Recently, I wrote a piece pointing the finger for AC Milan’s woes at one man, Silvio Berlusconi. While I hope you read and comment on the article, the short summary is that Milan needs new ideas (and more money) to break free of the status quo they increasingly are stuck in. However, with the reported hiring of Filippo Inzaghi as their new manager, the club is instead doubling down on a losing bet.
Out of context, this does not seem to be a bad hire. Inzaghi bleeds red and black, having played for the club during its most recent heyday. How many managers can show off two Champions League winner medals for the club they are managing? In addition to his Milan playing time, he also won a scudetto with a stacked Juventus team that almost won its own Champions League title. The man’s playing talent is unquestioned, but it is his work with the Milan youth team that may be his best selling point. He began working with the Primavera (under-19) team in 2012 and has seen success at that level. In addition, he would have mentored some of the younger players Milan is bringing through the ranks and relying upon for quality. Finally, Milan have had some success in their storied history with promoting youth coaches, like Giovanni Trapattoni (although primarily for Juventus and Inter) and Fabio Capello.
However, hires are not made in a vacuum and this one has a number of red flags. The first is the dismissal of the current manager. Ironically, the man Inzaghi would be replacing was a teammate that was also cut from Milan during the same veteran player purge. Clarence Seedorf was admittedly a gamble as a hire since he was a first-time coach, but Milan were in a bind. The results speak for themselves – his team picked up 35 points in 22 games and it was most likely their terrible start that doomed them to missing Europe for the first time since 1999.
It is understandable, however, that a change should be made after a disaster of a season (from a Rossoneri perspective). In that case, a full-scale purge should have been in order. For a team that needs new ideas and maybe a new system, a new coach unaffiliated with the current regime is in order. With the offseason here, there is a much larger pool of managers available to recruit and, knowing Berlusconi’s love of perks, the job is by far not the worst in Europe. Milan, with its pedigree and international fanbase, is an attractive job.
This hire is a conservative move and that is not surprising considering how Milan have acted over the past few years. The reliance on youth and the selling of some key high-dollar players means this club is looking to cut some costs and find some savings through development. This is not a bad thing and long-term in an era of Financial Fair Play it is a positive. However, the buyout as reported by ESPN for Seedorf will be a staggering €10 million, which seems a monumental waste for a four-month rental coach.
The short-term prognosis for Milan looks poor. Juventus are rampant and will most likely strengthen, Roma and Napoli could be on the verge of jumping into the upper tier with Juve, and Inter have a new investor that could reinforce his own side. Milan may be stuck this year and next battling for a Europa League slot, and for a team once hailed as Il Grande Milan, that is unacceptable. Milan need new thinking and some leadership from outside the club if they want to maximize the talent they have.