It is quite ironic that Massimiliano Allegri’s surname means “cheerful”, as so far this season the AC Milan manager has had little to be cheerful about as his position as AC Milan head coach hangs in the balance.
AC Milan’s 2-1 defeat at Udinese on Sunday was the clubs third loss in four league games this season, coming on the back of the Rossoneri‘s worst start to a Serie A season in over 80 years. The result left AC Milan – who finished the game with nine men – nine points away from league leaders and defending champions Juventus and just two points above the relegation zone. Granted, it is a bad start to AC Milan’s season, but many argue it isn’t Allegri’s fault.
Success has been short lived for Allegri; he is a coach that guided Milan to their first Scudetto in seven years during his first season in charge at the club and only missed out on retaining the title last year after a severe injury crisis and Juventus’ freakish unbeaten campaign. At the end of May, Allegri was a man still in the ascendancy, highly-rated by many as one of Italy’s brightest young talents, but things in football change quickly.
The summer seemed to set the tone for the start of this season after maverick president Silvio Berlusconi sacrificed big spending sprees onto the financial fair play’s altar (I wonder whether he personally cut his alleged prostitute spend down?). AC Milan are not the first to take such an approach and some would even agree it is sensible, but how can you reason with Rossoneri fans after the summer’s big name departures.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva swapped Milan’s catwalks for the gold-laden path into French football that is Paris Saint Germain, and whilst the move provided a substantial boost to the club finances, it did little for confidence or morale. Antonio Cassano didn’t help matters as the enigmatic striker cited the departures of Ibrahimovic and Silva as the main reason behind his transfer request and eventual move to Inter Milan.
There have been arrivals in the form of Italian international’s Riccardo Montolivo and Giampaolo Pazzini who were joined by Nigel de Jong and Bojan Krkic, but it felt like the club lacked a clear recruitment strategy as the majority of this business was done towards the end of the window. This has worked against Allegri, whilst he has also had his fair share of bad luck after losing both Alex Pato and Robinho to injury.
The departures of the “old guard” that had brought the club so much success over the 2000s – Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf – have not helped matters as the club enters a period of transition. AC Milan haven’t just lost talented players, they have lost dressing-room leaders – this has all worked against Allegri and arguably none of it is his fault.
With results mounting pressure on the young Italian’s shoulders, media reports of a bust-up and altercation with former Milan legend, and now Milan Academy coach, Filippo Inzaghi did little to help the situation as they hit the front page of popular sport newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.
On Friday the two then released a statement to the club’s TV channel to play down the incident, offering assurances that they are pulling in the same direction and the success of the club was of paramount importance to both of them. In reality the relationship between Inzaghi and Allegri has never been an easy one, with Superpippo feeling marginalised by his manager during the twilight of his career, but none of this helps Allegri’s case.
Inzaghi’s former teammate Alessandro Nesta, now playing with Montreal Impact in the MLS, described the incident as a “childish act”, one from which the club should move on quickly.
The legendary defender was less explicit when asked if Allegri’s days at the San Siro were numbered: “This isn’t the first time Milan struggle at the beginning of the season. When I was at the club we had bad starts but always recovered and went on to be successful.
“Sacking Allegri? I don’t really know who could replace him.”
Allegri himself is defiant about the danger of waving arrivederci to his job: “Talk of sacking me makes no sense. Not from my part nor that of the club.”
Being sacked might sound like a non-sensical decision to Allegri – who amassed 162 points over the last two seasons, more than any other manager in Serie A – but Silvio Berlusconi’s verdict following the 0-0 against Anderlecht in the Champions League on Tuesday was a damning one: “Milan were shameful, if there was a buyer I would sell up now.”
Many fans would welcome such decision with a sigh of relief, comparable to the one drawn by many Italians when the TV tycoon announced his retirement from the Italian political scene. Some fans appear to have lost faith in the club, but it seems the club have lost faith in Allegri to deflect the attention away from the board.
As Allegri watches his AC Milan side take on his former club Cagliari from the stands on Wednesday night, his fate could be decided by the team where he forged his reputation. Allegri’s AC Milan career will be defined by things like bad luck and irony, but not by factors in his control as one of Italy’s most promising young managers prepares for a sacking he doesn’t deserve.
What’s the future for AC Milan? Surely the media are just talking this up and Allegri deserves longer in charge? Let us know your view on the situation or Italian football in general – leave your comments below or get in touch with us via Facebook or Twitter, we want your opinions.