Straight from the dark heart of Italy
AC Milan were obviously getting their excuses in early, knowing that Alessandro Nesta was travelling to Manchester with little or no chance of playing and Alexandre Pato was along as a mere smokescreen to kid the folks back home that the team was actually going to make a game of it.
It was pretty clear that they weren’t pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes when Daniele Bonera failed to come out for the second half and Massimo Ambrosini was lumped with the role of fall-guy.
How grave Bonera’s injury is will become clear this weekend when the squad is named ahead of the Chievo game, but with Nesta looking set for another extended period on the sidelines and the only viable cover not 100% fit, maybe Leonardo thought it better to cut his losses there and then at half-time.
If that was the case then it backfired spectacularly, but questions have to be asked about the way a group of seasoned professionals approached such a high-profile game.
The calculation seemed to be that after Ronaldinho headed wide early on, that was it: “We’ve done our bit and when we get knocked out we can always claim the outcome would have been different if we had scored from that chance.”
And true to form, that was the line trotted out in the post-game yawn-bites: it was all about concentrating on the league and moving on and blah, blah, blah. Obviously the tie had been given up for dead before the team even boarded the plane on Tuesday morning.
It's very rarely you can accuse an Italian side of not at least producing some evidence of the fabled bella figura – putting on a good impression whatever the circumstances. Isn’t this the country in the thrall of narcissism? The obsession with strutting one’s youthfulness? So where does this leave Milan?
The seeds of the humiliation in the Theatre of Dreams were sown well before – like four or five years ago – when the old guard who have become the decrepit guard should have been shooed off the premises.
Instead of which, last night was like a faded snapshot of 2003 at Old Trafford with added wrinkles, as a procession of has-beens lined up to make their bow like a gathering of ageing soap stars who had suddenly found themselves in the limelight again.
That’s where Filippo Inzaghi ended up – in his one-man offside show. And there’s Clarence Seedorf performing his own one-paced cabaret, with special guest roly-poly Ronaldinho lampooning someone who can run. And oh look, there’s an emotional David Beckham collecting a lifetime achievement award for once being a Manchester United player.
Just as the Oscars are a parody of sincerity, so Milan were a travesty of a football team and the only reason they couldn’t get off the pitch quickly enough was because their muscles were seizing up.
It's just a pity no can afford tomatoes anymore or they could have been put to good use on the team’s return home – but then again the creaking targets would be too easy to hit. More fittingly, the haggard-looking party returned to Malpensa airport in the early hours of the morning to be ignored by the service workers cleaning the concourses.
But it's the club’s hierarchy that should be taken to the cleaners for allowing the situation to get this far. Instead of which, Adriano Galliani could only glaze longingly back to those hazy, glory days, getting all misty-eyed about the Milan side that turned United over three years ago.
The names on the teamsheets haven't changed that much; the difference then was that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were a work in progress whilst Milan were the finished article – and not just, as they are now, finished.
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It was an awful night for fans of Milan and Italian football, but the score was no great surprise, especially after United got the first goal, which was all important. The 7-2 agg score was harsh on Milan who were the better side in the first leg. But this result has been coming for years now as the team rots away. With that clown for a president its hard to see where the improvement will come from though. Here's who I'd realistically buy and sell.
IN Srorari-lo/Di Gennaro-lo/Jovetic-24m/Clerc-bosman/Di Natale-2m/Marchetti-8m/Dkeko-22m/Bonucci-9m/Kolarov-10m
Thats probably a bit too much for the billionaire Silvio to spend so I suppose my wishes are unlikely to be answered. Maybe they can fly in for a transfer summit this summer to announce the permanent signing of Mancini and the contract renewal for Favalli and Dida.
As for Fiorentina, they played well the other night and deserved to go through. Its a pity they were so negative in the latter stages against a Bayern team there for the taking. It was also interesting to see two players, Rooney and Robben, carry their respective teams through to the next round. I doubt United and I know Bayern would not have got through without these two.
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