When AC Milan’s season gets underway on Sunday evening away to Fiorentina they will start a Serie A campaign for the first time in four years thinking that they have the squad to win the league.
Times have been hard and let’s face it tiresome for the fans of the red and black. Since winning a third Champions League title in 2007, which was their seventh European Cup overall, the club have fallen from grace. True their 2011 league triumph was a healthy speed bump but along the way they have seen their old foes Inter Milan pick up league titles and a Champions League themselves.
Milan have also lost their best players in the likes of Kaka and Andrea Pirlo, but it was their replacements that left a lot to be desired. Milan had turned into a team that reflected the city – fashionable haircuts and tattoos.
For anyone growing up in the late 80s and early 1990s, the past eight years have been something of a shock, watching a Milan team looking tired and spent.
Robinho was supposed to be the player that would add stardust to the team, but as skillful as he was Robinho was never cut out for professional soccer at the highest level. Alongside Denilson these two would have been the kings of the Copacabana and revered in legendary status had they never made it into the game.
Stephen El Shaarawy the forward remained an enigma. On his day his first touch was sublime and he scored 21 league goals over four seasons. Not a great record by any means but one has to have some sympathy given that he joined at 18 years old. He was loaned out to Monaco for the forthcoming season.
Michael Essien so brilliant for Chelsea for many years was brought in on a free but he was past his best by a few seasons and this only raised more question marks about where the once great Milan were heading.
Since winning the league the purse has been tightened to in recent years, usually Milan would spend around 15m Euros a season, fatal for a top European club. But it seems after watching Juventus win four Serie A titles in a row and seeing the Old Lady reach a Champions League final, Milan have finally opened their wallet.
Though of course it’s not that simple. So enter 39-year-old Thai businessman Bee Taecaubol who bought a 48% stake in the club, amounting to around £200m. Even though the paperwork and background checks are still ongoing, Milan has suddenly brought in 84m euros worth of talent.
In has come Luiz Adriano for 8m euros, who scored nine for Shakhtar Donestk in the Champions League group stages last season. But the big purchases are Carlos Bacca from Sevilla and arguably the most talented young defender in Europe, Alessio Romagmoli from Roma – the pair cost a 55m euros combined.
The structure of the club has changed too, with Fillipo Inzaghi shown the exit door at the end of last season.
Serbian Sinisa Mihajlovic has been brought in as first team coach, who was a highly decorated player but also a very controversial one. Mihajlovic is known for being extremely hard and a disciplinarian.
With these new players and investments Milan can have a genuine go at challenging and winning back the Serie A title. This summer has also been about authority for Milan and stamping their name on the European transfer market once again some average seasons.
The one drawback for the club is ironically the coach. Can a fearful manner have any positive outcome on a group of millionaire footballers? Also Mihajlovic’s record as a coach is poor. With Fiorentina his winning percentage was 34% and with Sampdoria who Mihajlovic left to join Milan he managed just 38%.
But the argument of course has to be that Mihajlovic has never coached with so much talent around him and if money is still available to him this will be new territory for the Serbian.
Last season the Rossonieri finished in 10th position, a whopping 35 points behind Juventus but expect that gap to be bridged drastically this time around.
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