the Calcio and now we must all place our faith and belief in Inter and the man who everyone loves to hate, Jose Mourinho to salvage the pride of the nation.