Former kings of Europe now live in the shadows of their success
Once the kings of European club football, AC Milan have been looking decidedly less regal in recent seasons.
After 21 games, I Rossoneri currently sit seventh in Italy’s Serie A with 31 points – 23 behind leaders Napoli and 12 off the Champions League positions.
Last summer AC Milan’s new Chinese backers spent over 200m euros on the likes of Leanardo Bonucci, Ricardo Rodriguez, Andre Silva and Hakan Calhanoglu with the aim of building a squad strong enough to challenge for the title and qualify for the Champions League.
However, none of those players have lived up to their price tags, with striker Silva, brought in from Porto for 38m euros, already being linked with a move away from the club.
Centre-back Bonucci, signed from Juventus for 42m euros, has not been able to reproduce his outstanding form for Juve in Milan.
Some would argue that even spending 200m euros on several players in the current market is not enough when judged alongside the astronomical sums paid for the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Philippe Coutinho.
But even with Chinese money behind them, do AC Milan have the financial firepower to compete with likes of Manchester United, PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid?
Another major issue facing the San Siro-based outfit is a lack of managerial continuity.
Milan have had nine different team bosses since 2009, and only one of those – Massimiliano Allegri (2010-14) – has lasted for more than one full campaign.
For the past decade, the club have been locked in a cycle of new manager inheriting someone else’s players, buying new ones but not being give enough time to revive its fortunes. Then a new man is hired, and so it goes on…
This season they have already sacked Vincenzo Montella and appointed club legend Gennaro Gattuso (pictured) to take his place.
The renowned hard man of the Italian game was running Milan’s youth team and has limited managerial experience.
Gattuso made 387 appearances for Milan between 1999 and 2012, so has plenty of goodwill from the fans on his side. But will his twitchy owners show patience if results don’t improve during the remainder of this season?
Milan’s current struggles are a far cry from their former glories.
They are joint-second with city rivals Inter in the list of Italian league title winners with 18 Serie A crowns, behind Juventus who lead the way with 33. They have won the Coppa Italia five times, and have seven Supercoppas Italiana to their name.
Milan have won the European Cup and Champions League seven times, but have not lifted European club football’s premier trophy since 2007. They have failed to win Serie A since the 2010-11 season. Juve have since reigned supreme.
After their last Scudetto win, followed by a runners-up spot in 2011-12, Milan’s fortunes tailed off dramatically, both domestically and in European competition.
At home, in the past five seasons they have finished in third, eighth, 10th, seventh and sixth positions; Champions League football is no longer a given for one of Europe’s most storied and successful clubs.
Hope for the future?
In 2016, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi – who had controlled the club for three decades – finally sold it to the Chinese investment management company Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing Co.
The jury is still out among Milan’s supporters on whether the new owners, headed by chairman Li Yonghong, can restore their club to its former status among Europe’s elite.
In the short term, the team are in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia after beating local rivals Inter, and can still qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning the Europa League if their Serie A fortunes fail to reignite.
So, all is not lost for AC Milan even though there are not the same team they were 10 years ago.
But they have new owners who are willing to spend as they seek to recreate their successes under Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello, and Carlo Ancelotti.