Milan's complacency in declaring that their summer spending is at an end shows misguided confidence in players who can no longer compete at the highest level, writes Sulmaan Ahmad...Milan are a club steeped in tradition and while fiercely proud, are not as historically dominant as club hierarchy and the official website's tagline of 'the best club in the world' might have you believe. When the iconic Silvio Berlusconi first became president of the club in 1986, they had won an impressive 10 Scudetti and two European Cups, but it was only under his leadership in the relatively short time of 20 years that they have won a further seven Scudetti and five European Cups, superceding the likes of Juventus and city rivals Internazionale to become the most recognised Italian club on the continent.
That success has come at a price, as there have been intervening periods of embarrassing failure. The loyalty shown to key players plummeting from their prime may just as easily be construed as arrogance; an unfounded belief that great players will always remain as such that has been symptomatic of the Berlusconi era. Class, after all, is not permanent - not even Fabio Capello's Milan that went the went from May 1991 to March 1993 without losing a game were truly invincible, as all good things come to an end.
Seeing the Milan team that took the field on Sunday against Chelsea in the Russian Railways Cup, the game was over before it began, it was just a matter of what margin of victory the Blues would manage. With a Milan starting line-up in which Massimo Ambrosini was acting as the attacking focal point, few would have expected any Rossoneri goals - and indeed they failed to score any - but to concede five was beyond humiliation.
It was, of course, a pre-season friendly and there were injuries and absentees to take into consideration, but that only moves to strengthen the point that it is their second string that will continue to be their Achilles' heel all season. Several have tipped a vengeful and resurgent Milan to win the league this coming season, from rivals such as Gianluigi Buffon to club legends like Arrigo Sacchi, but what they are in part failing to acknowledge is that this is a squad that does not, in any way, shape or form, have what it takes to compete over 38 games. Their only possible saving grace would if they prove to be extremely fortunate and avoid any injuries to key players, which is as good as an impossibility when considering the intensity and frequency of competition at the highest level and the fact that both Ronaldinho and Kaka have been diagnosed with tendonitis, a notoriously chronic and lingering injury.
There have been calls for a revolution since the Champions League defeat to Arsenal, but they have been unanswered by the Milan hierarchy, who are running the detrimental risk of severely damaging their reputation and even tainting their past glories should this humiliation spill over into the competitive season. Might Milan end up scrapping for fourth once more, and otherwise relying on a first ever UEFA Cup triumph to validate their misguided antics in the transfer market? Galliani has a great understanding of the game, but his proclamations to the press make Real Madrid supremo Ramon Calderon appear as a doting housewife. Uncle Fester talks too much and delivers far, far too little.
The loss against Chelsea may not be conclusive proof of Milan's failings, but it is somewhat ominous of what may be to come and indicative of the same philosophy that preceded the club's dismal showing last season, as Carlo Ancelotti's pitiful post-match comments would attest. “I don’t think the absence of a few players will affect us that much, and for this reason we will not be returning to the transfer market,” the coach told Il Corriere Dello Sport, despite Milan's abundant reliance on key players. “Our attack cannot be judged, we have no-one up there and so it cannot be criticised.” No one up there, quite right. There has been no overhaul. Star player Kaka went as far as suggesting that, without naming any individuals, it was time for some of the old guard to step aside for a new generation to be ushered in, just as they were at the top of the decade when Carlo Ancelotti took charge. Alas, not even the new prodical son had the pulling power to prise open president Berlusconi's 9.4 billion dollar wallet. Where there is a will, there is a way - Milan are lacking both.
The conventional wisdom is that while something has been done, it is not enough. Filippo Inzaghi cannot be relied upon to remain fit for an entire season, which puts an unreasonable amount of pressure on a relatively unproven striker in Marco Borriello. The midfield collective is strong and Mathieu Flamini's addition indispensable as it eases pressure on Gennaro Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini, though there is still an over-reliance on Andrea Pirlo in terms of a creative influence. The signing of the summer, Ronaldinho, is a monumental gamble. He may enjoy a Zinedine Zidane-like timeless swansong, but the inherent risk that he may go the way of compatriot Ronaldo is surely one that the club did not need to take in signing the player. However, it is in defence where the Rossoneri look susceptible even at their best. The Three Stooges in goal will guarantee one stumble for every save, no centre-backs were signed and Galliani has gone as far as to suggest Ambrosini will be deputising at the back to make up the numbers. Alessandro Nesta is the only member of the defence who can still perform at the highest level on a consistent basis, and even he has constant worries over his fitness. Signing Gianluca Zambrotta is symptomatic of the existing problems at the club, as he is a player that was once world class but has been on a consistent slide since the World Cup triumph of 2006 and does not have time on his side to turn things around. Milan are deteriorating from the inside while the men at the top sit idly by and, as if to add insult to injury, continue to promise greatness to the fans. Are they arrogant, or simply stupid?
Is this really the way forward for a club as great as Milan? What will it take to trigger an era of change at San Siro? Is it a matter of employing a new coach, or new ownership on top of that, to provide a new direction and fresh ideas? Can Milan really win the Scudetto this season? Join the debate below...