It was a season that held so much promise for AC Milan. The Rossoneri had parted ways with owner Silvio Berlusconi and embraced Yonghong Li as the man to oversee the rebuilding of the club, with as much as €230m spent on bringing in fresh talent to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. Hopes were high, with many believing a return to the UEFA Champions League was a certainty and even a shot at the Scudetto.
However, with the season now having ended, Milan will count themselves lucky to have even qualified for the UEFA Europa League. A chance at lifting the Coppa Italia trophy briefly brought some solace to fans for what was a thoroughly disappointing campaign, and with the uncertainty around the financial stability of the club under investigation, it could yet get worse, with their place in the Europa League now being questioned.
The majority of the club’s summer additions struggled to perform all season. With the possible exception of Franck Kessie and Fabio Borini the Milan faithful have been left dumbstruck by the sheer lack of quality their side has produced. Even some of the club’s reliable figures, such as Giacomo Bonaventura and Gianluigi Donnarumma, have been criticised at times this campaign.
Many had hoped the defensive additions in the summer would finally resolve an area of real concern for the team, which to some extent they have, but not to the degree fans would want or expect. The long-term injuries to Andrea Conti, while unpreventable, were at least compensated for with solid performances from Davide Calabria, but the loss of Conti made it impossible for former coach Vincenzo Montella to implement his 3-5-2 formation effectively.
Ricardo Rodriguez came with a glowing CV as a marauding full-back, but his defensive shortcomings have been painfully obvious at times this season. While the Swiss international is undoubtedly the least of the club’s worries, a 3-5-2 formation would certainly have got the best out of Rodriguez where his crossing ability can be better exploited. Fabio Borini may have endeared himself to fans with his tireless performances at full-back, but it’s a sight some supporters hope never to see again.
The confusion around Mateo Musacchio and his perplexing omission from the starting XI has been just one of many dramas at the San Siro this campaign. Arriving with a wealth of experience and for a fee of €18m, the Argentine was always going to play second fiddle to Leonardo Bonucci, but has found himself behind his former Villarreal teammate Cristian Zapata in the pecking order. His relationship with coach Gennaro Gattuso has been questioned routinely, and his long-term future at the club is far from certain.
The last of the club’s defensive additions certainly caught the eye, but for all the fanfare that greeted Leonardo Bonucci the 30-year-old has been almost as inconsistent as the rest of the summer arrivals. An eye-watering €42m was spent on the Juventus stalwart to replace Riccardo Montolivo as club captain and lead by example. At times the team has appeared over-reliant on Bonucci, whether it’s the long ball to unlock the opposition’s defence or simply to be on hand to provide a last ditch tackle.
Incidents off the ball and a lack of concentration have plagued Bonucci’s season, with many beginning to question whether his game required the solid defensive cover of Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli to be successful. At times it has seemed as though Bonucci has wanted to assert himself through words, but his defensive partner for much of the season has let his performances do the talking for him. That is, of course, Alessio Romagnoli.
The former Roma man has been one of few positives for the Rossoneri this campaign, emulating his role model and Milan legend Alessandro Nesta with his exceptional defensive performances. Quick-witted, strong aerially and with an almost insatiable desire to make perfectly executed slide tackles to the delight of Milan fans, Romagnoli has been indispensable; personifying the determination Gattuso has tried to instil in his side. If Milan are to hold on to anyone next season then fans will be hoping it’s their No.13.
Scoring the winning penalty against Lazio to send Milan into the Coppa Italia final will undoubtedly be the highlight of the season for Romagnoli, but his consistent performances at the back have certainly justified his worth. With the superb goal-scoring form of Patrick Cutrone and confident displays from Davide Calabria, perhaps the Milan hierarchy can learn from the contribution of Romagnoli and look closer to home for their superstars next season.