Despite a recent mini-renaissance Clarence Seedorf, this season has proved to be one of much doom and gloom for the Rossoneri faithful.
On the verge of missing out of European qualification for the first time in 16 years, knocked out by Atletico Madrid in the first knockout round of the Champions League and bundled out by Udinese in the Coppa Italia quarterfinals, it is fair to say that AC Milan have endured one of their poorer seasons in some time.
Here are four possible reasons why the Diavolo have fared so poorly this season.
Injuries have played a major part in Milan’s dismal season, with the side unable to cope with a raft of serious injuries to many important players. Young star Stephan El Shaarawy just made his comeback against Atalanta on the weekend after a foot injury had kept him out since last year.
First choice fullbacks Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio have also missed large chunks of the season due to recurring injuries, while the same can be said of prolific marksman Giampaolo Pazzini. That’s four important cogs in the side that have missed hefty amounts of the season due to injuries, and unfortunately for the Rossoneri, they have failed to satisfactorily deal with these setbacks.
Even though Milan’s January venture in the transfer market somewhat rectified the disastrous summer transfer window, the Diavolo fans had to endure. The club still had an overall disappointing mercato over the course of the season.
Key midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng was inexplicably shipped out to Schalke for €12 million, while flop-of-the-season Alessandro Matri was brought in from Juventus for the same amount. One meager goal in five months meant that he was sent to Fiorentina in January.
Cristian Zapata and Kevin Constant’s loans were both turned into permanent moves despite the fact that they are clearly not top level material, while Milan fans were still wondering why the club went out and signed catastrophic duo Valter Birsa and Matias Silvestre from Genoa and Inter respectively. Both have been largely fringe players for the side and have blocked the path for more promising juniors at the club.
Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda was brought in from CSKA Moscow in January with much fanfare, but his performances have been largely underwhelming, while Michael Essien’s free transfer from Chelsea was also a slap in the face for Milan fans as he was clearly past his best.
Adil Rami, Adel Taarabt, Andrea Poli and Kaka have all been decent acquisitions but there are still many question marks about those players as well. Worryingly, there are serious doubts whether any of them will stay on with the side next season – Rami and Taarabt came on loan, Poli is co-owned with Sampdoria and Kaka has a clause in his contract that will allow him to leave the club on a free transfer.
On the whole, (despite being noted as a shrewd negotiator) director Adriano Galliani has got this transfer market completely wrong.
The human headline. Unfortunately the controversial star has been in trouble again this season, just when it seemed (or hoped) that this would be the season that Super Mario would mature and emerge as a leader of this Milan side.
16 goals in 37 games is a healthy return for any striker and Balotelli certainly hasn’t had a poor season in terms of his statistics, but at times when Milan have needed him to really step up, the mercurial striker has disappeared.
Coupled with his unprofessional antics on and off the field, it is no surprise that Balotelli has once again been linked with a move away from the club he is contracted to. Only a few weeks ago Balotelli lambasted the Sky Sport Italia panel (which included Milan legend Zvonimir Boban) after they rightfully questioned his lackluster performance against Roma. Moments like these remind us that Balotelli still has a lot of growing up to do in order to become the talisman he is unquestionably capable of.
Probably what has held Milan back for the past couple of years now is the fact that the club is showing too much loyalty to the players that have done the job for them in the past, but are now unmistakably past their best and don’t have much to offer.
Veterans like Christian Abbiati, Daniele Bonera, Sulley Muntari and Philippe Mexes all played many games and were largely poor for the majority of the season.
This also halted the progress of promising youngsters like Bryan Cristante, Riccardo Saponara and Andrea Petagna who were forced to sacrifice invaluable match experience in favour of the old-timers that didn’t have much more to give.
Even the signing of Kaka was completed primarily to appease the fans. Despite ending up as one of the few shining lights of Milan’s gloomy season, the club could have better spent the money elsewhere on a younger, hungrier version of the Brazilian maestro. His omission from the Brazil World Cup squad, along with the cloud hanging over his immediate future at the club, means that there are still a number of reservations lingering around his signing, notwithstanding his leadership and consistent performances this campaign.