Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL - BY BARN­ABY CH­ESTER­MAN

IT HAS been a frus­trat­ing sum­mer for AC Mi­lan fans, but the club’s owner is urg­ing them to put their faith in the Brazil­ian foot­balling ver­sion of 100m rocket Usain Bolt for the com­ing sea­son.

Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni, who is also the Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter, be­lieves that in for­mer Barcelona ace Ronald­inho, the seven-time Euro­pean cham­pi­ons have a man ca­pa­ble of wow­ing the world in the way that sprint world record holder Bolt has th­ese last two years.

That is roughly the same pe­riod dur­ing which Ron­adlinho has stopped shin­ing like a star in the sky, but Ber­lus­coni be­lieves he could do so again.

Speak­ing fol­low­ing the Ber­lus­coni Cup, in which Mi­lan beat great ri­vals Ju­ven­tus on penal­ties for only their sec­ond pre­sea­son suc­cess in 11 at­tempts – they lost eight of those matches – the Italy PM said the samba ma­gi­cian could bris­tle again.

“Our Usain Bolt is called Ronald­inho. He used to be the dream of all sports­men the world over – and he can be again,” said Ber­lus­coni, who was im­pressed with the Brazil­ian’s show­ing against Ju­ven­tus on Mon­day.

“I liked what I saw. He played off the front men, in the heart of the action and on the edge of the penalty box, a vi­tal posi­ti­tion that her­alds many free kicks, penal­ties, mag­i­cal as­sists and goals.”

Mi­lan will need to pro­duce some­thing spe­cial from some­where if they are to lift the doom and gloom from the red and black half of the San Siro.

Dur­ing the off-sea­son they lost for­mer world player of the year Kaka to Real Madrid, tal­is­man Paolo Mal­dini to re­tire­ment and saw David Beck­ham and An­drei Shevchenko leave fol­low­ing the end of their loan spells.

On top of that, Mi­lan have not won Serie A since 2004, and fin­ished 10 points be­hind cham­pi­ons and city ri­vals In­ter Mi­lan last sea­son.

Their fans were hop­ing for a raft of mar­quee sign­ings to boost their chances this cam­paign, but in­stead their only no­table ad­di­tion has been Dutch for­ward Klaas Jan Huntelaar from Real.

Cen­tre-backs Oguchi Onyewu and Thi­ago Silva have joined, but nei­ther will be ex­pected to make the dif­fer­ence this sea­son.

And Huntelaar, de­spite be­ing a reg­u­lar goalscorer, is no sub­sti­tute for Kaka, but Ber­lus­coni says fans should not lament those that are de­parted.

“Foot­ball was not in­vented by Kaka nor (Marco) Van Bas­ten,” he said, re­fer­ring to the dis­ap­point­ment many fans felt at the ap­point­ment of Leonardo as new Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti’s re­place­ment, rather than the for­mer Mi­lan for­ward, a fans’ favourite.

“In foot­ball the stars, the saints and the he­roes change; you shouldn’t feel nos­tal­gic about any­one,” he added be­fore clos­ing the door on any fur­ther sign­ings.

“It’s wedged shut, al­though there are sev­eral play­ers who could be sold.”

With the in­com­ing door closed, Mi­lan need to find some- thing ex­tra from within, which could ex­plain Ber­lus­coni’s at­tempts to boost the Brazil­ian’s morale. “We bought Ronald­inho be­cause he’s num­ber one in the world, no-one else has a player like him,” he added.

How­ever, per­haps more sig­nif­i­cantly, Leonardo is not so sure about Ronald­inho’s abil­ity to re­pro­duce past glo­ries.

“Ronald­inho is a player like all the oth­ers, avail­able for se­lec­tion like every­one else, but he has to step up to the plate, he’s a great tal­ent,” said the coach.

“He’s putting the work in, but he’s still got to find some con­sis­tency. If you’re talk­ing about the Ronald­inho of three or four years ago, he’s a long way away from that, but with re­spect to the last few years, he seems bet­ter to me.

“He’s done al­most all the prepa­ra­tion work, he’s had a few good games (in pre-sea­son). He’s still a player who can make the dif­fer­ence, though.” – Sapa-AFP

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