Why AC Milan Will Benefit from Missing out on the Europa League

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Why AC Milan Will Benefit from Missing out on the Europa League
Associated Press

AC Milan's final match of the Serie A season saw them run out 2-1 winners against Sassuolo at the San Siro, a result that still failed to give them qualification to next year's Europa League. 

The six Italian teams to play in Europe next year are Juventus, Roma and Napoli in the Champions League, and Fiorentina, Inter and Parma in the Europa League.

Milan finished a highly disappointing eighth in large part due to their terrible start to the year under former manager Massimiliano Allegri. Under Clarence Seedorf results improved drastically, making once-nonexistent hopes of European qualification a reality once again.

Unfortunately for Seedorf, the Milan hierarchy of Adriano Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi are seemingly set on moving on from him despite his role in reviving Milan's previously woeful form.

While Seedorf's future will be discussed at length in the coming weeks, his failure to guide Milan to a Europa League spot may end up being a blessing for the club.

The merits of the Europa League have been debated for some time, not only for a club like Milan but also for smaller teams like Hull City and Borussia Monchengladbach, among others. 

While it is true that teams can spread out playing time and give games to younger players or veterans who don't see the field much in league play, the opposite argument could be convincingly made that spreading out a team's resources in such a manner can backfire, as it will lead to below-strength sides being fielded in all competitions.

A club the stature of Milan would be forced to take the tournament seriously, as an early exit would be humiliating for one of the most successful sides in the world. 

Indeed, the last time Milan qualified for the now-defunct UEFA Cup, they played the likes of Portsmouth and Heerenveen before ultimately being knocked out by Werder Bremen.

Clearly, fan interest in these games tends to be focused more on the smaller clubs who get a chance to play a traditional giant. Milan fans and players certainly would not be jumping around with excitement at the prospect of traveling to play a team like Portsmouth on Thursday before playing a far more important Serie A match on Saturday.

Again, Milan would be forced to field competitive squads in Europe simply due to their reputation, and this would undoubtedly lead to weaker squads being played in Serie A when factoring in fatigue from oftentimes long midweek trips across Europe.

The precedent has been set by Roma and Liverpool just this past season. Both teams failed to qualify for Europe this year, allowing them to focus their efforts on the domestic league. With less matches to play and less fatigue for players, there is far more time and energy that can be devoted to the more important domestic matches.

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Given that the ultimate goal is for Milan to return to the top three in Italy and reclaim a spot in the Champions League, ideally as early as next season, the Europa League would only serve to be a distraction.

Regardless of what they say in public about their disappointment over failing to qualify for Europe this year, Milan have an opportunity to devote all their time and resources toward starting strongly and keeping up with Italy's top sides throughout the season.

Should Milan's rivals tire from taking part in multiple competitions throughout next season, the Rossoneri are in a unique position to take advantage and field full-strength, focused squads throughout the Serie A calendar.

If Milan can do that, a return to the Champions League may arrive sooner than initially expected.

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