In October 1999, Chelsea’s away supporters ran riot after their team managed to scrape out a precious and highly unlikely point at a venue accustomed to witnessing a spectacle at the hands of the red and black part of Milan. Such was the quality that the Rossoneri possessed, that nobody on the night would have expected any other outcome than a San Siro battering for the blues.
A decade and a half later, the Italian side’s management needed the best of persuading skills in order to secure the promising Blues reserve Marco Van Ginkel on a season long loan for the 2014-2015 campaign. Such has been the sorry state of affairs that the monumental tumble has left fans across the world, especially those who have followed the game since the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s, shocked in astonishment at the turn of events unfolding at Milan. From occupying the throne as Europe’s supreme giants, to a mediocre mid table team best known for finishing just outside Europa League qualification, FTB introspects just why kids of today’s generation will not be familiar with the era that comprised the Rossoneri’s Scudetto dominance.
The first clear cut indication of just were the downfall began can be directly acquainted with the global financial crisis which began in 2007. Such was the impact that by 2013, Fininvest, the club’s primary owners controlled by the family of Silvio Berlusconi, reported to have suffered an operating loss of €485.9 million. Being the prime minister, although Berlusconi retained the tag of being Italy’s richest man that year, his advisors opted against injecting much needed financial capital into the club and rather used the money on electoral campaigns in order to concentrate on the financial meltdown that the country was going through with unemployment at an all time high of 11.7%. That day, politics got the better of football and as a result the most decorated team of Italy fell straight to the gutters.
What followed as a consequence, was considered as the most remarkable clear-out in recent history, with both legends and young talents alike, being released from the club. From world cup 2006 heroes Alessandro Nesta, Inzaghi, Gianluca Zambrotta and Gennaro Gattuso to champions league winners Clarence Seedorf and Mark van Bommel, everyone faced the axe. Even the prized possessions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva couldn’t be retained with the Qatari money powered PSG pouncing at the right moment, leaving the Rossoneri fans to witness such a catastrophe, that they were left scarred for life.
The transition to becoming Europe’s biggest scavengers has left supporters with nothing to rejoice but their club’s rich history as their team scrounges and scrabbles around for players in the current era. Although freebies is not a new concept at the San Siro, with the likes of Edgar Davids, Cafu, John Dahl Tomasson, Rivaldo and Mark Van Bommel having arrived for nothing in the past, the volume of zero cost reinforcements has never been this high. Sadly, the same though cannot be said about the quality of today’s free acquisitions.
From breaking the club transfer record twice in the summer of 1992, with the quality signings of Jean-Pierre Papin and Gianluigi Lentini, now the club is famous in employing either out of contract or unwanted stars seeking one last shot at redemption. Several of these free transfers were expected to play the role of the protagonist across the last couple of seasons but failed to make an impact.
From the likes of Riccardo Montolivo, Jeremy Menez to Japanese icon Keisuke Honda and former superstar Fernando Torres, none blossomed leaving Milan as far away from silverware as the Kohinoor is from India.
Just to give an example of the shrewd way in which the Rossoneri did their business, the combined transfer cost of Philippe Mexes and Michael Essien cost less than a ticket to the city’s famous opera house La Scala.
In today’s scenario the club can take motivation from a scene from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises. When he’s down and out, Batman asks Alfred on why one falls in life to which Alfred wisely responds ‘so that one can rise up again’. With a group of Chinese investors, Han Li having agreed a €740 million deal to takeover the Football club from Fininvest, a new dawn beckons at San Siro. Ambitions are clear, to bring back one of the most decorated clubs in Europe back to its original form, both domestically as well at the European stage.
The man chosen to revive the 7 time European champions is 42 year old Vincenzo Montella, who guided Sampdoria to safety the previous Serie A campaign. On being presented to the press, the Italian stated that a Europa League place would be the club’s main target for the upcoming season.
Two matches in and the picture still looks a little bleak. After Carlos Becca’s clinical finishing and Donnarumma’s last gasp goalkeeping heroics gave Milan a 3-2 opening day victory at the hands of Torino, but an Arkadiusz Milik and Jose Callejon inspired 4-2 battering at the hands of title contenders Napoli may have sent all the optimism around the capital to ashes. Although too early to call, Milan will certainly need to step up their game against the big guns in order to have any real chance of making even the slightest bit of progress in the campaign ahead.
Only time will tell, whether the 13 time Scudetto winners can do in reality what their fans are using the PlayStation to achieve in the recent years.