Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Frank Tigani On August - 22 - 2011

Italian Serie A 2011-2012 Club Preview: AC Milan


At the start of last season many did not expect Milan to challenge for the Scudetto. That was, at least, until the club secured the services of Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the eleventh hour of the transfer window. Luciano Moggi, for all the criticism regularly aimed at him, spoke prophetically when he said that “thanks to him (Ibrahimovic), the title race will be between Milan and Inter”.

Moggi said this in September of last year. Then Inter’s crisis was not quite apparent and neither was Milan’s dependence on the Swede. But, by Christmas Inter’s malaise was clear and so was the significance Ibra was again having on the title race, this time in the red and black. The Swede’s contribution did decline as the seasoned edged towards its conclusion, however, Milan had sufficient strength and depth to deliver the club its 18th Scudetto.

This season the club’s ambitions have extended beyond Italy’s borders. Europe is now the objective. However, the Italians will not enter the Champions League as favourites for despite a relatively strong squad that has been strengthened this summer, albeit slightly, the wealth of talent at clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid and the two Manchester clubs will see the Rossoneri has outsiders for Europe’s top prize.

Key Acquisitions

Philippe Mexes has been brought in from Roma along with Taye Taiwo from French club, Marseille. Starlet Stephen El Sharaawy is probably the most exciting acquisition who was brought in from Genoa after spending a season on loan in the Serie B.

It also has to be noted that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Amelia and Kevin Prince Boateng have had their loan deals made permanent.

Key Departures

The only significant departure this summer has been that of Andrea Pirlo. After ten years at the club the World Cup winner was sold to rivals Juventus.

After youngster Alberto Paloschi was brought back to the club he has once again be loaned out this time to Chievo Verona. Rodney Strasser has also left on loan while Alexander Merkel, who did play a small part in the last campaign, is now at Genoa on a co-ownership deal.

Man to Watch

It might be too early to call this one. Milan are not done in the transfer market with August 29th touted as the day the club will announce the signing of Mr. X.

As for now, however, the man to watch is a no brainer. It will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede’s form in the first part of last season was the driving force behind Milan establishing themselves as league leaders and there they stayed until the end.

Ibra will again be key to Milan’s push to retain the Scudetto. In a Milan attack that sometimes lacks ideas, his ability to both create and scores goals is fundamental. The club has made it clear, however, that this season the Champions League is a major focus. Criticised often for his failure to produce in Europe, Ibra will have to finally prove his doubters wrong if Milan are to be successful in this competition.

Despite the former Barca man’s significant contribution, he should be aiming to improve on his fourteen goals in the Serie A last term. Team mate Gennaro Gattuso recently made a good point, that Zlatan “should score more goals”. For all his wonderful talents and his self-proclamation that he is just as good as Messi or Ronaldo, well he should.


It was Max Allegri’s first season at Milan last season and, indeed, first at any big club. Despite his inexperience at the time, the former Cagliari tactician deserves all the credit for building a team that was strong from the back and clinical, if not spectacular, in attack.

Perhaps, what was most impressive about Allegri last season was his exceptional man-management skills. Though blessed with wonderful attacking talents like Ibrahimovic, Cassano, Robinho and -earlier in the campaign - Ronaldinho, he had his work cut out for him in managing these somewhat difficult personalities while trying to get the best from them. Allegri did superbly in this regard. He was not afraid to sit Ronaldinho on the bench, Robinho and Cassano did not get agitated when left on the bench while Ibra, at least earlier on in the campaign, was back to his best after an indifferent season at Barcelona.

In addition, Allegri managed to foster a team spirit and ethic that helped the Rossoneri maintain their pursuit of the Scudetto until the very end. This harmony, along with the team’s familiarity with their young coach and his methods, will serve the team well in the new campaign.

The Summer So Far

Milan’s summer this year has been characterised by the club’s hunt for the proverbial Mr. X. It seems the club, like last season, is waiting until the eleventh hour before announcing their mystery man. That is, however, if they actually do sign whoever this Mr. X is.

What can be more expected is that the club will sign another midfielder and this simply must occur. The midfield is the team’s weakest department. Riccardo Montolivo and Alberto Aquilani have been mentioned frequently and either player would be a welcome addition.

As mentioned so far the services of Philippe Mexes, Taye Taiwo, and Stephen El Sharaawy have been secured. The former will add depth at centre half while Taiwo will solve, hopefully, the club’s long standing issues at left back. The latter, a highly promising young Italian (his father is Egyptian hence the name) is a natural attacking midfielder who could yet see himself given more chances than he may have thought given the lack of players of his ilk in the squad.

Only one key player has left the club and that has been Andrea Pirlo. A legend for the club, the Italian lost his place towards the end of last campaign as Allegri opted for the more defensively capable Mark van Bommel – who arrived in January – as the team’s defensive midfielder.

On the field Milan’s preseason was somewhat inconsistent. Unsuccessful in the Audi Cup after losing on penalties twice, the Rossoneri did make amends in China where they claimed the season’s first piece of silverware, the Italian Super Cup. They defeated Inter by two goals to one which for any Milanista is always a pleasure.

Milan soon stumbled again. An uninspiring draw away to Swedish outfit Malmo was followed up by losing the Trofeo Tim to city rivals Inter. Though, it has to be mentioned, Allegri did not exactly deploy his starting team whereas the Nerazzurri did. The team awaits one final preseason fixture when they take on Juventus in the Berlusconi Cup.

What Next

This Milan side will enter the Serie A season as favourites. Inter, Juventus and Roma will be their biggest threats though doubts remain over just how strong these rivals will be given the major changes that have occurred with them.

For Milan much will depend on the form of Ibrahimovic though this may be less so if the club does make the promised marque signing before the transfer window closes. Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta will again be key figures if the club is to repeat last season’s success.

Last season, it has to be said, lady luck sided with Milan. Juve were pushing for the title until Fabio Quagliarella’s injury saw him sidelined for the rest of the season while Inter were hampered by the disaster created by Rafa Benitez that Leonardo was too late in coming to the rescue of. It could make for a much more evenly contested title race this season especially with Juventus solely focusing on domestic matters.

As mentioned earlier, Milan will not be amongst the favourites in the Champions League. The club should, at the very least, progress past the group stage but if the club faces either Barcelona or Real Madrid earlier on in the knockout rounds than it may just be arrivederci. The fact that not much will be expected of the Serie A champions in the UCL speaks volumes of the state of things on the peninsula.


Serie A – Champions

Allegri has proven that he is a highly talented coach. Unless one of Luis Enrique, Antonio Conte or Gian Piero Gasperini prove an instant success at their new clubs, Milan will be already a step ahead. With some key reinforcements and with the club expected to sign at least one more player, Allegri will have a stronger squad than the one he took to the title last year and so a repeat of last season’ success is a real possibility.

Champions League – Quarter Finals

The Rossoneri should navigate themselves through the group stage. A kind draw in the first knockout round and a quarter final berth is not out of reach. Definitely not one of the favourites in a competition still dominated by English clubs and Spain’s two giants.

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