It's been five years since A.C. Milan last lifted a trophy, their longest barren spell since the end of World War II. And there are no signs of that drought ending any time soon. Juventus have entered a period of dominance, ironically under the tutelage of the man that brought the Rossoneri their last major silverware in 2011, Massimiliano Allegri. Conversely, Silvio Berlusconi has cycled through five more managers in the two-and-a-half years since terminating Allegri's tenure. Of those five, only Siniša Mihajlović had any sort of pedigree in a top job and despite the nostalgia most of the appointments brought to the San Siro, they didn't really convey an air of long-term success.
In June 2016, after terminating the contract of Mihajlović two months earlier, then followed by a brief uninspiring spell from former midfielder Cristian Brocchi, Milan were once again set to go to the 'former great player' well and had agreed terms with Sampdoria to release Vincenzo Montella from his contract. Montella had built a fair reputation for himself at Fiorentina before being dismissed following a bizarre series of events. However, his brief spell at Sampdoria was less than inspiring, failing to improve on Walter Zenga's poor start to the season. Montella had upside: he's young, Italian and he's proved he can bring some semblance of success to a Serie A club. However, the impending appointment didn't please everyone and there were murmurs of The Little Aeroplane getting the job because there weren't really any other stand-out candidates and Milan would find themselves in the same position this time next year of no European football and another possible late-season sacking.
And for perhaps the first time ever, Silvio Berlusconi listened. On 27th June, the eve of Montella's unveiling, Milan backed out of the appointment, citing a desire to conduct a more thorough search for their next manager: finally finding one they hope will remain at the helm for many years and ultimately make the club worthy of the stars on their crest once again. Sampdoria were very unhappy at the development, already committing some of the Montella compensation to release Marco Giampaolo from his Empoli contract, effectively leaving them with two managers. Milan accepted they had an agreement in principle for Montella and duly paid the fee regardless. He was still the personal choice of Berlusconi and despite now being unemployed, was implored by the President to enter the ensuing interview process and that he still had a good a chance of anyone of landing the job, but Montella felt severely betrayed and withdrew from the race, even going as far as saying he wants to lead one of Milan's fiercest rivals in the future to prove what a grave mistake they made.
The renewed appointment process did not get off to the best of starts, the number of applications were much lower than expected, many of which fell at the first hurdle. There was much disagreement in the boardroom, no two people agreed on which direction the club should go in. Berlusconi was now actively shopping the club privately, believing that he could capitalise on Chinese or Arab money which would also give his beloved Milan the best chance of usurping the current dominants. If he was going to relinquish control of the Rossoneri, he wanted to make one last play that he would be remembered for. Because of this attitude, he advocated for a big-name appointment along the lines of Diego Simeone. Others felt that the club needed to rediscover its roots to succeed and wanted to bring back someone who had won trophies and knew the club, like Fabio Capello, while there were also calls to go with an appointment who not necessarily had previous pedigree but had a definitive outline of where and how he was going to take the club back to glory.
It was decided that all these types of candidate would be interviewed. Simeone flat out rejected the approach, citing his love for Atlético (but maybe just waiting for that top job). Capello was one of many older Italians to interview, but they fell out of the race as the club felt they were either out of touch or did not intend on being in it for the long-term. Weeks passed with no progress, youth-team coach Stefano Nava was taking pre-season training and the players felt no sense of direction or leadership as captain Riccardo Montolivo was struck by a knee injury and not expected back at all in 2016.
One application stood out in particular, though. Milan had specified that the applicant outline how they intend to progress the club back to the top. Most applications contained the standard CV with a few printed pages documenting their plan. There were some encouraging candidates in there and they were duly invited to the San Siro to further their case. There was one more that the board kept looking back to and wondering; it would qualify for nothing less than a manifesto and explained in detail how the person intended to assess every single element within the organisation, offering a series of scenarios and how the club would overcome each. No stone was left unturned. There was no CV with the document, just a name and telephone number. All the board agreed that they had nothing to lose by staging one more interview, and the call was made.
Upon arriving in Milan, the man continued to espouse his ideologies and captured the imagination of all in the room. He spent several hours captivating his audience in such a charismatic manner that his visions became reality in the eyes of the board, in particular Berlusconi. Clearly a student of the game, he reeled off facts and knowledge like he'd been in football forever, but the reality was that he was a complete rookie, not only someone who'd never had a job in the game but had never even kicked a football. He reasoned that this was arbitrary and that all he needed to succeed was a clear ideology, a definitive understanding of the mechanics of the game and the ability to unite and give belief to everyone in the club. The speech went long into the Milanese night and resembled a Bolshevik rally in its vision and passion.
By the time the man had left the building, the choice was clear. His novice status raised a few concerns but that was quickly engulfed by everything else and Silvio Berlusconi agreed to the terms already laid out and called a press conference for tomorrow morning, 31st July 2016.
The circus that was the A.C. Milan managerial search of summer 2016 was almost over and the journalists who had revelled in criticising the club for over a month gathered in the press room of the San Siro curious as to who was next in line to be dethroned after yet another disappointing tenure. Everyone in the room was shocked when the incumbent walked in and was proudly announced as Manager (not Head Coach) by the smug-looking President: 38 year-old rookie Ukrainian, Lev Bronstein.
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Got a lot of time for AC Milan - will keep an eye on this
Although the new unknown had made quick work of converting the usually stubborn board members, notably Berlusconi and Galliani, he was well aware converting the masses in the dressing room to his way of thinking was not an easy task. The entire squad was brought in on the eve of the new appointment to get the ball rolling right away. The Supercoppa final against Juventus was just days away. Bronstein explained to the squad he was a firm believer of the old Italian way of three central defenders (two stoppers and a libero) and two wing backs. Everyone had to be able to read the game and stringently stick to what the system requires of them to ultimately succeed, or at least be willing to put in the hours to get up to scratch. The training regime would reflect this.
A thorough scouting and analysis of the Milan squad had already been carried out and each player was told of their place in the squad. Those who disagreed were encouraged to speak up and a resolution would be worked on, one way or another. A few of the older players were not completely on board with the new manager and made their objections known.
- Cristián Zapata was not happy with the intensity of the new training regime as well as being told to work on his positional play if he wanted to be considered as a regular starter in one of the two stopper positions. Although he was told he was not totally dispensable, his attitude was seen to be potentially disruptive and a swift £4m transfer to the Chinese Super League was arranged.
- Keisuke Honda voiced his displeasure at being told he was behind Giacomo Bonaventura, Suso, Matías Fernández and José Sosa in competition for the two attacking midfield positions but initially showed a willingness to stay despite being informed he could move on if a suitable club was found. Bronstein was encouraged by Honda's stance but Dynamo Kyiv showed interest and lodged a £3.5m bid. For a 30 year-old on a hefty wage and in the last year of his contract, it was seen as a transfer that suited all parties and it was pushed through without a hitch.
- Rodrigo Ely was told he had many areas of his game to brush up on and he was encouraged to accept a loan deal which would help him do this. Atalanta wasted no time in taking the young Brazilian for the entire 2016/17 season.
- Ignazio Abate was the big story to come out of the meeting. He furiously pushed back at the notion that the captaincy was not guaranteed to be his while Riccardo Montolivo was on the sidelines. Furthermore, he was told that he was not an automatic first choice at right wing-back either. While Mattia De Sciglio could comfortably play on the left, it was not a natural fit and Abate was told De Sciglio was the man to start on the right for now. This did not sit well with the veteran and he immediately requested a transfer, believing he would never have a serviceable relationship with Bronstein. Abate had lots of allies in the camp and it was felt that he could cause rifts if he stuck around too much longer so, against the wishes of Galliani, a £6.5m transfer to Napoli was set up. The prospect of selling a capable player to a direct rival was not ideal but few other options were available.
With the mentioned outgoings, the already thin squad was stretched a little bit further but with the regimented scouting system not yet off the ground, Bronstein had to rely on those he had seen before that could come in at minimal cost.
- Nikola Maksimović had recently completed a move from Torino to Napoli and Bronstein had been impressed by his stature, defensive and attacking capabilities and his versatility during a study year in Turin back in 2014. He was seen as someone who could comfortably fill the libero, stopper, wing-back and defensive midfielder positions. Ignazio Abate's impending arrival in Naples pushed him out of the starting XI which made him somewhat dispensable in the view of President Aurelio De Laurentiis if he could recoup a significant fee. Bronstein wasted no time in convincing Berlusconi to write a cheque for his services, in the region of £6m.
- Fabian Delph was spotted by Bronstein during his long residency in the UK and while he had a couple of shortcomings in his game, he would bring some much needed competition to the central midfield, especially whilst Montolivo was sidelined. Man City deemed the former Villa man surplus to requirements and were happy to cash in for a fee of £5m.
- Tommy Elphick had impressed during his spells with both Brighton and Bournemouth as Bronstein regularly toured the south of England during his London residency and was seen as Mr. Reliable. Reliability was severely needed in defence, only Gabriel Paletta and Gustavo Gómez were available to partner Alessio Romagnoli, and Elphick was brought in on a six-month loan deal until long-term options could be identified.
- Papy Djilobodji was another who Bronstein thought was more capable than he got credit for, seeing him train with the Chelsea squad for six months last season as the training facility was in close proximity to his previous home. Sunderland had arranged a deal under Sam Allardyce to sign the player on a recommendation but Sam's departure and David Moyes' subsequent arrival pushed him down the pecking order. A season-long loan was put in place for the centre-half who was well aware he would just be rotation option at best.
Another month was definitely needed to implement the new structure and the transition had seemed to start at a snail's pace, with more stop-gaps already in place than ideal. But not even the charismatic leader could stop time, so Milan fans headed to the Supercoppa final just hoping The Old Lady wouldn't give them a hiding.
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Likewise, would be nice if you could manage to get a Dutch trio like van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard to the club, as well as some youth teamers coming through like Baresi or Maldini
Originally Posted by Redknapp69
Intersting start with the haggles - once you get underway I'm interested how the ex-Liverpool lads (Suso and Paletta) get on
3 at the back proper Italian stuff
Good luck in the Super Cup!
The latter is kind of the reason I went with Milan. I don't get to play much but creating a long dynasty built around Donnarumma, Romagnoli etc. is the main intention.
Originally Posted by AMC
It's something I do at the start of every save, go through every player and re-assign their squad status according to how I want it. Inevitably causes friction here and there.
Originally Posted by Redknapp69
If Suso has decent hidden attributes then he should be a world beater, he has outstanding Creativity, Dribbling and Off the Ball. Paletta has an injury at present I recall, he might need a while to work his way back into the team.
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Fabian Delph as the new Ray Wilkins then?
Always been an Inter man myself but will follow and see how you, and they, get on.
Possibly! I must say in previous saves I've played, he's never set the world alight. Luckily the way I set my team up is all about defence and the two central midfielders just need to hold position and put a foot in. He seems like he can do that.
Originally Posted by AMC
Funnily enough, same here. I think if it wasn't for the prospect of a potentially ridiculous career with Donnarumma, I may well have chosen Inter for this.
Originally Posted by ebfatz