Are AC Milan Finally Too Old?

This article is a submission for the Soccerlens Football Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here.

Written by Kenny Yeo.

As a Milanista, I’m appalled by Milan’s performances in the league this season. After a bright start against new boys Genoa, they have struggled to win games and have recently drawn against Catania, a club whose majority of history was spent in Serie B. To summarize their Serie A exploits so far, Milan are winless in 5 Serie A games and already 7 points adrift of leaders Inter after only 6 games.

Undoubtedly, a large part of this has to do with the fact that none of the Milan players, not even Kaka, are particularly on form, but there are many other factors that needs to be considered. The one that I would like to highlight here is Milan’s terrible transfer strategy.

Alarm bells were ringing as soon as I heard rumors of a £70 million bid for Ronaldino. My first thought was that money of that kind would be better spent elsewhere; after all, we have Kaka.

Fortunately, a deal for Ronaldinho did not materialize and on August 2nd, Milan suddenly announced that they have signed Pato, highly regarded in Brazil and widely tipped to be the next big Brazilian export.

Things started downhill from then on as I discovered Milan have signed Ibrahim Ba on a year long contract. For what specific purpose you might ask? Well, your guess is as good as mine.

More bad news came in the form of Emerson. Emerson is a true enigma; how he got his nickname “The Puma” baffles me even today. Here is a man who is afraid to play in front of his home crowd. The question on my mind at this point is: How low will Milan stoop?

Somehow, the management seems to think that the squad needs no strengthening. Neighbors Inter, who ransacked Juventus the year before by signing Ibrahimovic and Vieira, saw fit this season to further boost their squad by recruiting Suazo and Chivu. With this in mind, how can Milan possibly cope with only Pato and Emerson? Both Suazo and Chivu are players playing at their prime. Surely, Pato is a hot talent but he is incredibly young and inexperienced, worst still, he can’t participate in official matches till January the 3rd. By then, Serie A will be halfway through and if Milan continues at this rate, god knows how much more they would have fallen behind the leaders. On the other hand, there is Emerson, who despite being mightily experienced, is already 31, and with each passing day is surely becoming more of a domesticated “Tabby Cat”.

The grim reality is that the squad needs fresh blood, especially in offense and defense. If anything, Milan boast one of the greatest midfields ever. Kaka, along with Gattuso, Seedorf and Pirlo is possibly one of the most complete midfield ever assembled in the history of the football — equally adept at defense and attack. They are also backed up by Ambrosini, who is, in my opinion, an extremely underrated player; Brocchi, an excellent stand-in for Gattuso; and new addition Emerson. Unfortunately, this stellar midfield is sadly let down by an offense that is undependable at getting goals, and a defense that is aging and can no longer keep up with the pace of the modern game.

Recently, I came across a piece of news which really intrigued me. According to FIFA agent and former Milan striker Oscar Damiani, Milan passed on the chance to sign either Luca Toni, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and David Trezeguet, in order to hold on to Gilardino. Now Gilardino is not a bad striker, in fact, I do agree that Gilardino is the future, but the fact remains as it is, he is not scoring and that is a problem.

Yes, Milan have “Super Pippo” Inzaghi, but no matter how prolific he is, we cannot escape from the fact that he just turned 34. He might still have the knack of turning up at the right place at the right time, but he seems to have lost his usual sharpness, evident by the fact that he hasn’t scored yet in Serie A this season.

And then there is Ronaldo, who gets injured so frequently that it is almost impossible for Milan to rely solely on him to get the goals. Which is a real pity because Ronaldo’s strike rate is just staggering — 227 goals in 306 professional appearances. Milan seem to regard him as their Messiah, but in truth, his injuries make him too unreliable to be depended on.

So why, given the circumstances, did Milan pass up on the chance to sign one of three great strikers? They might be a tad old yes, but they are available on the cheap – Toni went to Bayern for a mere £9 million. In fact, I think Toni would have been the ideal signing for Milan given Ancelotti’s penchant for the Christmas-Tree formation.

Defense is another problematic department for Milan. Jankulovski, Nesta, Kaladze and Oddo might form a formidable backline, but other than Bonera, Milan has no other backup. Let’s face it, Maldini, Cafu and Favalli, with a combined age of 111, are simply too old to last a full match, and despite their immense experience, cannot be count on to handle pacy opposition. So once again, we must ask Milan why they chose not to sign another defender. Furthermore, now that Simic has requested a move, Milan are, realistically speaking, only 1 serious injury away from a defensive crisis.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Ronaldo is due to return soon and Milanistas worldwide will no doubt pray that he can stay injury free and reproduce the electric form that once made him the world’s most feared striker. Also, if Berlusconi really has £70 million set aside for Ronaldinho, then it would be best that he spends it wisely come January. An unreliable offense and a backline 1 injury away from a defensive crisis is a sure recipe for disaster.

Milan desperately needs new soldiers. What do you think?

This article is a submission for the Soccerlens Football Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here.

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