3 Reasons Milan's Turnaround Shouldn't Save Allegri
AC Milan's current position is much healthier than it was just two short months ago. Prior to their crunch-ties with Malaga in the Champions League, they were languishing down in 15th in Serie A.
Now, having successfully made it through to the next round of Europe's premier competition—despite only a point from the two games against the Spanish—the Rossoneri also find themselves in a much more respectable seventh in the league.
But should this really be enough to save coach Massimiliano Allegri's job?
When Allegri took the job at Milanello two and half years ago, he was inheriting a side that was failing to live up to past glories. His predecessor, Carlo Ancelotti, had brought great success to the club—particularly in Europe, where he twice won the Champions League—but Milan, much like perennial rivals Juventus, had struggled to rebound from the Calciopoli scandal.
Allegri came in and won the Scudetto in his first year at Milan. In his second, Milan were runners-up, only losing out to an undefeated Juventus side
It could, therefore, be argued that Allegri has earned the faith that has been shown in him this year. Despite his European victories, Ancelotti only once triumphed in Serie A during eight years with the club.
Allegri equalled this at his first attempt and should possibly have doubled it at his second, given that Milan led the table during the season's final third.
And yet there is still the feeling that Allegri's seat on the Milan bench is now only being kept warm for his successor.
In this article we look at the reasons for this, and why, underneath the statistics, it is actually justified.
One Man Team
Allegri's arrival at the club was initially a success. However, it also happened to coincide with the arrival of a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Milan's success during the Swede's two years at the club was based primarily on his performances. This in and of itself is not a bad thing—to get the full potential from Ibrahimovic, a coach must play to his strengths, which means building the team around him—but too often were the Rossoneri completely reliant on him.
It was an easy, get-out-of-jail-free card to throw long balls up to the big man, trusting him to win them, control them and create something out of nothing. Without this option, Milan looked devoid of ideas.
As is the case with the Swedish national team, this approach can win games but is not enough to triumph on the very biggest stage. So it was with Milan where, particularly in the Champions League, the Rossoneri did not have enough as a team to make the step up.
Just as success came with Ibrahimovic's arrival, it is no coincidence that it has left with his transfer.
An Incomplete Turnaround
As already mentioned, Milan's overall position is much better than it was a couple of months ago, but this was always to be expected. Moving above Catania, Chievo and Torino was somewhat inevitable sooner or later, but continuing this upward trend is a much harder task.
The size of the job at hand was clearly illustrated in Milan's last game against Roma. Currently lying seventh in the table, the very next team Milan had to overcome was sixth-placed Roma. That match provided a useful comparison between two similarly placed sides.
While two late goals for the Rossoneri made the eventual result a lot more respectable, the fact remains that Roma soared into a 4-0 lead before easing off.
For a team which proudly proclaims itself "the most successful club" on its official website, results like these are never acceptable.
But as strange as it may sound, results like that are exactly what is necessary to wake up the team. Victories over smaller clubs are all very well, but those victories should not allow Milan's top men to get a false idea of their current position.
AC Milan are still a long way from Europe's best, and they are still a long way from Italy's sixth best.
Better Potential Candidates
The possibility of bringing the most sought after manager in world football to the San Siro is one that looms tantalisingly on the horizon. While to some it may seem unlikely that Pep Guardiola would want to come to an AC Milan who are a shadow of their former might, there is reason to believe that such a move is not out of the question.
I have written here about why Guardiola would be great for Milan, but perhaps the more pertinent question is why Milan would be great for Guardiola.
If the Spaniard is looking solely for a major pay day, he will not move to Italy. Both Manchester City and Chelsea—whose interim appointment of Rafa Benitez seems to be designed to allow them the flexibility to move for Guardiola—are able to offer significantly larger compensation than Milan.
But there is reason to believe that the Rossoneri can still provide a competitive package to Guardiola. Football Italia reports that a €25m contract would be available to Pep; moreover, there is also reason to believe that money is not Guardiola's only motivating factor.
Had he wanted to, Guardiola could have moved straight from Barcelona to one of the big-money English teams, but he chose not to.
Having been manager at only one club in his career—which happened to be acclaimed as one of the greatest in history—the most pressing thought on the Spaniard's mind is more likely to be how to increase, rather than diminish his legacy.
Creating a successful team with unlimited wealth at a club without great history may not hold the same lure for him as resurrecting a sleeping giant which can no longer compete in pure financial terms.
Guardiola also has strong ties to Italy—particularly to Brescia, his former club, which is very near Milan—but has no such links to England.
If there is any possibility of landing the grand prize of Guardiola, Milan will happily jettison Allegri.
It seems increasingly likely that there is hope of attracting the Spaniard. Allegri will therefore be given until the end of the season to keep his job, at which point his fate will be dictated by the decisions of Guardiola.