AC Milan Best of the Best Awards 2011
What a year 2011 was for AC Milan.
Three miserable years since winning the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and Club World Cup in 2007 passed by as many wondered whether the Rossoneri would ever return to the glorious club they once were.
This year proved that they are going in that direction.
In May, the club celebrated winning Serie A for the first time in seven years, bringing home the club's 18th such honor. This championship was followed by a thrilling comeback victory in Beijing in August to defeat bitter rivals Inter Milan in the Italian Super Cup.
Speaking of Inter, there was also the 3-0 domination that AC Milan won in April despite the absence of former Inter star and now AC Milan top striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
2011-12 has started off incredibly well for Milan as well. Their 35 goals is most in Serie A. Despite playing only 16 matches, that total ranks in the top 10 of all 100 teams in the top five leagues in Europe. Only Real Madrid and Barcelona have played as few matches and sit in the top 10.
As we approach 2012, it is time to look back and reflect on what made 2011 a memorable one for AC Milan.
Best Goal: Pato Scores 24 Seconds in at Barcelona
Pato got AC Milan's Champions League campaign off to an explosive start in the 2011 group stage.
Milan were given the pleasure of being paired with Barcelona in the Group Stage of the 2011-12 tournament and in the memorable 2-2 draw, the away side went up with one of the fastest goal in Champions League history.
Pato's strike in the 24th second is the fifth fastest goal ever scored in the Champions League. It wasn't just the time of the goal. It was the absolute lightning pace displayed. He split one of the best defenses in the world. As Pep Guardiola put it, he would have left Usain Bolt in the dust.
Best Signing: Antonio Nocerino
Adriano Galliani pulled off a transfer for Antonio Nocerino from Palermo in the last hour of the transfer window this summer and for only €500,000. What a steal that proved to be.
Nocerino has played in 14 of Milan's 16 Serie A matches this season and has already matched the output of goals that he had in 106 league matches at Palermo. He has been on fire scoring six times. He is currently the second-leading scorer on the club behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic and has earned himself a spot in the first team beyond any doubt.
Nocerino's purchase went rather unnoticed, but he has blossomed into a star in a short time at AC Milan and the 26-year-old is a club favorite already.
The magic of Galliani was at work on August 31. Well done, Galliani.
Best Individual Performance: Kevin-Prince Boateng
It was a first half that AC Milan would want to forget quickly as they headed to the dressing room at the Via del Mare. Lecce had jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the defending champions and looked to be on their way to an incredible upset.
That's when Kevin-Prince Boateng replaced Robinho.
The Ghanaian came on at halftime. Within 18 minutes, he had a hat trick and AC Milan were back on terms. The first two goals were absolutely world class, bending in with style. The third goal was fantastic, as he struck it hard enough were it was able to just sneak in as Benassi tried to push it out.
AC Milan went on to win 4-3. Without Boateng, it would have been a miserable loss.
Best Game: Milan 3-0 Inter
When AC Milan and Inter Milan met for their final derby of the 2010-11 season, there were two points between first place Milan and their bitter rivals. Milan had to be a little nervous, especially without Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the lineup.
All was well because within two hours, it was five points.
The audience was given an indication of where the game was going 43 seconds after the kickoff when Pato rebounded a shot from Robinho to make it 1-0 Milan.
Milan pressed the entire half, but went into the intermission 1-0 up. Pato doubled up in the 62nd minute when he redirected a cross from Ignazio Abate. An Antonio Cassano penalty goal in the 90th minute made it 3-0, and the rout was over.
22 shots, 54 percent of the possession, and a 3-0 win over a frustrated rival. That makes for one fantastic game.
Player of the Year: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
There is no doubt who the star of 2011 was for AC Milan.
It's weird to think that just a couple years ago, Milan faithful despised Swedish super striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic more than most players. The former Inter Milan star has since become the hero of the Curva Sud.
2011 was a great year for Ibra. He continued his streak of consecutive domestic titles, which spans back to his days at Ajax, and he seems to score every time he takes to the pitch.
Ibra ends the 2011 calendar year with 24 goals for Milan, but the start of the 2011-12 season has been far better for him. While last year, the scoring between Ibrahimovic, Robinho, and Pato was balanced and spread out (Ibra scored only eight times in all competition after the break in 2010-11), the 30-year-old has emerged as the dominant front man in red and black.
In 18 games in all competition for the 2011-12 season, Ibrahimovic has 16 goals, including one against former club Inter in the Super Cup. He has been incredibly consistent and in the Champions League, he has a goal in each of his four matches, including against his old team, Barcelona. His 11 Serie A goals are second most in the league behind Germain Denis of Atalanta (12).
AC Milan will be hoping that 2012 does not bring a drop in form from the man known as Ibracadabra. If he keeps his form up, he could win the scoring title in Italy, and Milan could be on their way to more success.