Does European Football Suffer Without Having AC Milan?May 9, 2016
One route to AC Milan's European football ambitions was shutdown this weekend. Four points behind fifth-place Fiorentina, the Italian giants (in brand recognition anyway) cannot reach the top five with one match remaining in Serie A.
The best way for the San Siro's red half to play European football in 2016/17 is beating the defending Coppa Italia champions, Juventus, at Rome's Stadio Olimpico. It seems a tall order—considering Milan have not beaten Juventus since November 2012—but one must consider the possibility of miracles, or perhaps even flukes.
Once-manager Sinisa Mihajlovic was relieved of his duties almost one month ago—after two league defeats to Atalanta and (ironically) Juve. His replacement from Milan Primavera, Cristian Brocchi, has dropped seven of the 15 Serie A points available to him.
Taken from the classic textbook "My Football Club Is Sinking, What Should I Do Next?" Milan's acting president Silvio Berlusconi elected to sack the former Sampdoria boss, hoping for a late-season turn around; it has not gone to plan in league terms, but the Coppa Italia could bail everyone out (except Mihajlovic).
It seems a scandalous state of affairs when AC Milan are hoping for the UEFA Europa League next season, but that is where the Rossoneri are stationed.
Need we reminding the Italian side are five-time Coppa Italia winners, 18-time Serie A holders and seven-time European champion. Their current condition as mid-table dwellers is simply shocking. From the top, down—Milan leak confusion. There appears no clear direction, no sense of purpose or clarity; it boggles the mind for those who remember when they were Europe's best club.
To now crave the Europa League is almost unbecoming.
Some consider the competition another avenue to Champions League football. The likes of Sevilla have used UEFA's new policy to their advantage—they and Liverpool will seek to access the UCL via the backdoor this season.
The question, though, should be: "Should clubs like Liverpool or Milan need back-alley ways to secure Champisons League football?" Whatever the correct answer, the fact this question exists shows how far once-upon-a-time superclubs can fall from grace.
Given its prestige, Europe needs AC Milan. It can survive without them, but something is inherently wrong when their red and black stripes are not seen under European floodlights. The Europa League would be a start in the right direction (as it would mean the club's first major trophy since 2010/11) but that cannot be an accepted benchmark of success—because it isn't.
How can the only game of Champions League football at the San Siro since 2013/14 be the upcoming final?
These happenings would be laughable, were they not as depressing.
Milan might be better served—using another line of thinking—by missing the Europa League altogether, and focusing their attention on returning to Italy's top three next season. The UEL's Thursday schedule and long-distance traveling wreaks havoc on domestic ambitions.
Thus, would another season of subpar Serie A showing be worth the Coppa Italia and European nights for one season?
Only if Milan are willing to invest and aggressively pursue UEFA's second-class honour.
Anything less would be wasting time, and critical body blow to whatever rebuilding mission the Rossoneri have planned for 2016/17—assuming there even is a plan.
*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.