Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AC Milan: Ch-ch-ch-changes

Silvio Berlusconi doesn't do anything by half measures.

Two seasons ago, his club was perhaps the oldest elite team in Europe.  Although football's Peter Pan, Paolo Maldini, had retired, the Rossoneri claimed the Serie A title featuring almost an entire XI of thirtysomethings (Alessandro Nesta,  Mark van Bommel, Massimo Ambrosini, Clarence Seedorf, Gianluca Zambrotta, Pippo Inzaghi, Massimo Oddo, Christian Abbiati, Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso).  These decelerating stalwarts were supplemented by some elite "younger" talent like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Alexandre Pato.

2012 sees AC Milan looking forward to their next challenge: building a club around home-developed talent rather than big-money signings.

Strictures imposed by UEFA's Financial Fair Play, coupled with a perilous Italian economy means Berlusconi and co decided the club was best positioned to stare down their future without their gamut of fourth-decade, eight-figure signings.  Over the past two years, the club has sold or released a dozen of their most experienced players (Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Nesta, Seedorf, Zambrotta, Inzaghi, Gattuso, Taye Taiwo, van Bommel, Oddo, Legrottaglie and Pirlo), players with a combined age of 402.  Furthermore, the club finally gave up on Ronaldinho, a player who aged much sooner than anyone would have thought possible.

Replacements have been younger and relatively inexpensive: Philippe Mexes, Kevin-Prince Boateng and perhaps  most excitingly of all, Stephan El Shaarawy.  Although Berlusconi and manager Massimiliano Allegri are likely to enter the transfer marketperhaps for red-half alumnus Kaka or Montpellier central defender Mpou Yang-Mbiwa, global buzzwords "austerity measures" seem to apply at Giuseppe Meazza.

In fact, to compare the anticipated AC Milan starting lineup for their first Serie A match to that of two years ago is almost - but not quite - pointless.  The fourteen  players used that day had an average age of 29.6 - incidentally, the exact same average age that of those players that started Milan's first Serie A match last year.  Only five of those players from two years ago remain at the club.  Should no further purchases be made this transfer window the average AC Milan player would be 26.2, a figure increased by goalkeeper Abbiati who at 35 years old is half a decade older than the next oldest starter.

The turnaround was needed and anticipated.  Even though it was expected, it was still brutal.  The new club, while boasting abundant pace and stamina, will rely heavily upon El Shaarawy, Robinho and Boateng for flair and goals.  Despite not appearing to have the same class as even last year, Berlusconi may have chosen the perfect time to rebuild from within: arch-rivals Inter Milan completed an awful season last term, while the whole of Serie A - particularly champions Juventus - are sweating the results of further match-fixing investigations

Only once these allegations play out will we be able to accurately forecast the Italian league.  Count on one thing though: a changed AC Milan means a changed league.

No comments:

Post a Comment