Take a look Vincenzo Montella’s coaching CV, and it’s hard to believe he’s only 40. He hasn’t coached any of the traditionally big clubs, but he’s done a lot with the little he’s had.
Montella had a pretty good career as a striker, but he’s now making a pretty name for himself as a manager. And he is exactly what AC Milan could use: a young coach who is not afraid to get creative and take the initiative.
His first glimpse of success came at Catania during the 2011-12 campaign. He turned a low-level club into one just short of Europe. He was not afraid to tinker with a 3-5-2 formation—which he has used since—and he was not afraid to take on the heavyweights of the league. That year, Catania tied Juventus and Milan (before they went broke) and beat Inter. They even finished ahead of rival Palermo in the standings.
In just one year with Catania, Montella changed everything. Then he left for Fiorentina and did the same thing over there.
He commanded a brand-new squad at the Tuscan club. Seventeen new players arrived that first season, including Juan Cuadrado, his crown jewel. Montella built his Fiorentina around Cuadrado and assisted the Colombian’s development.
Before coming to Fiorentina, Cuadrado bounced around Serie A without much aim. It was only under Montella that he had the environment to flourish.
But it wasn’t only Cuadrado. Montella made a journeyman like Borja Valero a vital part of his team, and the Spanish midfielder responded with the most goals of any time in his career.
Altogether, Montella’s time at Fiorentina has been spectacular. He has lifted the club to back-to-back fourth-place finishes with a winning percentage over 50 percent. Last year too Montella also guided Fiorentina to the Coppa Italia final, which they lost to Napoli. And they are chasing Europe again this year despite crucial injuries to Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi throughout the season.
It’s not his achievements that should push Milan to consider Montella; it’s how he’s gotten there. In relatively little time, he has made the most of his situation despite major changes in the squad. Montella is just consistent.
He is what Filippo Inzaghi could be. Inzaghi and Montella started as youth coaches, and both were thrust into head coaching posts before they were really ready, Inzaghi at Milan and Montella at Roma.
But Milan cannot afford to hold Inzaghi’s hand. He needs experience at a lower level, perhaps with a team like Catania, where he can experiment without the constant burden of expectations.
Montella has had the chance to make mistakes; Inzaghi is making them right now. So hiring Montella is essentially fast-forwarding.
Milan would get a manager who doesn’t necessarily demand much and someone who can get the best of the players he has. Inzaghi has not been able to do that.
Montella is also great with the media, and he tells it like it is. He has already moved on from Cuadrado, who left for Chelsea in January.
“We celebrated with him because he is going to play in a great environment,” Montella said, per Goal.com, “but we must look at the present and, above all, to the future with the players we've got, who give us ample opportunities.”
Here he is again, doing what he can with what he has. He could work within a budget at Milan. More importantly, he is ready to take another step.
The only problem is that he’s still working. Montella has a contract with La Viola until 2017. Milan would have to negotiate some sort of severance package with Fiorentina, and they would have to keep on paying Inzaghi and Clarence Seedorf, who is effectively on gardening leave.
The Rossoneri would be paying three managers at once. But the price could be worth it in the end.