The sight of seeing fierce city rivals Inter celebrate an unprecedented treble in Duomo Square resulted in instant action from Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani.
In came Robinho, Kevin Prince Boateng and a man wanting to prove a point after his disappointing spell in Barcelona, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Indeed, such was Galliani’s concern of Inter’s threat that he reinforced further in January with Antonio Cassano, Urby Emanuelson and Mark van Bommel brought in to pad the squad with more depth. Combined with the steely man management of Massimiliano Allegri, who was largely thought of as unable to mount a title assault, Milan finally became the kings of Italy, winning their first Scudetto in seven years. Smart strategy on and off the field resulted in immediate success. Sweeter because it pushed Inter off their plinth having been crowned champions in controversial circumstances post calciopoli.
Interestingly, more so of Milan’s lack of financial clout, Galliani announced the signings of Phillipe Mexes and Taye Taiwo just after the season ended, both under the Bosman ruling. With only three signings considered as ‘big money’ – Ibrahimovic, Alberto Aquilani and Stephan El Shaarawy, questions have to be asked as to whether Galliani and Allegri have enough to maintain their status as the superior force in Italian football.
Milan’s debt and Italian football’s lack of allure with controversy continually surrounding the game means it is difficult to attract top calibre players to the club especially with Milan wanting to excel and progress further in the Champions League.
Football’s current zeitgeist is based on tactical evolution led by Barcelona who are continually tweaking and adjusting their formation, wanting to remain ahead of the curve and adding to the squad with fine young additions, thereby maintaining a good core for the foreseeable future. Based solely on pre-season, little is indicative of Allegri’s plans to change how Milan will form next season. A case of ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ could yet be a case of ‘standing still results in going backwards’.
On Milan’s shoulders are the Nerazzurri, having appointed Gian Piero Gasperini and his incredibly bold 3-4-3 system which may provide the league with food for thought. Juventus have gone back to the future again as Antonio Conte is the man at the helm and expected to play a very effervescent 4-3-3/4-2-4 system. Roma, adopting Barcelona traditions, are playing a 4-3-3 system different to that under Vincenzo Montella and Claudio Ranieri.
Allegri won’t have the advantage of being regarded as an unknown quantity this season. Teams will have scouted Milan and their strengths last season and look to destroy accordingly. This season will be the litmus test for Galliani’s financial prudence and Allegri’s tactical acumen.
Moreover, Allegri’s man management will be under further examination as Milan are expected to champion the Italian name in the latter stages of the Champions League. Competing against financial juggernauts like Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United who have strengthened immensely, the ageing Milan squad may struggle to balance its act in both competitions, much like last season, thus Allegri will have to prioritise and show the same resilience he did when pointing both Andrea Pirlo and Ronaldinho to the bench.
Should Milan become champions of Italy once again, it could well prove to be one of the most significant achievements in recent years considering the overhaul other teams are willing to go through to take top spot.