Straight from the dark heart of Italy
AC Milan’s fall from grace is now complete.
The former masters of Europe suffered the worst humiliation imaginable: a giant defender in the daftest of John McEnroe headbands scored the deftest of Gianfranco Zola back-heels for the only goal of the game.
The fact that Hannu Tihinen was playing for a Swiss side – FC Zurich – made the whole Champions League evening at the San Siro even more depressing.
NEWS: September 30 Zurich beat Milan at San Siro
Last season was bad enough, having to face the same opposition in the UEFA Cup.
But it speaks volumes about what the paying public think that there were only about 30,000 dotted around the 80,000-capacity ground last night – for the continent’s premier club competition.
Catcalls and jeers assailed the players as they beat a hasty retreat down the tunnel, leaving their coach to sit forlornly in the dug-out.
At this rate, Leonardo’s sad tale will be played out for a few more weeks – but with a double-header against Real Madrid coming up, maybe the Brazilian will want to back in the boardroom by then.
It's plain to see that Leo is floundering and, worse still, perceived as a company man installed at the whim of the boss.
The senior players obviously have not been won over – last Sunday during the goalless draw with Bari, Clarence Seedorf and Ronaldinho were whispering away on the bench, and you can bet it wasn’t about how good the coach looked in a suit.
Then, last night, with at least two minutes remaining in the first-half, off down the tunnel went the benchwarming Rino Gattuso – not a man to get on the wrong side of when you may be at the mercy of a dressing-room coup.
Obviously nothing has changed since the Seedorf-substitution derby debacle and subsequent signs of discord mean that respect has been neither gained nor shown.
BLOG: September 1: Comic capers in Milanese massacre
You know what they say about where nice guys come, and the eloquent South American is certainly one of those within the rabid world of Italian football.However, dressing-downs can only take a team so far or change an approach up to a point: what is needed is the personnel to carry out a game-plan.If you go to the official Milan website, under Squad you'll find listed seven strikers and six midfielders. Of the midfielders, Ignazio Abate has so far been used as a right-back and then headless chicken in the second-half against Zurich.In reality, there are only five midfielders – and apart from Mathieu Flamini they were all around when the team won the Champions League back in 2003.The aforementioned Seedorf and Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo plus Massimo Ambrosini have covered enough miles to have gone around the world a few times, and as a unit can no longer play the ball around crisply and with pace – once the hallmark of Carlo Ancelotti’s sides.Now the ball is knocked forward as soon as possible for a 36-year-old who is almost permanently offside and a shy youngster who won’t say boo to a goose but only wants it played to his feet.Filippo Inzaghi and Pato may have thrived if Ricky Kaka was still around but now there is only Dinho – who, with every passing week, looks more and more leaden in his gait.Coming on last night for Seedorf, he immediately drifted out to the left and only showed signs of his former greatness when he wandered into the middle of the pitch to set up two goalscoring chances – one of which Pato fluffed badly.What is to be done to climb out of this pit of despair? Well, get tough – a solid midfield platform for a start.Flamini on the right, Gattuso alongside Pirlo in the middle and Ambrosini on the left, with Seedorf in waiting.Up front, Klaas-Jan Hunterlaar will never adapt to Italian football sitting on the bench so he has to be given his chance alongside Pato. The defence just about picks itself and the big Yank Oguchi Onyewu didn’t look too bad when he came on against the Swiss – at least he brought a bit of humph to proceedings.The rest can mope on the bench if they want, but if Leonardo really wants to be a coach and a leader of men then he has got to follow the old Italian male tradition and show some... well you can guess what.
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It strikes me that until the old guard (which were probably only comfortable with paolo maldini leading them) are moved on, including seedorf, the rossoneri will continue to look and play in a tired manner. Pato was supposed to be a revelation, but how can he with old-style tactics.
Spalletti turned Roma into a stylish, modern team whilst putting old boys like Panucci in their place when required. He would no doubt do the same for Milan.
Whilst club patron seems, understandably, to be more intent on fighting his political corner at the moment.
Who knows what's going on in Milan... they recruit has-beens like David Beckham and give up on promising players like Tabare Viudez (that scissor kick against the Three Lions should be tattooed on everybody's minds by now) --- they sell Kaká but never bothered replacing him.
It really is sad, Milan took the position that Kaká was like Shevchenko, a replaceable part, but he wasn't, they had access to a Ferrari but now have a tired old "Ford" at best.
Maybe Ronaldinho rebounds from a lousy year and half, maybe he doesn't... Milan has to start looking for Kaká's replacement, something they should have done already once they sold him to Real Madrid.
And what possessed them to sign Leonardo who never even coached in the Brazilian league? I guess its impossible to have two solid teams playing in Milan at the same time.
Nice piece and sad to see such a great side in decline. I took a look at where things have been going wrong as well. Take a look when you get the chance, http://ronanok.wordpress.com/
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