When the Chinese investors took over Milan from the famous Silvio Berlusconi, many would have expected the club under Montella to spend great amounts in the corresponding summer. But not many among the Milanisti faithful would have actually believed that they were in for such a brilliant transfer window. Milan under Montella in the previous season showed glimpses of improvement in terms of displays bearing in mind the performances of the other seasons after their title winning campaign in 2011.
Known for their success under Arrigo Sacchi in the late 80’s and early 90’s, AC Milan had put a full stop to their city rivals Internazionale’s domination in 2011 after winning the Scudetto after 7 years. Inter were in an absolutely unbelievable run as they ran with trophies in the first decade of the 21st century. After winning five consecutive titles, Milan ended their run by winning their 18th Scudetto and equalling Inter’s record. Remembered as the golden era which lasted for 9 years, Milan had won two Serie A titles and two Champions leagues in the process of collecting 10 different trophies.
Milan were able to shred off the nerves from their infamous Champions League final defeat in Instanbul at the hands of English giants Liverpool by winning the same elite competition two years later. With 7 European Cup/Champions League titles under their belt, Milan are only behind the leaders Real Madrid in Europe. But these accolades have been forgotten of late, the memories not so intimidating. With poor showing in the Serie A, Milan have not been able even to enter the European Competition in the recent past. Short in short, AC Milan have been a mere shadow of their past glorious self in recent years.
The last season finally gave reasons for the Milan faithful to be happy when compared to the previous seasons. After their 3rd place finish in the 2012/13 season, Milan had seen a drastic blip in their finishing positions. By finishing 8th, 10th and 7th in the next seasons Milan had fallen out of the reckoning in the title race for the Scudetto. By the end of the 2016 season, Montella was brought to head the team and begin a new era. The fans were able to see the club nurture young talents under his sight with Locatelli and Donnarumma being the prime examples.
The performances too were quite astounding for a club which lacked depth in squad as they were able to beat some of the league’s finest. Montella also landed his first trophy in his first season at the club by winning the Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus. In Serie A, Montella and his Milan side impressed everyone by beating Lazio, Juventus and Fiorentina. One of the key points that was discussed frequently was the way in which Montella sets his side up for the games and his philosophy. Their gameplay is something different from the Italian defensive style of play, which received its identity from Internazionale and Helenio Herrera.
The possession based approach play from Milan was easy on the eyes however Milan lacked the depth to sustain with it. This season however the arrival of important players should definitely give them a chance to compete well in the Europa League and Serie A. With over 150 Million pounds spent, Milan certainly have strengthened themselves in terms of quantity and quality.
The Golden years consisted of key players such as Silva, Maldini, Seedorf, Nesta, Kaka, Pirlo, Ibrahimovic and Ronaldinho. With the key players either retiring or moving to other clubs, Milan were unable to restore the quality which rested in the team and this led the club to poor showing. However, with the investment of new ownership, Milan signed 10 players in this summer and almost all the deals look promising.
The new faces include the likes of some experienced campaigners such as Antonio Donnarumma and Lucas Biglia. However the signing of Leonardo Bonucci for 42 million Euros is the talk of the town. Bonucci was the focal point of the BBC defence which helped Juventus on their way to six Scudetti on the row along with two Champions League final finishes. Known for his excellent technical ability, signing Bonucci is coup for Milan who should be defensively strong should they aim to achieve heights this season. On signing Bonucci, Montella stated, “He is a player with international experience. Technically, I think that he and Sergio Ramos are the strongest central defenders in the world. Coaching him is a dream come true.”
In defense, Milan have also signed key players in Conti, Musacchio and Ricardo Rodriguez. Spending just 16.5m pounds on 24 year old Rodriguez and 26 year old Musacchio, Milan have made astute deals. In Ricardo Rodriguez, Milan have signed a player who was touted as one of the best left backs in the world not long ago. One of the best right backs in Serie A last season, Conti was one of the key performers for Atalanta who themselves have produced great talents. He was brilliant going forward as he scored 8 goals and registered 5 assists to his name.
In midfield, Franck Kessie has been signed to act as the fulcrum of the team. Being at the centre of things for Atalanta in an inspired season, Kessie played a huge part in Atalanta’s fourth place finish last season. With 6 goals and 3 assists to his name in the previous season just at the age of 20, Kessie is a future prospect. The signing of Biglia also brings the much needed experience to the squad as the Argentine has great experience playing in the league with Lazio. With Locatelli along with him in the centre, one can expect this Milan side to be powered with young players, and hence the beginning of a new era.
Going forward, Milan have captured the signature of the impressive Calhanoglu from Leverkusen. Calhanoglu is a modern day central attacking midfielder and is known for his key passes per game. He is a dead ball specialist and is widely renowned for his free kick abilites. The Turkish player is just 23 and is already a great prospect to flourish. Another signing in attack came in the form of Andre Silva who proved to be a bit expensive than other deals comparatively. The Portuguese striker is just 21 years old and having amassed 16 goals and 5 assists, he should be the focal point going forward for Milan. In this money inflated market, one can even state that signing Andre Silva for 35M pounds is more than a good deal.
Given all the signings, the next season will definitely depend on the tactics used by Montella. With this team at his disposal, one would expect Milan to experiment and deploy different structures with the 3-5-2 being the primary option. The new era of Milan could see Conti and Rodriguez acting as the wing backs with Romagnoli, Musacchio and Bonucci playing as the back three. In midfield, Montella has the option of choosing three players from Sosa, Locatelli, Kessie, Biglia and Calhanoglu. In attack it is expected that Andre Silva will partner Bacca as Milan look dangerous in this set up.
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While one may expect Milan to experiment with other options, the 4-4-2 diamond seems a good alternative. With the introduction of Biglia as the DM and Calhanoglu as the no.10 one would expect Suso to take his position in the right wing and Bonaventura in the left.
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If the rumours are certain, then Milan may even land the Torino forward Belotti and this would give them an option of playing a front three. With almost two players in every position, Montella has finally got the depth that he requires. Having spent huge and recruited lucratively, one must expect Milan to push for the title so that they can land up in the Champions League finish which is indispensable.
And with the Europa League competition in hand, they are expected to be among the firm favourites to land the title should they get past the qualifying round, along with Arsenal. With a great assortment of players and a decent management and supportive hierarchy, Milan look set to challenge the elite once again, at least on paper and ambition. What the season holds, only time will tell. But thus far, the signs look encouraging.