Milan Milan solo con te [Milan Milan only with you]
Milan Milan sempre per te [Milan Milan always for you]
I honestly cannot wait to hear the Milan anthem boom from the speakers at our first home game of the upcoming season.
Let’s face it. Let’s be real to ourselves. With the squad at our disposal last season, we over achieved with a 3rd place finish. When you consider the caliber of players we let go last summer and the inexperience Max Allegri was left to manage, one has to be truthful and conclude that sealing the 3rd Champions League Spot in the Serie A was a worthy achievement.
Silvio Berlusconi can no longer dole out the millions for mega transfers like he once used to. Die-hard Milanisti recall when Silvio splashed for champions like Weah, Ibra, Bierhoff, etc with fond memories but now times have passed, the Italian Economy is in dire crisis, Berlusconi’s business empire has been threatened by this; coupled with the numerous legal battles he has been embattled with and fines he has had to cough out as mandated by law. Milan have gone from a club that enter into bidding wars for top players to a club that constantly seeks to buy quality players for cheap or look for potential youth to purchase at low prices, a club that almost signed Marek Hamsik in the summer of 2011 to a club haggling with CSKA Moscow over a 5M Euro fee quoted for Keisuke Honda.
However, I am excited at the prospect of the up coming season. The astute purchase of Mario Balotelli in the January transfer window was a real coup. Buying a 35M Euro player at 20M euros and employing all sorts of transfer market gimmicks to lower his price (including getting Berlusconi to tell the press that Balotelli is a “Rotten Apple”) showed that as long as AC Milan still have Adriano Galliani at the helm of affairs then its not all doom and gloom. In El Shaarawy, we have arguably the best attacking player under the age of 21 in Europe. The young Pharaoh bagged 19 goals in all competitions last season and really carried the team on his young shoulders until Super Mario arrived in January and helped shoulder part of the goal scoring burden by chipping in with an impressive 12 goals in 13 Serie A appearances. However, it is pertinent to note that El Shaarawy only scored once while playing alongside Mario Balotelli. Critics have been quick to note this as a sign that both players are not compatible but I do not buy this argument as you expect some level of inconsistency from young players who are still developing.
Expectations for the season are positive despite the fact that a lot of Serie A sides have had marvelous Transfer Market dealings. A lot of Serie A sides have strengthened with top players. Notably Napoli with their acquisition of the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Dres Meertens and Callejon. Fiorentina have also had a decent mercato acquiring Mario Gomez, Joaquin and “Giusseppe Rossi” (Rossi is back from a lengthy injury spell). Roma have signed the likes of Kevin Strootman while their city neighbours have signed the impressive Lucas Biglia. Adriano Galliani has moved quickly and slowly in the market without giving out a clear transfer strategy. The club swooped for half of Ricky Saponara’s (nicknamed the Kaka of Serie B) rights worth 4M in January. The former winger turned trequartista had a fantastic campaign with Empoli recording 13 goals and 14 assists. He also impressed at the Euro Under 21 tournament scoring one goal. The Club Hierarchy even disclosed that the decision to revert to a 4-3-1-2 formation is a result of the signing of Saponara, a trequartista that can link the midfield to the attack and not as a result of coercion from Silvio Berlusconi. Andrea Poli, an enterprising 23 year old midfielder was also signed for a fee reported to be 5M Euros. Poli has the potential to be an all round midfield exponent in the mould of Thiago Motta. He possesses box-to-box skills and is also fairly creative and comfortable with the ball at his feet and is coming off a decent season with Sampdoria where he forged a good partnership with Pedro Obiang in midfield.
Milan have also purchased 19 year old Central defender Jherson Vergara from Quindio, Colombia. The young defender was a revelation at the last South American Youth Cup and he is joined by Matias Silvestre from Inter Milan on a loan deal initially worth 1M Euros with future transfer fee put at 5M euros. The signing of Matias Silvestre, the Argentine midfielder who was sought after 2 seasons ago after an impressive stint with Palermo is more or less a gamble in the mould of Cristian Zapata’s signing. Silvestre had an awful season at Inter in his first stint with a big club and blamed it on injuries and his inability to work very well in the mechanisms of a 3-man defence. With the promotions of highly talented youngsters, Andrea Petagna and Bryan Cristante from the Milan youth team set-up, it is obvious the club is ready to put in more faith in youngsters and both were impressive in pre-season. The transfer window is not closed yet and fans that have followed Milan for some time will know that Galliani usually keeps a surprise in store towards the end of the window. The 2 players that have been linked with late transfers to Milan are Keisuke Honda of CSKA Moscow and contract rebel at Fiorentina, Adem Llajic. In all of this, it is the maturity of the young players like El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio that performed admirably well last season that fans would like to see. There is talk of changing formations as well but if anything I think Max Allegri would rotate between a 4-3-3 and a 4-3-1-2 formation. It is still unclear what the club intend to do with Mbaye Niang, who was also impressive during Pre-season. There was contact with Genoa about a loan deal for Niang, however it is believed this is on hold due to the inability to close out negotiations for Honda and Llajic.
Whatever signings do arrive, I have been pleased with our Transfer work given the limited resources at our disposal. I would like to see Allegri also lessen dependence on a pragmatic midfield approach and put more trust in creativity. By this, I mean more playing time for Cristante and Poli than for Muntari and Nocerino. I foresee a season that will surprise many critics and entertain fans and opposition alike. We bleed Red and Black, We are 7 time European Cup Champions, We are the most successful Club in the world (alongside Boca Juniors) in terms of international trophies, we have produced numerous Ballon d’or winners, we are the Rossoneri. FORZA MILAN!!!!!!!
OTHER ITALIAN TITBITS
Over the weekend, Juventus dispelled doubts that the team was going to rest on its laurels after their poor showings in pre-season. The Club completely blew apart Lazio 4-0 in the Italian Super Coppa played at the Stadio Olimpico with Paul Pogba being the catalyst and starting the rout after coming on for Claudio Marchisio. Carlos Tevez also got off the mark for Juve in a competitive game. Though, Tevez and Vucinic showed a lot of misunderstanding as a front two, it appears their partnership can get better as the season wears on.
Roma players seem to attract the most interest from other European sides this summer. Having sold young defender Marquinhos for a record 35M Euro fee to PSG, Miralem Pjanic and Erik Lamela continue to attract interest from Tottenham Hotspurs who have former Roma Director, Franco Baldini at the helm of transfer affairs. The club has also just sold Pablo Osvaldo to Southampton for 15M pounds. If Rudi Garcia is to perform better than last season, then it is pertinent that Roma hierarchy allow some of their star players to remain.
It remains to be seen how many coaches will employ the 3-man defence which experienced something of a renaissance in the last 2 seasons in European football propelled by its successes with Italian teams, notably Napoli and Juventus. It is almost certain that Napoli will utilize a 4-2-3-1 formation under Benitez and either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 under Rudi Garcia for Roma. Catania, Genoa, Fiorentina, are other clubs that would utilize the 3-man defence in the league with Inter Milan under Walter Mazzarri being a guaranteed user of the 3-man defence.
Written by Jeffery