Last year, 2012, was a rather tough year for the Rossoneri fans as Milan couldn’t defend their title and surrendered it to an unbeaten Old Lady and they started the new season in a very unfamiliar fashion. For years they have been considered as title contenders but this year there were doubts as to whether they will be up for the task after seeing Plethora of stars leave Milan back in August 2012 onto pastures new for one final swansong or walked away into retirement and just as the fans were recovering from their loses, they were wounded once again by the news of Thiago Silva and Ibra’s big money move to PSG.
They did sign a few players when Riccardo Montolivo joined from Fiorentina to reinforce central midfield and the Rossoneri also took over the final year of AS Roma’s loan deal for Barcelona starlet Bojan Krkic. Inter Milan’s Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano literally swapped shirts, while Nigel de Jong was drafted in from Manchester City.
The new campaign was labelled as “Year Zero” as they wanted to start a fresh cycle and concentrate on youth.
Milan decided to take a different path now, and have decided to focus on youth and ‘build stars instead of buying them’ as the people in the club say. The Rossoneri are heading towards financial sustainability.
Financial restrictions have tied down the club and this affected the clubs ambition. With Berlusconi’s “heroism and presidential gifts” became a thing of the past, The Diavolo, have to conduct their transfer dealings shrewdly.
Just as the fans thought that things couldn’t get worse, they were hit once again when they lost another star player, Pato who moved back to Brazil in January. Yet the Curva stood by their team as the Rossoneri embarked on a brave, yet risky, strategy to rely on youth to lead them forward.
Milan had a nightmare of a start as they began their new campaign with a 1-0 loss at San Siro at the hands of a newly promoted Sampdoria. 8 games in and Milan were flirting with the relagation zone with just 7 points.
Milan had no continuity or any flair about them. They were struggling against teams they have swatted aside in the past with relative ease. They needed an inspiration and some faith.
And from the shadows of his seniors, stealing the spot light, came El Sharaawy. He took the whole footballing world by surprise with his finishing and his calmness in front of goal. Admist the horrible performances, he was the shining light in Milan’s squad. He, single handedly revived Milan with a stellar display in the first half of the season with 14 goals and 3 assists. Milan ended their first half of the season with a 4-2 loss to Roma on 22nd December, 2012 and were placed 7th, a massive 9 points off the 3rd spot.
Milan started gaining momentum in the second half of the season and their squad was bolstered by the arrival of Balotelli. With the Big money move, Balotelli finished the season (12 goals in 13 games) on a high for Milan with a 3rd placed finish which seemed like a distant possibility back in November.
Milan charged up the league table in the second half of the season, losing just one of their remaining 20 league games. They almost sprung a Champions League shock on Barcelona, only to surrender a 2-0 first leg lead and crumble 4-0 at the Nou Camp. Their place in next season’s Champions League was secured on the final day of the season, thanks to Philippe Mexes’ dramatic late winner in the game at Siena.
Qualifying for the Champions league has its financial benefits. Other than attracting stars, it has financial importance too with the money they get for playing in Europe’s premier competition.
Counting the cost of Champions League failure, is the most obvious place to start as each team, for reaching the play-off stages of the Champions League gets €2,100,000. Once you qualify for the group stages, a team is guaranteed a participation base fee of €8.6 million even if it loses every single game. There is also a performance bonus of €1 million for each victory in the group stage plus €500,000 for a draw. So if a team manages to win all six of its group matches, it will get €6 million on top of the base fee.
Entry to the last 16 of the Champions League will add a further £3 million to teams’ coffers, while quarter finalists receive £3.3 million and semifinalists get £4.2 million each.
Obviously, the big money goes to the winning team, with the 2012-13 champions, Bayern pocketing £9 million and the runners-up, Dortmund earned £5.5 million.
These are phenomenal figures, and the numbers will keep on rising.
MATCH OF THE SEASON
AC Siena 1-2 AC Milan
With fate in their own hands, Milan needed a win against an already relegated Siena to cement the 3rd spot. With Fiorentina winning their match against Pescara, the pressure was on Milan to win their last match. Milan went 1 nil down in the 26th minute when Terzi put Siena ahead. Milans chances were further dampened when Ambrosini got sent off in the 69th minute. Siena took just a minute to lose their numerical advantage when Terlizzi got sent off. Things then went Milans way as they managed to score 2 goals in the last 6 minutes to qualify for the champions league with Balotelli scoring from the spot and Mexes slotting in a late winner. With the things at stake, this was the most important victory as they managed to qualify for Europe’s premier competition.
SURPRISE OF THE SEASON
Bearing resemblance to the legendary Paolo Maldini in terms of plying his trade down the left flank despite being predominantly right-footed, Mattia De Sciglio has proved himself this season to possess the ability to secure a place on the team sheet for both club and country.
One of the main contributions which De Sciglio can offer his side, is the fundamental ability to win the ball. He has over 54 successful tackles under his belt, highest amongst his team mates.
Reassuringly, De Sciglio is capable of distributing the ball well after winning it, boasting 85% pass accuracy. With Stephan El Shaarawy proving to be a force to be reckoned with when allowed to drift wide on Milan’s left, the left back slot is vital for feeding the driving runs and electric pace of the Rossoneri’s top goal scorer, and the two Italians could form quite a partnership over coming seasons. Providing two assists and 26 goal scoring opportunities, El Shaarawy could certainly benefit from playing in front of his efficient teammate.
After a huge overhaul, Milan were never considered as title contenders and finishing third can be considered as a successful season considering the crisis they were in. The 2013-14 Serie A season will undoubtedly be an exciting one with plenty of new faces, and a few old ones too.
As my dear friend, Twister says,
“Scandals will pass, however repulsive they may be, and despite losing a Champions League place to Germany, Italy will remain the heart of stylish and tactical football. With fanatic fans and even more delirious club presidents and officials, it will always be a spectacle to behold.”
Milan qualified for the Champions League, reduced their wage bill and took huge strides towards becoming a sustainable and profitable organisation. The squad is full of youth, and the club have a clear vision of where they want to go.
Let’s hope Milan’s faith in Youth is repaid next season as they will definitely be more prepared and will be hungry for success.