Remember when Juventus were not winning Serie A title after Serie A title? Six of them in a row? Nope, me neither.
Back in the 2000’s, AC Milan were also one of the fearsome European elite. At one time they lined up with a defence widely considered one of the greatest of the decade; Paolo Maldini, Jaap Stam, Alessandro Nesta and Cafu. This platform provided them with the ability to battle those around them for domestic and European contention.
As they were backed by live wire president Silvio Berlusconi, they had no problem attracting big names to the San Siro. Eminent players Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka all lit up the pitch with sparkling attacking style and grace that brought a Champions League success, and several domestic Serie A titles. Success brought more star names to the famed Italian club. Elite players such as Ronaldinho, Zlatan Ibrahmovic and David Beckham have all donned the famous red and black stripes.
In 2013, a mass exodus occurred which included the illustrious identities of several. Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were just four of an enormous outlay of stars who departed the San Siro.
In came players who did less to light up the stadium like the players of old, and the results were telling in the statistics. The 13/14 season, the first after the departure of so many, they finished 8th. The next one was the worst finish since 1996/97 – they placed 10th. A slight improvement came and they finished 7th in another year of struggle to reach the heights of the good old days.
Under new ownership in the form of Chinese businessman Li Yonghong, AC Milan appear to have recharged their vision for dominance. Four new players have been brought in, including coveted 21-year-old Porto forward Andre Silva for £32 million. Teamed with established Rossoneri poacher Carlos Bacca, the Italians frontline seems replenished to satisfaction. Andre Silva is a highly rated Portuguese front man who has netted 21 times for Porto who finished second in Liga Nos this season. Still only 21 years of age he has the potential to be a true star for Il Diavolo in years to come.
Consensus is that this may just be the start of their purchases. A sturdy defence helped to bail out an attack that scored 57 goals this season. To contextualise that, only one team in the top 10 scored less than Milan.
Bacca may have headlined the attack, but was given little help alongside him. Keisuke Honda paid the price for his 1 goal in 9 games and was let go. Scrutiny will also fall on Suso and Gianluca Lapadula, who struck 15 goals between them: one goal more than Bacca alone. This is simply not good enough in a league that is becoming more competitive as emerging teams reach new heights.
Although issues going forward have been rife, A.C have also improved their defensive options. They have spent over £30 million on Villarreal centre back Mateo Musacchio and Wolfsburg left back Ricardo Rodríguez. Both have a wealth of experience in European football and good domestic competitions. The two players are 26 and 24 respectively showing that the Italian club are looking to build a squad that can stay together for a good few years. Musacchio has six caps for his national side Argentina and played 30 times for Villarreal in all competitions last season. Rodríguez did not have the greatest season with Wolfsburg as they finished in the bottom three, surviving in the Bundesliga through winning the relegation play off. However, he is experienced at international level being capped 45 times for Switzerland. These two could shore up an already decent defence.
Another confirmed deal is that of Atalanta defensive midfielder Franck Kessié on a two year loan deal with an option to buy. Again being in the younger years of his career, he is still only 20, it signals the long term nature of Milan’s strategy. Having played in the Italian league before he should need little time to adapt to the style of football. 31 games this season for Atalanta and 15 caps for Ivory Coast highlights just how good this young man is. If you also take in to consideration that Manchester United and Chelsea were both interested in him you realise how good this signing is.
Vincenzo Montella has wasted little time in assembling a squad capable of assaults on the Serie A summit. More is expected, with rumours rife of a move for want away Chelsea goal getter Diego Costa to boost the ammunition. Whether this transpires or not is one thing, but the fact remains that AC Milan are very much contenders in the transfer market.
This years sixth placed finish may see them regain European football, and whilst they are a long way off the elite level of 2005, they have made an assured start. The Europa League awaits them next year and it is a good chance to resurrect their hopes of becoming a major force in world football again. We saw Manchester United, another team under transition, claim this title this year and it was seen as a success. If they can go deep into their European competition and improve their fortunes in domestic competitions we may see the rise of A.C Milan once more.