By Jerry Mancini
Wealth, winning, and glory days are a few of the things which come to mind when you hear the name AC Milan.
One achievement which sees the club held in such high esteem is that they are the second most successful side in European Cup (now Champions League) history, owning seven, behind the 13 won by Real Madrid.
Domestically, they are tied in second with city rivals Inter on 18 Scudettos, behind Juventus who have 35.
Although all trophies where not due to Silvio Berlusconi, he saved the team from bankruptcy in 1986. Without the assistance of the previous owner, the team may not have existed or been as successful as they have been.
Before the club was sold to investors, it was managed properly. In Berlusconi’s time the team was able to achieve eight Serie A titles and five European Cups, among other honours.
Some of the greatest players have played for Milan — Paolo Maldini, Kaká and Franco Baresi, to name just a few of their all-time greats.
The same could be said of their managers. Carlo Ancelotti, Fabio Capello, and Arrigo Sachi are among the legendary coaches who established their name with the club.
Although Berlusconi did a great job in his time with the club, it didn’t go so well after it was sold. In April 2017 Milan was sold to Chinese investor Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux for €740 million. The takeover promised significant capital increases for the club, but it didn’t quite work out that way.
In July 2018, Li Yonghong, chairman of Rossoneri Champion Investment Luxembourg, was removed as he failed to keep up with his loan payments. The direct parent company of the club, Elliot Management Corporate, became the sole shareholder.
The club’s problems from the 80’s had resurfaced, and while it was not bankruptcy, it was a return to instability.
The inability to make payments and break even when the books closed meant the club failed to meet Financial Fair Play [FFP] regulations.
This happened in back to back years — 2017/18 and 2018/19 — and has hurt the club. In the 2018/19 season, Milan was relying on the Champions League funds to help them with their financial problems, but did not qualify for the competition.
This made the situation more difficult, and on June 28, 2019, they were excluded from the 2019/20 Europa League due to FFP violations after the club came to an agreement with FIFA.
This agreement granted Milan an extra year to pay off the remaining amount owed, and for the club to start over. Milan plans to focus on restoring the club and bring it back to what it was before Li Yonghong took control.
Although the previous sporting director, Leonardo Araujo, did a good job bringing in some high caliber players such as Krzysztof Piatek and Lucas Paqueta, it wasn’t enough to help the club make the Champions League.
After a disappointing year the team decided to part ways with Araujo, and the then manager Gennaro Gattuso.
The team recognised that change was needed, so choose a new direction in the office and on the bench.
Paolo Maldini was appointed technical director, and Frederic Massara was brought in as the new sporting director.
Massara has been involved in the technical and sporting operations, and he and Maldini have had a busy summer buying and selling players.
Milan has been known to acquire marquee players in the past such as Kaka and Andrea Pirlo, however, this philosophy changed this past summer as they signed young players with upside and potential.
Those players include Ismaël Bennacer from Empoli, and Rafael Leão, who joins after playing with Lille in Ligue 1 last season.
Bringing in young players will provide flexibility and growth for the team, and financial rewards for the club if they choose to sell. The lower wages they demand compared to marquee signings is also less of a risk, and beneficial for the club.
Milan also have a new coach after hiring Marco Giampaolo from Sampdoria to replace Gattuso.
It has been a while since the team has hired an experienced coach, but it should benefit the club. Giampaolo will bring a new direction and philosophy which should make the team more organised and structured in defence, while being more clinical in attack.
During his time with Sampdoria, he had a record of 49 wins, 28 draws and 48 losses, giving him a win percentage of 39% — his best at any of his clubs so far. Giampaolo worked with limited resources during in his time at Sampdoria and still succeeded.
After joining Milan, expect the new coach to become even more established in the game. While the club he joined may not be considered an elite team, as was the case in previous years, in due course the team will be back to what it once was.
It will take time before the club is restored to those glory days, but steps have been made to once again create a team which will be accustomed to winning.
It might even take several years before the team is where it needs to be, but when that does happen, Milan fans will be happy.
A new direction is not always a bad choice, but in truth it was the only choice Milan had.