7 Most Frustrating Things About Being an AC Milan Fan Right Now
Milan's struggles over the last few seasons have given their fans plenty to be disgruntled about. Without a trophy since 2011 and having finished outside Serie A's top six for two years in a row, the club has turned to Sinisa Mihajlovic to bring about improved fortunes.
The new coach, along with several new players, breeds optimism, but ultimately there remain a number of areas of frustration in which Milanisti would like to see change.
These include strategic issues that could influence future performance, such as Milan's youth policy—or lack of one—and the club's approach to the transfer market, as well as unfortunate present day realities brought about by poor past performance.
Whether relating to circumstances on the pitch or away from it, here we dissect the seven most frustrating things about being a Milan fan right now.
No European Competition
Milan have a history littered with wonderful successes on the continent. Nereo Rocco guided the club to two European Cups and two European Cup Winners’ Cups in the 1960s and 70s. Around two decades later, Arrigo Sacchi led Milan to two successive European Cups and Super Cups.
More recently, under Carlo Ancelotti's management, Milan won Champions Leagues and Super Cups in 2003 and 2007, though currently the club is enduring a second consecutive season without any European football to speak of. It’s an astonishing plight considering the club’s aforementioned proud traditions.
Qualification for the Champions League has become harder in recent seasons with Serie A’s co-efficient permitting only the top three a crack at Europe’s major club competition. Despite this, it is still poor for Milan—one of Italy’s big three along with Juventus and Internazionale—to have failed to make the cut two years running.
For a club like Milan the financial repercussions of not qualifying for the Champions League can be severe. Putting any monetary qualms aside, there is still a degree of embarrassment that the Rossoneri have consistently failed even in pursuit of Europa League football.
Early Coppa Entry
Milan’s season began earlier than many of their main Serie A rivals with a home game against Perugia in the third round of the Coppa Italia.
Usually the club would enter the domestic cup competition just prior to the quarter-finals, but this tradition was broken by their finishing outside of Serie A’s top eight last season for the first time in 16 years.
The Perugia match—which Milan comfortably won 2-0—acted as a good warm up for the league season, but Milan’s cup travails aren’t over yet; they will have to beat Crotone to join the likes of Inter, Juventus, Roma and Napoli in the round of 16.
Given the gulf between Milan and the Serie B opponents they have been matched with so far in the cup, there is reasonable doubt as to how much the team actually gains from playing them.
The clash with Crotone will take place on Tuesday 1 December, in between league games against Sampdoria and newly-promoted Carpi. Given the need for Milan to improve their league performance this season, the additional cup games could be viewed as a hindrance rather than a help.
Little Chance for Youth
One of the most frustrating themes of recent times for Milan fans has been the selling off of the club’s finest young talent, especially when only to see those homegrown prospects replaced by cast-offs from other clubs.
This issue has grown as part of a short-term vision that has restricted the club in the post-Carlo Ancelotti era. The likes of Matteo Darmian, Alberto Paloschi and Bryan Cristante were given short shrift in the first team before being sold on.
The exodus of youth only harmed the club, with a lack of succession planning meaning that when the likes of Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf left no promising players coming up through the ranks had a chance to replace them.
Thankfully, this attitude seems to be changing under new coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who has given opportunities to Rodrigo Ely and M’Baye Niang, as well as pre-season outings for Gianluigi Donnarumma and Davide Calabria.
Scattergun Transfer Policy
Coupled with the sale of homegrown players, Milan’s short-termism has been augmented further by a scattergun transfer policy centred on signing free transfers and reduced price players who are either well past their best or plainly not good enough.
Not only has this transfer policy reduced space for young players hoping to make the grade, but it has also led to a ghastly amount of deadwood in the Rossoneri squad that remains to this day.
Even after a summer of change, Milan still have Philippe Mexes, Suso, Cristian Zapata, Antonio Nocerino, Gabriel Paletta, Alex and Cristian Zaccardo on their books and in the first-team squad. None of those mentioned belongs anywhere near a team with Scudetto ambitions.
Adriano Galliani's Presence
Milan have made a bad habit of announcing, and then missing out on, transfer targets. A prime example of this happened over the summer, when the club very publicly pursued Colombian striker Jackson Martinez and French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia.
The club missed out on both, with the former joining Atletico Madrid and the latter opting to sign for city rivals Internazionale, a decision which only rubbed salt into Rossoneri wounds.
The man blamed for these failed bidding wars as well as the rest of Milan’s issues in the transfer market is club vice-president, Adriano Galliani.
After losing out on Martinez and Kondogbia, the 70-year-old tried to put a positive slant on the situation, telling Gazzetta dello Sport (via Football Italia):
"If we save €40 million on Kondogbia and €35 million on Jackson Martinez we’ll have another €75 million to spend wisely over the rest of the transfer window."
Milan fans didn’t buy the premise of the failure to sign two targets being sold as cost saving and, even though the club spent on bringing in multiple new additions in the proceeding weeks, Milanisti are unlikely to forget Galliani’s latest transfer market blunders.
Milan are a club in transition right now. With a new majority owner, a new coach, many new players and a potential new stadium on the way, instability is rife.
The primary source of this comes from the pitch, where Sinisa Mihajlovic is still trying to implement his tactics, while the new arrivals are still adjusting to his ideas and settling at the club.
Because of the upheaval, it will take time for Mihajlovic’s team to fully take shape and find consistency within his tactical framework. However, time is something that has been in short supply for Milan managers in recent years.
The likelihood is that Mihajlovic will be given the requisite amount of time to prove himself, as will the new players, but the club and its fans have grand ambitions. A top-three Serie A finish is the aim and the new-look team will have to gel quickly in order to achieve it.
As city rivals and long-standing competitors, Milan and Internazionale are inextricably linked to one another. Their antagonism is fuelled by schadenfreude, although the strange current circumstances give little room for much bragging—Inter, like Milan, have struggled in recent seasons.
The Nerazzurri have fallen swiftly from grace, failing to build on their Champions League success of 2010 and finishing outside the top three in each of the last four seasons. Their eighth-placed finish last season meant they too did not qualify for European competition.
This in turn meant that, for the first time in 60 years, both of the Milan giants would spend a season untroubled by continental affairs.
Although Milan fans may find some solace in their rivals’ failings, they must also be frustrated not to have finished above such an average Inter team for two consecutive years; something they will be desperate to see rectified in the 2015/16 season.