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AC Milan – A Fall From Grace


maldiniAC Milan is one of the greatest and most successful clubs in world football. The name strikes fear into any opposition because of the club’s proud history and thirst for success.  However, at the present moment, this great club have slipped into mediocrity.

This article looks at the current AC Milan side and compares it to the one that made the Champions League final in 2005 and see how in such a short space of time, Milan have allowed themselves to get into this situation.

Currently, Milan sit in 13th spot in the Serie A table and their fans are understandably frustrated. It was only a few weeks ago that members of the Curva Sud and other Milanistas refused to let the players leave the ground at the San Siro, after another shambolic display that showed a lack of determination and quality.

In 2005, the Rossoneri were blessed with a whole host of stars and were rightly considered to be the best team in the world. Let us compare the line ups from the 2005 Champions League final and the most recent Milan derby.

In goal in 2005, Milan had the Brazilian number one, Dida. Dida had all the great attributes required for a world class goalkeeper, he was strong, flexible and provided great leadership. Christian Abbiati broke into the team after being rotated with Dida, then Milan manager Leonardo initially found it difficult to decide between the two, but eventually chose to release Dida.

There is no doubt that Abbiati is a good goalkeeper but does he have the same presence as the world cup winning Brazilian? I don’t think so. Abbiati is 36 years old and so Milan will have to replace him soon, there is nothing in the pipeline as yet but if Milan wants to challenge at the top again, the chosen successor will have to possess the potential to be better than the current number one.

In defence we have, Cafu, Nesta, Stam and Maldini in comparison to De Sciglo, Zapata, Bonera and Constant. It is a bit of a joke that these two sets of defences are even mentioned in the same sentence. The 2005 Milan defence is arguably the greatest defence of all time.

Cafu, a World Cup winning captain who would attack down the right hand side superbly, it would take a bulldozer to cut through the rock solid pairing of Nesta and Stam and there aren’t enough compliments on the planet to pay to Paolo Maldini.

The current sets of Milan defenders are completely unreliable. De Sciglo is a good prospect for the future, as is Ignazio Abate but the rest are liabilities. Zapata and Mexes are both aging and are prone to making mistakes. Bonera provides a bit more solidarity but cannot be considered to be world class. Kevin Constant is heavily disliked by Milan fans, particularly for his attitude, he has been accused of living a party lifestyle and not concentrating on his football enough.

Milan in recent years have favoured a more narrow style of play when it comes to their midfielders, hence why they don’t tend to sign many wide players. The midfield that Milan played seven and a half years ago consisted of Pirlo, Seedorf, Gattuso and Kaka. A mix of technical brilliance, composure and fight. The midfield used in the most recent Milan derby contained Muntari, Poli, Saponara, De Jong and Kaka. Already we can see a more negative approach with the extra man in midfield.

De Jong provides a bit of fight and is very good at doing his job of protecting the back four, as was discussed earlier, they certainly need it. Saponara is a good young prospect that Milan were forced to pick due to injuries to the likes of Riccardo Montolivo. Montolivo and Poli are quite composed and good on the ball but are certainly not in the same as class as Pirlo and Seedorf.

Kaka is back at the club where he rose to the top of the world’s elite. Although he struggled in Madrid after his big money move, he is back and performing well again. Kaka is the one saving grace of the Milan side this season and his ability should be built on, not depended.

Upfront for the Rosoneri in 2005 they had Shevchenko and Crespo. Mario Ballotelli has often been the loan striker used by Milan this season. Before moving to Chelsea, Andriy Shevchenko was arguably the most lethal striker in world football, performing consistently week in, week out. Hernan Crespo is one of Serie As all time greats as well who was at his best when with Milan before he to struggled at Chelsea. Mario Ballotelli can be a liability. When he joined in January, he rescued Milan and helped them finish in the Champions League places last season.

This season however he has failed to show the consistency that Milan desperately need and instead performs brilliantly one week and fails to turn up the next. For big clubs to maintain their success and positions at the top, they have to replace the good players that leave with better and younger ones. It is clear that Milan have failed to do that.

In 2011 Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi announced that Milan needed to cut costs and therefore Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were sold to Paris Saint Germain. Berlusconi has been accused of losing interest in football and would rather invest his money in other businesses.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-MILAN-FIORENTINAMilan are known to have a laboratory that allows them to keep players at the top of their ability for longer than others, but this is not good when you lose all of your veterans in the same year. In 2011, Milan also released club legends like Gattuso, Seedorf and Inzaghi.

Big clubs always find a way to come back; it is the reason they are big clubs. Look at where Juventus were not too long ago, and now they are back-to-back Scudetto Champions.

The seven time European Champions will compete with Europes elite again one day, it’s just a question of how long that will be. Milan fans have been spoilt with success over the last couple of decades and so a lot of pressure will be put on the board, the staff and the players to deliver the trophies that they crave.

@ItalianFD

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