A struggling Milan side limps on. Another season of under-achievement is duly noted as another sad chapter in a Milan book that once regaled the football world with tales of unprecedented success. Regarded as the world’s most successful club by many, AC Milan now stands in a bleak, pitiful and gloomy shadow of its former self. Sorry to disappoint the Milan faithful, but I honestly have to say that I cannot see things getting any better. It’s just a shame that Leonardo wasn’t given more of a chance to try and turn things around and remind the world of the AC Milan of old.
Leonardo took over at the start of the recently concluded season, stepping up from his role in media. I, for one, was not expecting anything from the former Milan legend given his lack of experience, but in the period just before the winter transfer window, he had me eating a nice, big piece of humble pie. He had the team go on an extended unbeaten run. It was a run that saw them claim the scalp of a star-studded Real Madrid team in the Champions League group stages. He even had them within touching distance of the usually untouchable Champions, Inter Milan.
Another notable achievement was that he motivated Ronaldinho, who was a player just about at the end of his tether. He revitalized Ronaldinho and now has him playing some of the best football of his career. You can see the joy once again etched on his face, evidenced by his trademark, playful smile. The likes of Marco Borriello, Luca Antonini, Dida, Nesta and Clarence Seedorf have also enjoyed a new and rejuvenated lease of life under the Brazilian’s tutelage. Regardless, therein still lies a huge problem.
One thing that onlookers, including the Milan hierarchy seem to forget, is that the majority of Milan’s squad is well past it- in terms of career and in terms of age. The players are slow, tired, lacking energy and in my opinion, can no longer cope with the strain of a full season. Money also seems to be tight, evidenced by the fact that the large sum of money recouped by the sale of midfield maestro Kaka has not been reinvested into an aging squad that desperately needs sprucing up. The only notable capture was that of Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who has struggled to impress.
Another thing worth mentioning is Pato’s notable absence. At a time when he was desperately needed to inspire a lackluster side, he couldn’t escape the gloomy injury cloud that hovered over him all year long. Nevertheless, Leonardo worked hard despite these circumstances and mustered a respectable 3rd place finish. Considering the crisis at Juventus who are a club a lot better off than Milan financially and when you compare the playing staff, the Brazilian could have done a lot worse in his first year of football management.
I saw a lot of promise in this young manager this season. I think he should have been given the upcoming season to build on what he achieved in the present campaign. AC Milan is a club in need of money and a mass clear-out of the stars of yester-year. They need to build a team around the likes of Pato and a rejuvenated Ronaldinho and they need a cool, calm and collected head to guide the team along the familiar path to once achieved success. In my eyes, Leonardo has the ability to do that, but he needed time to show it.
The conundrum, thus far unanswered, gives one food for thought. Who is going to replace Leonardo? Former Milan great Marco Van Basten was recently linked to the job, but he refuted those links, saying that he needed time to recover from a persistent injury. A painful yet obvious lesson that will be learned by the Milan hierarchy is that given the present squad and financial restraints at the club, NO manager will prove to be a success. As time goes on, a once morbidly feared club will continue to die a slow, agonizing death as the real issue is constantly being left unaddressed- the issue isn’t the manager, it’s the squad and the lack of financial backing. I sincerely hope that something is done before one of Europe’s elite clubs crashes out of existence.