AC Milan On the Rise Again

Frank TiganiCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2011

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 20:  Antonio Cassano, Robinho, Alexander Merkel and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan celebrate scoring the first goal during the Tim Cup match between Milan and Bari at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on January 20, 2011 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The past few seasons have been difficult for Milan and frustrating for the club’s fans. The club has seemingly been unwilling to invest in a side that had become increasingly dependent on yesterday’s star players along with a few modest younger players.

The result has been that the club has not won a trophy since that glorious year of 2007. Most painstakingly, in this time Milan fans have had to watch city rivals Infer collect consecutive Scudetti and last year the Champions League as well.

But this season, things have changed dramatically and, it has to be said, finally. The club’s two leading supremos engineered a master stroke during last summer when they landed Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It was an unexpected transfer, but a most welcome one at that.

Following the capture of Ibrahimovic, the club secured another major coup when they signed Robinho just before the close of the summer transfer window.

Like Ibrahimovic, Robinho too has his critics. However, there can be no doubting that both Robinho and Ibrahimovic are two world-class footballers. Their arrival has made Milan a far stronger side this season and the club’s No. 1 position in the Serie A is a testament to this.

Despite the fact that Milan were "winter champions" this season, on the opening day of the January transfer window the club signed yet another world-class attacker in Antonio Cassano.

The fact that the club already possessed the likes of Alexandre Pato along with the two recent arrivals of Ibrahimovic and Robinho, yet still found reason enough to further strengthen the squad by bringing in Cassano was another sign of their growing ambitions.

Cassano, like Ibrahimovic and Robinho, also has his detractors, built up from his career defining mental outbursts that have chequered his progress as a professional footballer. Nonetheless, the club can now boast one of the most feared attacks in all of Europe.

In addition, the club has been wily in the players that they have chosen to pursue. Ibrahimovic, for instance, was no longer wanted in Barcelona, so the Spanish giants welcomed Milan’s offer to take him off their hands, even just for a season to start.

When this season comes to an end, Milan will have first option to buy the player for what will be a much reduced fee compared to the one that Barcelona forked out to buy the Swede from Inter in 2009.

Likewise, Robinho, who was looking for a way back to Europe to reignite his career after his exile in Brazil, represented another wise purchase by the club. A world-class talent no less, surprisingly there were few suitors especially of the caliber of Milan that showed any interest in the Selecao star.

For this reason, Milan—a side with a significant contingent of Brazilians already—greatly appealed to the former Real Madrid star and the transfer deal as a result was one that did not "break the bank", so to speak.

Milan’s most clever transfer this season, however, has to be the signing of Antonio Cassano. Incredibly sacked by Sampdoria president Riccardo Garrone, Cassano came to the club without requiring a transfer fee.

Admittedly, the former Bari prodigy has proved to be a volatile character his whole career and taking him on has its risks. However, at 28 years of age, FanAntonio seems to have matured and if his performances with the Rossoneri so far are anything to go by, then it may just prove to be the transfer of the season.

Yet, Milan’s transfer dealings for the season do not end here. Over the weekend, Adriano Galliani announced another purchase by the club in securing the signature of Ajax left back Urby Emmanuelson.

A player not spoken of in the same vein as Cassano, Robinho or Ibra, Emmanuelson’s arrival will still significantly strengthen Milan in an area of the field that has been problematic for the club.

A Dutch international and a player that already has appeared for Ajax over 150 times at 24 years of age, Emmanuelson will inject some youth, quality and speed into Max Allegri’s side.

Given his contract was due to expire in July, Milan was able to pick up the Ajax youth product for a modest sum in what represented yet another cunning transfer move by the club.

After the announcement of Emmanuelson’s arrival, Galliani hinted that the club still had business to finish in the current transfer window when he was quoted saying, “There is still a week of market left and we will try not to throw it away." 

The club’s next target appears to by Bayern Munich captain Mark van Bommel. At 33 years of age, he does not represent a long-term option for the club. Nonetheless, his arrival in Milan will strongly aid the club’s push for honors this season, and next season also, should he stay.

Tough in the tackle and a competent passer of the ball too, if van Bommel does sign with the club he will inject some much-needed depth into the Milan midfield.

All the steps the club has taken this year to strengthen the squad at Allegri’s disposal have made it clear that once again the club has big ambitions.

With Allegri at the helm—a coach who has done magnificently to blend his new additions into a team containing veterans like Ambrosini, Gattuso and Pirlo, along with younger prospects like Alexander Merkel and Ignazio Abate—after years of disillusionment, the club finally seems back on the right track. Milan is again on the rise.