Glancing at the Serie A table during the league’s traditional winter break throws up a number of surprises. Sassuolo qualified for the Europa League last term yet sit in 16th place right now, while Lazio (fourth) and Atalanta (sixth) have both improved massively since last term.
The former finally have their better players healthy, while the latter have benefitted from coach Gian Piero Gasperini trusting a talented crop of youngsters like Franck Kessie, Mattia Caldara and Roberto Gagliardini to rapidly improve on last term’s performance.
Yet sandwiched between those two sides are fifth-placed AC Milan, which should not really be a shock, given their historical pedigree. However, the Rossoneri are not the formidable powerhouse followers of Italian football became accustomed to, the team a shadow of those graced by the likes of Paolo Maldini, Kaka and Marco van Basten in years gone by.
Beckham seedorf maldini pato kaka Pirlo. That was the time to be alive 🙁 pic.twitter.com/HjxXsYStBw
— Shivs🍞 (@Shivssssssss) August 26, 2016
Indeed, since parting company with Massimiliano Allegri in January 2014, Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Cristian Brocchi have all taken a turn in the coaching hot seat, with Mauro Tassotti also being placed in temporary charge along the way.
The club had been a fixture in the Champions League since the tournament’s inception in 1992, but Milan have finished eighth, 10th and seventh in the past three Serie A campaigns, a remarkable slump rooted in poor planning in both the sporting and financial sectors.
Their once-great team got old, and when vital players retired, there was no coherent plan or funding in place to reload. Vice-president Adriano Galliani and owner Silvio Berlusconi—previously shrewd and respected operators in their respective roles—failed to deliver off the pitch, and the Rossoneri suffered on it as a result.
Left behind as Juventus surged into a dominant position, their incompetence meant there was no clear path back to relevancy, with even the summer appointment of Vincenzo Montella as coach failing to inspire supporters.
The most hardcore fans, those who sit in the Curva Sud each week, had seen enough. Back in April they vented their frustration in a harsh public statement, per Football Italia:
A president who is incapable of recognising the real problem in his business and therefore doesn’t resolve it is no longer justifiable, even if he makes big investments. If anything, he becomes the main person responsible for this situation.
For too many years now we have seen teams built with no plan, passed off as great sides to mask the inability to work on the market and the general fall of the club that sadly is increasing with each passing year.
#Milan fans made their feelings known tonight but it looks like Pippo Inzaghi got an extra life tonight pic.twitter.com/Q3mMd2FJ93
— Adam Digby (@Adz77) March 21, 2015
Another uninspiring transfer window followed in the summer, with the squad looking …