Blog Written by Benjamin Santilli (@BSantilli27):
As Juventus celebrate another Scudetto in 2016, not everyone will be pleased with this past season in Serie A. Perhaps the most disappointed city of all this year is located in the province of Lombardia in North-Central Italy. Since A.C. Milan and F.C. Internazionale won the Scudetto back to back in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, the Milan-based teams have struggled to keep up with the surging powers of Roma, Napoli, Fiorentina and perennial champions Juventus.
The last team to beat Juventus in the chase for the Scudetto was in the 2010-11 stagione when Milan and Inter finished first and second respectively. The next year, Milan finished second to the Bianconeri despite the departure of legend Andrea Pirlo who had joined the Old Lady that term. Milan has taken probably the worst hit of the two teams in the last few years but both fan bases can agree that any finish outside of top-class European football is unacceptable. Questionable decisions by the front offices of both teams and in Milan’s case a series of seemingly never-ending injury spells have plagued them. Milan was still sending paychecks to Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Christian Brocchi according to Carlos Volcano of Tribalfootball.com until June 1st. Now, Vincenzo Montella will take the reigns with this underwhelming squad. Milan’s payroll is upwards of €101 million with Inter not far behind at €94 million. They rank third and fourth behind Juventus and Roma who dish out an annual amount of €124 and €113 million respectively. The next closest team to Inter, Napoli, is over €20 million less expensive to send out on the field.
The top three teams in Serie A this year were, in order; Juventus with 91 points, Napoli with 82 and Roma right behind them with 80. The next closest team from Milan was Inter in fourth place with only 67 points. That should certainly be a cause for concern. Rossoneri and Nerazzurri fans have a right to question the way their management have used their funds and the quality of the players brought in by the general managers. Adriano Galliani should have to answer for the way he spends the club’s money on players who are ineffective or below the level of quality that they need to be for a top-level organization.
One season is not a cause for alarm but with the astronomically high payroll of the two clubs, there is no reason that either club should not be in contention for the league title year in and year out. You cannot buy a Scudetto, but with players earning over €20 million more than the squads of teams finishing far above them in the standings, it should raise a few eyebrows. Obviously, this pertains more to A.C. Milan fans than Inter but there should be some pressure on the two Lombardian teams to produce more.
With constant coaching changes and looming sales of the club to foreign investors has the club in turmoil. Talks of the sale of the club to Chinese investors by longtime owner and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi continue to slow the club’s development. Their choice in personnel also has fans scratching their heads. It seems as if they cannot decide whether to form a team or enter a rebuilding mode. They have signed some older players who are well past their prime such as Philippe Mexes and Alex while mixing them together with brilliant youngsters like Mattia De Sciglio, M’baye Niang and Alessio Romagnoli. They have to make a decision as to the future of the club. Will they look to rebuild or patch together a starting XI every week that lacks the togetherness of a true contender? Some of their signings have looked promising such as bringing in Juraj Kucka from Genoa to provide a presence in the midfield, Carlos Bacca from Sevilla and the likes of Giacomo Bonaventura from Atalanta. Just these signings however, do not form a complete team. The aspirations of a good team come first from the front office and trickle down to the players on the field. If a front office slovenly puts a team together then they will play like a team that does not have the fortitude to go and get every game. The front office has to showsthe team that they are fully committed to the team and winning and the atmosphere of proven champions will be felt throughout the club.
Fans have begun to express their displeasure with the way Il Diavolo is managed. There was a petition among Milan fans to not resign club captain Riccardo Montolivo to an extension before he received a new three-year contract from the club. The club also failed to secure a spot in European football through the Coppa Italia where they lost to Juventus 1-0 on a brilliant goal by Alvaro Morata in extra time, which naturally infuriated fans even further. Watching Milan can be difficult, as there often seems to be a lack of inspiration in the side. They are competitive yet seem to fall just short to teams they should never lose to. With 11 losses and 12 draws, you can hardly hope to challenge for a league title.
In the other locker room at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Inter was in the lead for much of the season. A Scudetto title was in their grasp. Juve’s slow start gave them a window to seize the opportunity. They failed to maintain their form and dropped all the way to fourth. “Il Biscione” were in first place longer than any other club besides Juventus who were the eventual winners. Early in the season they traded places with Fiorentina and Roma for first place before they handed the lead over to SSC Napoli who would eventually relinquish the prize to the Bianconeri. The Nerazzurri were unable to keep up with Roma, Napoli and Juventus. Inter and many of the other teams in the league had an opportunity to seize the title this year but poor losses and ties seem to catch up to teams. They left Juventus an opening, which saw them go on an impressive run for the title, and they finished nine points clear of second place. Inter should use this season as motivation to make another run next year and use their taste of first place to propel them to the top of the table again next year. They have proven they can do it and their outlook is very positive. They have a number of prolific, talented young players who are ready to reach the next level but to defeat Juventus, it will require a very impressive, complete season. Inter must not take their foot off the gas and never look back.
Anything can happen in Serie A and it is certain that La Madonnina in Milano is waiting for one of her two teams to bring her another Scudetto soon.
Blog Written by Jordan Elgott (@JElgott):
After scoring his first career hat-trick and becoming Partizan Belgrade’s captain at the age of 17, Stevan Jovetic seemed destined for greatness. His unique combination of silky dribbling ability and clinical finishing were bound to attract some of the biggest names in Europe. Therefore it is no surprise that Jovetic has been signed for multi-million pound fees by Fiorentina, Manchester City, and Inter Milan, giants of the game. Yet Jovetic, now 26, finds his career at something of a standstill. In this article I will look at Jovetic’s successes, but will focus on the reasons for a good, yet underwhelming career so far.
Jovetic made his debut for Partizan at the young age of 16, in a league match against FK Voždovac. It was a sign of his talent that just nine months later, he was trusted with the club’s captaincy, becoming Partizan’s youngest ever player to receive the honour. This talent did not go unnoticed, and just five months later, he was snapped up by Italian club Fiorentina for £8,000,000. Jovetic enjoyed a relatively productive time at Fiorentina where he was mainly deployed as a second striker, scoring 35 goals in 116 games. Furthermore, these goals were often of great significance, scoring braces against European heavyweights, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
It was during the summer of the 2010/2011 season however, when the first cracks in Jovetic’s career began to appear. Jovetic learnt that he had injured his cruciate ligament, something which would go on to rule him out for the entire season. At such a young age, an injury like this carries devastating consequences, with many promising young footballers going on to have limited futures in the game after such a large setback. Jovetic however, fought back by scoring 14 goals in 27 games in the 2011/2012 season. It was a fine showing of Jovetic’s mental and physical strength and something which should have set the tone for the rest of his career.
Jovetic’s sublime return from injury caught the eyes of Manchester City in the summer of 2013, who quickly wrapped up a deal worth £22,000,000. It was an unusually slow start by Jovetic in England however, with the forward having to wait over five months to net his first Premier League goal, in a 5-1 win over Spurs. This can partly be attributed to a rotten injury record, with five significant injuries being recorded in his first season with the club. It would not be inaccurate to suggest that Jovetic never really recovered from this slow start, scoring just eight goals in 28 appearances during his two years in Manchester. Jovetic never really endeared himself to the City faithful, with many fans taking a dislike to his Instagram posts whilst on the pitch he was often the scorer of meaningless goals, an occurrence which was in stark contrast to his time at La Viola.
In truth, it was a two year stagnation of Jovetic’s promising career, and he needed to get it back on track. Inter Milan were the team to end ‘JoJo’s’ disappointing time in England, securing him on a loan (with an obligation to buy) deal in July 2015. He made his Inter debut against Atalanta on the opening weekend of the season and not even Jovetic himself could have dreamed of a better start. After coming off the bench, Jovetic curled in the winning goal from 18 yards out in the last minute of the game. He then scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Carpi, the following weekend. Jovetic finally looked like a player who could take his game to the next level, going from useful squad player to crucial match-winner.
Unfortunately for both Jovetic, and Inter, the 2015-16 season mirrored his career up until that point; plenty of early promise but an inability to build on it. In his remaining 21 appearances, Jovetic managed just three more goals, bringing his tally up to six. The Inter manager, Roberto Mancini, was so disappointed with Jovetic that he reportedly asked the board to try to find another club to pay the remaining £11.4 million to Manchester City. In recent weeks, Jovetic has confirmed that he will be staying at Inter for next season, claiming that he was ‘happy’ with how last season went. If Jovetic is truly happy with the past season, then it is a damning indictment of his underwhelming career so far. It can be said without any doubt, that a player of Jovetic’s quality should be aiming to score 15 goals a season, minimum.
Whilst it is easy to get carried away in the disappointment of it all, we must remember that Jovetic is still only 26 and therefore has time to become the player the world thought he would turn into. If he is to do this then he must work hard to get back into the Inter starting eleven, in order to impress Mancini. This will not be easy as he has to compete with players of fantastic quality, such as Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisiç. Arguably the most important thing for Jovetic to do in the 2016/17 season is to prove his fitness. Over the past three years, Jovetic is averaging just 17 appearances per season, it goes without saying that this is simply not good enough. One must hope that an injury-free run will lead to greater consistency in Jovetic’s game and will allow him to cement a place in Roberto Mancini’s side.
Having impressed in the early stages of his career, it is a great disappointment that at the age of 26, Jovetic finds his career at this standstill. The next few years can go one of two ways: Jovetic could overcome his injury problems to become a crucial player for Inter, or he could continue on the same path of mediocrity and end up playing the rest of his career with a ‘what could have been’ mentality. It would be disappointing for most football fans for the latter to become a reality, as it is clear that Jovetic has fantastic ability and anything other than an outstanding career will rightfully be seen as a frustrating waste of talent.
Blog Written by Ahmed Bdair (@Ahmedmbdair)
30 years ago he arrived magnanimously on a helicopter, promising to bring the club he supported as a child back to the upper echelons of European football, and to bring new found glory far beyond any supporter’s wildest dreams. Under his ownership, Milan was brought back to the very top of Europe’s elite.
Now back to reality, and it isn’t pleasant whatsoever; Milan have been trophy-less for 5 seasons (the longest drought in 30 years), out of the Champions League for 3 years, and just got pipped to the final Europa League spot by Sassuolo (a team which had finished 16th in Serie B just 5 years ago), and to make matters worse Silvio is taking the entire world on one hell of a ride.
To put things into context, the media spent most of last year’s offseason telling us that a minority stake of the club would be sold to a certain Mr. Bee, a man who was allegedly leading a consortium that wanted to invest in the club. Yet after months of speculation it all came to nothing, and now speculation about a majority stake in the club being sold is back, just with an even more concrete source, Berlusconi himself.
Now trust me when I say, this has been by far the most irritating time of my life as a football fan (and I’ve watched a Muntari and Essien midfield pairing). Just two weeks ago, reports came out that Berlusconi had finally let go, that he had agreed to sell the club. Elation, joy, delight, were all feelings that were quickly crushed with reports coming out later that week that he had in fact decided against selling the club, and that he would ‘build a new Italian contingent at Milan’. That sounds great right? These would be players who would theoretically understand more than anyone the size of the club, players who would bleed for the shirt. Wrong, because we have heard this before and very recently actually. These very quotes were previously followed by the sale of Bryan Cristante, the former Primavera captain, and Ricardo Saponara, the supposed new Kaka, to Benfica and Empoli respectively.
Now of course I will be reminded that Cristante hasn’t exactly proved himself since moving to Benfica, but just focus on Saponara for a second. This is a man who was signed from Empoli when they were in Serie B as the next great trequartista. He was going to be the man to bring back the beloved (only by Berlusconi) 4-3-1-2 formation. We were also led to believe that the club had re-signed the original Kaka to mentor the new one but instead Saponara was shunned to the side, we didn’t play a 4-3-1-2, finished in 10th place and then sold Saponara back to Empoli where he just finished this past season with five goals and 11 assists. These kind of errors have become all too familiar and cannot continue anymore.
Berlusconi is currently in the hospital, after suffering some heart problems and will undergo surgery next week. I wish him the best (can’t say the same about other fans though), but it’s time for him to simply revert to his original aim, to return Milan to the top. He knows he cannot do it financially and ultimately the ball is in his court, let’s just all hope he makes the right decision and sells the club to proper investors.
Berlusconi issued a statement on his Facebook page today. Here is an excerpt: “I wish to thank all those who have sent me displays of affection and cards, they really moved me. I will not forget the words of friends, politicians, employees of a working life of many supporters who have made me feel their closeness with extraordinary warmth.”