In recent years no club has done more to cement it's European legacy than the Milan giants. Since 2003 Milan have won two European Crowns and lost a final (that unforgettable 3-3 against Liverpool).
This past season though Milan had an extremely lacklustre campaign chiefly caused by their participation in the World Club Championships held in the Far East, Where an old and tired team lifted the crown after beating South American powerhouse Boca Juniors in the final.
Due to this tournament Milan had to play catch up in Serie A for the rest of the season whilst their star man World Footballer Of The Year, Kaka was plagued by injuries and Milan managed to finish a lowly fifth and missed the Champions League spot, which for a team challenging FC Barcelona and Liverpool as the third greatest football club in the world is nothing short of humiliating (the first two being Real Madrid and Manchester United respectively).
After the Champions League winning campaign of the 2006/2007 season only one meaningful transfer was made which wouldn't come into effect until January of that season and that was of Brazilian prodigy Alexandre Pato, who's arrival in league football immediately bore fruit with nine goals coming from his 18 appearances. The real problem for Milan was that since they had just become Champions of Europe for the seventh time, they had no real reason to strengthen, after all this was the side which had humiliated Champions League favourites Manchester United 3-0 in one of the most stunning European performances since their 4-0 demolition of Barcelona in that fateful Champions League final night.
The fact of the matter was that although Maldini is still one of the top defenders in world football today he will not be able to perform with anywhere near the consistency required at top level football due to the fact that he is nearing the age of 41 as we speak and the rest of the Milan back line, with the exception of the sublime Nesta are just either to old or to reliant on past glories to be representing a club of Milan's stature.
In midfield though still a feared force in Italian football Gattuso seems to have lost his legs, Seedorf can't stop picking fights, Pirlo has too much of the workload and not enough of the plaudits and Kaka will probably have his career end far too early in Van Basten-esque style as he is kicked every time he would touch the ball.
Striker Inzaghi can still get the goals but he is injured too often, Teenage prodigy Paloschi is to inexperienced to carry the burden, Pato still has a lot to learn and Sheva coming back might end up being nothing more than an exercise in futility. The transfer of Borriello has me unconvinced as I see him as the new Girlardino.
The GK position has been somewhat of a problem for Milan for quite some time now as Dida is one of the best... On his day which is once every few seasons, Kalac is about as useful as a snooze button on a fire alarm, Abbiati seems to be the only competant alternative for Milan and If backed properly could be above average.
Now onto the positives of last season. Milan managed to make what I feel was the coup of the summer in the shape of a Bosman for Flamini, just last season he was contemplating a move to Birmingham and is now one of the top holding midfielders in Europe and at 24 can provide Milan with the much needed youth, vigour and bite that the Milan midfield has been seen to be lacking recently.
Ronaldinho seems to have mixed opinions with his arrival to the Rossoneri as many seem to believe he is over the hill and over-weight and lacks motivation. However I feel that Milan has a history of making players who have lost their groove into world beaters yet again cases in point Cafu, Jaap Stam, Clarence Seedorf, Filipo Inzaghi. If he gets anywhere even close to his majestic best than we might just see him win another trophy or two.
Milan still lack out and out wingers but than again do they really need that much width, Milan of new have never been a team that focuses on midfield width, instead we rely on our full-backs to bomb forward and our two hold in midfielders to back up and close the gap and Zambrotta, though no spring chicken has proven he still has the legs to be a fantastic defender as well as a threat going forward.
As I write this Milan have confirmed the signing of Arsenal CB Philipe Senderos and I think this could also prove to be a good back up for the CB position, Senderos has been known to be error prone but is strong, good in the air, sharp in his tackles and alongside Maldini and Nesta is surely going to improve, Milan have all they need to lift the Scudetto!
This new season brings a lot of hope for the Milan faithful, big signings, shrewd coups and a good mix of faces new and old (Borriello and Shevchenko) Milan look to regain their status as Colussus' of Europe once again, The clock is ticking for Carlo Ancelotti and with rumours of Milan legends Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten chomping at the bit to manage the club which made them icons, the pressure is surely on Carlo.
Players like Pato, Paloschi and Flamini seem to be the future of Milan and hopefully with Kaka making a comeback to his imperious best and Ronaldinho losing a few kilos, being fed by Pirlo and riled on by Gattuso a resurgent Milan will challenge the Manchester United's and Chelsea's of this club.
Now the question is what does Ancelotti play, does he go for the 4-3-2-1 he prefers or the 4-3-1-2 Galliani demands, if he plays either way he is well equipped for both:
CB's: Nesta, Sendros/Maldini
RB, LB: Zambrotta and Jankulovski
CMF, CMF: Pirlo and Seedorf
AMF, AMF: Ronaldinho and Kaka