In the words of Voltaire; “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”
With that being said, what must Filippo “Pippo” Inzaghi make of the proverbial cards he finds himself holding? Although AC Milan defeated Cagliari 3-1 at the San Siro on Saturday night, the stadium was filled with wholly unflattering banners, the majority of which stated messages of disdain for the club’s management. Currently sitting seventh in the Serie A table, the fans have every reason to voice vitriolic chants. AC Milan, once a flagship club, now conjures up images of the Titanic, a sinking disaster piece.
Inzaghi is simply rearranging the deck chairs as his men struggle to keep their heads above water. Only nine months in charge, his tenure has featured innumerable lows, as well as the occasional high. The last two months, undoubtedly, have been the worst to date for “Pippo”. After beating Napoli and drawing away to Roma, AC ended 2014 riding a wave of encouragement, but that was all before they hit that pesky iceberg. Since the collision, much to the fans dismay, Milan have scraped together just eleven points from their first nine games of the new calendar year.
Inzaghi, with all his charisma and charm, seems to be a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy, and, when he was initially appointed, this optimism was as necessary as it was refreshing. However, football is a fickle game, and the 41 year old knows that better than most. Accused by the Italian press, an unforgiving bunch, of expecting far too little from his men, Inzaghi is struggling to maintain the positivity that was evident last year. While some cite low expectations as the main issue, other talk about tactical nous, or, to be specific, a lack of.
Jérémy Ménez, a scorer of two goals at the weekend, is Milan’s most potent attacking option, but Inzaghi has constantly struggled to fit the Frenchman into an efficient, successful system.
Berlusconi, a close friend of Inzaghi, is all too aware of the problems facing his beloved club. Considering Milan seem to change managers more than a college student changes their bed linen, (twice in the last 14 months) Silvio surely must keep faith with his most recent choice, at least until the end of the season.
Considering AC was once considered the Rolls-Royce of football clubs, it is a shame to see them reduced to hobo standards, merely surviving on loans and free transfers. Like hovering vultures, AC watch on as the likes of Real and Bayern, for example, the muscular predators, avail of the finest talents available. Once the bigger clubs are satisfied, AC swoop down and ‘feast’ on the unsavoury remains. Names like Fernando Torres and Alex spring to mind.
Even after Saturday’s win, fans know better than to get their hopes up. Having watched their team outplayed and humbled by the likes of Sassuolo and Palermo, it’s hard to believe we are watching a club that once played the most impressive football in Europe.
Unsurprisingly, with Silvio Berlusconi in the mix, financial irregularities are one of the main reasons for Milan’s demise. With the third-highest wage bill in Serie A and Philippe Mexes their highest earner, serious questions must be asked.
AC, now the Bon Jovi of European football, find themselves living on a prayer. With fading memories of past glories, the days of Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, two bastions of Italian football, are long gone. Bankrolled by the infamous Berlusconi, supreme talents like Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit arrived and helped AC conquer Europe in an effortless manner, but that was many moons ago.
The San Siro, once a stadium of sheer significance, is more like a graveyard, a place where dreams go to die. Empty seats don’t lie, they symbolize the disillusionment felt by the ordinary fan on the street. Berlusconi, now in his late 70’s, rather like his beloved club, is no longer the irrepressible force he once was.
How the fans crave the glory days of past. Even a decade ago, managed by Carlo Ancelloti, Milan boasted a midfield of trickery and tenacity. With the likes of Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf and Kaka, they instilled fear and earned respect.
Berlusconi must be credited for what he helped fund and build. When he wasn’t cavorting with ladies of the night, this man was busy assembling a classy squad. He wanted Milan to be a mirror image of himself; entertaining and unforgettable. Although clichés are rarely helpful, all good things do indeed come to an end.
The Berlusconi fuelled meltdown started when Milan agreed to sell Kaká to Real Madrid. Adored by the fans, the Brazilian playmaker explicitly stated his desire to stay, however, Berlusconi’s right hand man, Adriano Galliani, simply called it an offer too good to turn down. With Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf no longer the potent forces they once were, and the exciting Alexandre Pato suffering more setbacks than Theo Walcott, things started to look ominous for the Italian giants. The final indignant kick to the groin arrived when the ‘reclusive’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, the Brazilian powerhouse, departed for greener, Parisian pastures
In addition to the ludicrous sums being offered by Paris Saint-Germain, Carlo Ancelotti, a Milan legend, both as a manager and player, was in charge of the French moneybags at the time, so retaining the services of Zlatan, in particular, was always going to be difficult, if not impossible.
Now, while Milan seem resigned to produce abject performances, Ibrahimovic and Silva are preparing themselves for a Champions League showdown with Barca, although the Swedish striker will miss the first leg through suspension.
Unfortunately, a post Berlusconi glory day for the Rosseneri looks nothing but a distant, somewhat delusional dream.