Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Milan can't afford another annus horribilis, but the evidence suggests that's just what they're in for. And unfortunately for Pippo Inzaghi, that means he'll almost certainly be left to take the blame for the continued mismanagement of one of Italy's great sporting institutions.
Last season was a disaster, not just because they finished eighth, well off the pace and out of the Champions League places for the upcoming campaign and their worst finish in 15 years. They also fired Clarence Seedorf as coach after less than six months in charge, severely tarnishing the image of a club hero and leaving a sour taste in the mouths of all involved.
Letting the same thing happen to Filippo Inzaghi should be unthinkable, but at a club run by career politicians, it's unlikely anyone higher up will take the fall for the problems that have so far cost Max Allegri and Seedorf their jobs and a good portion of their reputations.
Silvio Berlusconi no longer likes spending big money on his football club, but the former Italian prime minister will need to invest something if he wants to stop the rot at the Rossoneri.
The season has yet to start, but they've already conceded 12 goals while losing to Olympiakos, Manchester City, Liverpool and Valencia.
Almost every area of the pitch needs improvement because the current squad is most made up of average players. The likes of Riccardo Montolivo, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli are all young and talented enough to be part of the club's future, but for the most part, the disappointing, creaking squad should be consigned to the past.
Signing Diego Lopez from Real Madrid is an improvement in goal, and the free additions of Alex and Jeremy Menez will add some more quality outfield, but it's nowhere near enough to make the Rossoneri competitive again.
Alessio Cerci is reportedly their top target and he'd definitely improve their attack, but doubts remain about Milan's willingness to meet Torino's price, and the Gazzetta dello Sport reports (here, in Italian) that while the two clubs are still talking, there's a difference of €6 million in their respective valuations.
Considering how much a Champions League place would be worth to Milan, it's incredible they're so slow to spend money while all of their rivals have improved their squads.
Even a huge improvement on the pitch won't be enough for a top-three finish with this squad. If Inzaghi is to succeed as Milan coach, it'll take more than a season and a handful of bargain basement signings, but this far in his career as a player and as coach at youth level, he's shown enough intelligence and dogged determination to suggest he can end the decline and give fans reason to be hopeful long-term. It's just a shame he's unlikely to get enough time to do it.