Awaking the sleeping giant – AC Milan’s summer spending puts them back in the spotlight
‘Italian football has always been beautiful. It’s ugly, too. But it’s the most beautiful football in the world.’
This somewhat contradictory quote comes from Giovanni Trapattoni, the former Italy, Juventus and AC Milan manager. He is one of the most infamous characters in the Italian game, and his career began its first tentative steps overseeing the red and white side of the San Siro. Trapattoni began his coaching career there and this early experience saw the legendary Italian then go on to achieve success all across the world, particularly at Milan’s rivals Juventus.
The Old Lady were a force to be reckoned with under Trapattoni’s leadership, winning the Serie A title six times in the Italian’s ten-year tenure. However, back in Milan, the Rossoneri were suffering. In 1980, the club was embroiled in the Totonero scandal, a series of match fixings, which saw Milan relegated to Serie B as punishment.
However, they were able to achieve promotion at the first attempt and managed to stabilise again in Italy’s top tier before Silvio Berlusconi acquired the club and saved it from financial trouble. After the takeover, Milan bought wisely, bringing in footballing intelligence and flair in the form of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard. The Dutch revolution had entered the San Siro and was truly in full swing.
The next two decades were filled with success for Rossoneri, who triumphed regularly in Serie A and also lifted the coveted Champions League trophy on no less than five occasions. It really did seem as though Milan were becoming truly untouchable after a string of outstanding transfers hinted that their dominance could continue for the foreseeable future. Even after the crippling Calciopoli scandal, Milan managed to bring an end to six years without winning their domestic league, with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho firing the Rossoneri to the title.
Milan’s performances had to decline eventually, and after the 2010-11 season, their fortunes took a perilous downturn. Performances on the pitch and a lack of stability from the coaching staff meant that their league finishes suffered and performances through European competitions were underwhelming, in comparison to Milan’s so-called ‘golden era’.
This summer has seen much-needed change. Under the leadership of the exciting Vincenzo Montella and with increased support from Li Yonghong, the new chairman of the club, Milan has begun a project – one which is proving tempting to some of Europe’s most elite footballers. The transfers the Rossoneri have made are nothing short of spectacular and will surely stand them in good stead for a title push this season after an underwhelming sixth place in their last campaign.
The board haven’t been afraid to spend their resources and have improved the majority of areas in the squad. Perhaps the best piece of transfer negotiating this window was the club pulling off the stunning acquisition of Leonardo Bonucci, the veteran stalwart, from rivals Juventus. The deal is expected to cost Milan roughly £35 million, a lowly figure in comparison to the rising costs for any top player in the modern transfer market. In an era where John Stones commanded a £50 million valuation, the fee agreed to bring Bonucci to the San Siro becomes more remarkable every day. The no-nonsense centre-back will bring stability and leadership to Milan’s ranks, a much-needed trait after some lacklustre defensive performances in Vincenzo Montella’s first season at Milan.
Last season, Milan struggled to find the back of the net at times, with only 57 goals being scored in the whole of their Serie A campaign. Games were often won by narrow margins, and this is something that will need to change next season if the Rossoneri is to mount a serious title challenge. To help spark this much-needed change, Milan purchased Portuguese striker Andre Silva. The 21-year-old international cost the club roughly £34 million.
To provide the service to the new strike force, the Rossoneri also snatched the services of Hakan Calhanoglu from Bayer Leverkusen. The Turkish international thrives on picking up possession in wide positions and picking out his team mates with pinpoint crosses. He is also adept from set-piece situations; something that could prove invaluable for Milan this season.
Milan’s midfield has also been strengthened, with the new acquisitions expected to blend seamlessly into Montella’s team set-up. Experienced Argentinian international, Lucas Biglia, has been purchased to provide a sound option in front of the defence. He is extremely adept at receiving the ball in a deep-lying position and using his impressive range of passing to spark forays forward. Biglia will be complemented by another of Milan’s summer signings, in the form of Franck Kessie. The midfielder has represented Ivory Coast on the international stage, and has joined Rossoneri on a two-year loan deal; another piece of great business from the club.
It would be a fair assumption that Montella has completely changed Milan’s spine, and as such the team will take some time to properly gel together. But with highly rated talent such as Kessie and Silva, coupled with added grit and determination from the likes of Bonucci and Calhanoglu, it truly appears that AC Milan are on the rise once again.
Whether or not Montella is the right man to bring the glory days back to the San Siro remains to be seen, but it is clear that the spotlight is on the Rossoneri and expectations for the coming season will be sky high.