Ros­soneri re­vival

AC Mi­lan may be sur­prise lead­ers of the Serie A but it is the re­build­ing job that awaits man­ager Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri which will de­ter­mine his and the club’s destiny this sea­son.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - By NANTHA KU­MAR

AC Mi­lan may be the sur­prise lead­ers of the Serie A but it is the re­build­ing job that awaits man­ager Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri which will de­ter­mine his and the club’s destiny this sea­son.

Anoraks and jour­nal­ists of­ten have the same rea­son to la­dle out quirky facts – they have this prickly need to im­press – and the point where they de­vi­ate is quite clear. The foot­ball nerd just wants to put one over his mates in the pub, per­haps win an­other round of drinks while the hacks play them up to pad up their match re­ports or sen­sa­tion­alise a non-story.

af­ter the Derby della Madon­nina last sun­day, the statis­tics were in ram­pant flow. We were du­ti­fully in­formed that aC Mi­lan have not beaten In­ter­nazionale Mi­lano since the Cal­ciopoli match-fix­ing scan­dal of 2006. The 0-1 de­feat was the first suf­fered by the ner­az­zurri at home since March 2008 (the ros­soneri play­ing as the vis­i­tors at the san siro). Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic’s penalty in­side the first five min­utes set­tled the match last week­end. Even be­fore the clash, this was al­ready In­ter’s worst start to a league cam­paign since Jose Mour­inho’s serie a de­but in 2008/09.

rafael Ben­itez’s charges have now dropped 16 out of 36 points. They are in the fifth po­si­tion, six points short of their ta­ble top­ping city ri­vals.

Their stealthy rise has seen the at­ten­tion shift from pre­vi­ous league lead­ers Lazio and napoli and Mi­lan are spo­ken gen­uinely as po­ten­tial scud­etto win­ners. Lazio and napoli, sec­ond and third re­spec­tively, form a buf­fer be­tween Mi­lan and the usual con­tenders, In­ter, Ju­ven­tus and as roma.

at this point in time, the talk is of Mi­lan’s re­vival un­der Mas­si­m­il­iano “Max” al­le­gri.

at least one prom­i­nent fig­ure from the ri­val camp has trum­peted Mi­lan’s chances this week. In the process, Gian­luigi Buf­fon de­liv­ered an un­flat­ter­ing ver­dict on Ju­ven­tus’ prospects when he de­clared that fin­ish­ing close to the ros­soneri would rep­re­sent suc­cess for the Turin out­fit.

There are six months more to go be­fore any club are crowned cham­pi­ons yet, as though to con­firm Buf­fon’s fears, al­le­gri feels that he has not built the Mi­lan team of his de­sire. His ruth­less­ness is ex­pected to bring in more changes be­fore the sea­son takes a break next month.

In the last three games – matches that wit­nessed a sharp in­crease in Mi­lan’s bear­ing – al­le­gri had re­placed the way­ward ronald­inho with the tac­ti­cally more dis­ci­plined Clarence see­dorf.

as al­le­gri had as­signed de­fen­sive du­ties to Gen­naro Gat­tuso, Mas­simo am­brosini and Mathieu Flamini, the Dutch­man has had an eas­ier time pay­ing back his coach’s faith in him with ex­cel­lent turns in the de­mand­ing tre­quartista po­si­tion: in the hole be­hind the main strik­ers.

The pres­ence of Ibrahi­movic and robinho has also pro­vided see­dorf – a player blessed with an amaz­ing ver­sa­til­ity – with greater free­dom to pro­vide an ad­di­tional at­tack­ing threat. Mi­lan’s mid­field may be groan­ing with time – Gat­tuso, am­brosini and Flamini have a com­bined age of 91– but is im­pos­si­ble to find an­other mid-sec­tion with that type of ex­pe­ri­ence. sim­i­larly, the value of a foot­baller like see­dorf, while con­tribut­ing 34 years on his own, can­not be tracked along these lines.

Mi­lan’s sea­soned play­ers have been blamed in the past three sea­sons for hold­ing back the progress of the team at the same the ef­fec­tive­ness of the Mi­lan Lab – the fa­mous med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion cred­ited for ex­tend­ing the ca­reers of ev­ery­one from the re­tired Paolo Mal­dini to the of­ten in­jured Filippo In­za­ghi – has been silently ques­tioned. It is not guar­an­teed that the likes of Gat­tuso (33 in two months’ time), am­brosini (33), an­drea Pirlo (31), alessandro nesta (35 in March), Gianluca Zam­brotta (34 in Fe­bru­ary), In­za­ghi (37) and see­dorf are ca­pa­ble of main­tain­ing their form and shape un­til next May.

This is where the can­ni­ness of san siro man­age­rial debu­tant al­le­gri will even­tu­ally tell. al­le­gri was not high on the list of pri­mary clubs in Italy, never mind Europe, and it is still a mys­tery as to why Mi­lan courted and con­vinced the for­mer Cagliari boss to suc­ceed Leonardo. When their ap­proach was made, al­le­gri was out in the cold at Cagliari, af­ter his man­age­rial ten­ure was cut short in april.

af­ter guid­ing the ros­soblu to ninth place in sea­son 2008/09, he could only man­age a place out­side the top 10 and last term and was re­placed by the Cagliari youth coach be­fore he could com­plete the cam­paign.

as such his se­lec­tion caused doubts to be raised loudly: Leonardo, a re­spected for­mer Mi­lan player, could not han­dle the egos that bounced around in their dress­ing room and the pres­sure that came from all cor­ners. What were the odds that an un­her­alded in­di­vid­ual would re­turn the ros­soneri to cham­pi­onship chas­ing ma­te­rial? The nu­cleus of the team that tri­umphed in the Cham­pi­ons League 2007 was still in­tact when al­le­gri was handed the reins in mid-June.

In terms of line-up alone, the ros­soneri are still a team to fear and re­spect. The fact that they have yet to win the scud­etto in the last six sea­sons – the clos­est they came dur­ing this pe­riod was when they ended up as the run­ners-up to Ju­ven­tus in the sham sea­son 2004/05 – and have been per­form­ing poorly in the Cham­pi­ons League had alarmed the club hi­er­ar­chy. al­le­gri’s fast es­tab­lished stand­ing in the serie a – he was voted as the man­ager of the sea­son twice in a row by his peers and his trans­for­ma­tion of Cagliari into an at­tack­ing unit on a nar­row bud­get and key player ex­its - won over the Mi­lan club.

Mi­lan, of course, is where rep­u­ta­tion is made or man­gled. The gam­ble on the 43year-old was akin to the one that silvio Ber­lus­coni took on an­other ris­ing coach­ing star, ar­rigo sac­chi in 1986. Ber­lus­coni, in his sec­ond stint as the club pres­i­dent, is ea­ger for sil­ver­ware and has pro­vided al­le­gri with two mav­er­ick tal­ent in Ibrahi­movic and robinho. The swede and Brazil­ian would en­sure that he has his work cut out for him and, in true fashion, it ar­rived when Ibrahi­movic had a train­ing ground bust-up with de­fender oguchi onyewu in full view of sup­port­ers early this month.

The club cov­ered it up with clichés – vicepres­i­dent adri­ano Gal­liani claimed that the brawl was “a good sign” – and the derby win helped put a dis­tance be­tween the in­ci­dent and the eu­pho­ria of scal­ing the sum­mit of the serie a last sun­day. al­le­gri has earned him­self a lot of breath­ing space though the re­build­ing of the squad and the quest for glory are the de­ter­min­ing fac­tors in the longevity of his ca­reer at the san siro. These are also is­sues that are not within al­le­gri’s con­trol.

He is very much de­pen­dent on Gal­liani mak­ing the pur­chases that could grad­u­ally re­place the likes of Pirlo, Gat­tuso, Zam­brotta, In­za­ghi, nesta, see­dorf and am­brosini. This is a huge task, even in­con­ceiv­able in the hands of the un­trained, and Gal­liani must op­er­ate with lesser fi­nan­cial clout to beat big­ger ri­vals from the Premier League, La Liga and serie a it­self for the sig­na­tures of out­stand­ing play­ers.

The no­tion that Mi­lan might not hold out the al­lure of old has been crushed with the sign­ing of Ibrahi­movic and robinho, which has also bur­nished Gal­liani’s sense of self. He now must demon­strate that am­bi­tion again if al­le­gri and the ros­soneri were to main­tain their pole po­si­tion.

Dan­ger­ous duo: AC Mi­lan’s Robinho and Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic have found a new spark for them­selves at San Siro.

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