The rumors flying around the Internet recently have been focused on the makeup of the 2010-2011 Inter squad. Will Balotelli move to Manchester or London (or Madrid)? Will Maicon reunite with his former manager? At some point I think every player on the roster has been rumored to move to another club.
But what’s interesting is that this offseason it’s Inter Milan, and not AC Milan, that is dominating the transfer stories. Silvio Berlusconi’s club is famous for lavishing potential players with grand tours of the facilities, bringing maximum publicity to the club and its dealings so that it is hard to read any Serie A site without seeing an update on Milan. They always target the high-profile players, bringing in the Ronaldinho’s of the world in their eternal quest to dominate the Italian soccer scene or at least the Italian soccer press.
The lack of big-splash signings are a product of numerous factors, but the biggest may be the behind-the-scenes in-fighting in the organization over money. Berlusconi continues to be dogged by rumors he is selling the club, despite issuing statements saying he will continue to own it. It has become apparent that money is an issue for the organization, with AC Milan saying it will not pay full price for Ibrahimovic in a potential transfer from Barcelona. This could of course be a negotiating ploy, but I have my doubts as the club has suggested even potentially doing a (gasp!) loan deal for the striker!
It doesn’t hurt that the influence of Adriano Galliani, the club’s vice president, may be waning. The two are at odds over whether Ranaldinho is leaving, with the owner publicly saying the Brazilian can leave if the price is right. After settling on a third manager in three years Berlusconi may think it is time to make some replacements at the top.
Regardless, AC Milan partisans are angry over the lack of action a year after the club finished third in Serie A. However, are they correct? Is AC Milan worse off than they were at the end of the season? It begins with their new managerial hire Massimiliano Allegri. Looking at Allegri’s career reminds me of college football coach Brian Kelly, a man who improves every squad he coaches regardless of the level. Three seasons ago Allegri guided Sassuolo to their first ever promotion to Serie B, then twice won the best manager award (Panchina d’Oro) in Serie A for Cagliari. After trying a manager with no previous Serie A experience, Milan is wise to choose a manager with some track record of success.
On the player side, rumors are flying (Clint Dempsey in, Ronaldinho and Huntelaar out?) but there has been very few actual transfers. One deal they did make was signing a co-ownership deal with Genoa for keeper Marco Amelia after selling Marco Storari to Juventus. Amelia is competition with Abbiati who has been ok but not dominant, and the 28 year-old Roman has a little national team experience. Besides Storari Milan have not lost many players, but have rid themselves of Mancini and Matteo Darmian.
For fans used to an active transfer market this Milan team seems to be setting itself up for failure. But the upgrade on the bench will help provide stability to the squad – hopefully no more formation shifts mid-season. Also, if Ronaldinho and Huntelaar are shipped out, the squad will suffer offensively but it is not an insurmountable loss. Dominic Adiyiah (he of the Suarez “Hand of God 2”), Pato and Inzaghi are a good start up front, and if AC Milan is smart it is looking for one more starting striker. In short, this team is not far away from contention for a scudetto – I would start worrying a month from now if this club is the same but not yet.