European ban darkens Rossoneri hopes
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Oh, how Milan's mighty have fallen. Once the city's two clubs lived and breathed at the pinnacle of European football. Now they find themselves praying to relive their Champions League euphoria. AC Milan, in particular, has succumbed to an unfortunate decline. It's ripped apart the Rossoneri's reputation as continent kings.
What began with controversial former owner Silvio Berlusconi’s misdeeds led to one mistake after another in the management level. It soon resulted in Milan's total collapse. Initially, in 2015, failure to strike a deal to sell a 48% share to Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol set about a series of conundrums.
A year later, Chinese financial tycoon Li Yonghong brought hope. However, not long after would 'the saviour' create another nightmare. He wasn’t able to repay the £272 million loan taken from the American Elliott Management Corporation, eventually leading to his ousting as a major shareholder. To everyone’s bewilderment, the Rossoneri had splashed out upwards of £100 million with money which wasn't even Li's to spend.
So, it comes as no great surprise that AC Milan ended up £113 million in the red last year, taking its overall loss in the last fourteen years to an estimated £655 million. For a club always holding pride in being among Italy's most highly regarded, II Diavolo are currently making bigger losses than Serie A's relegated minnows.
UEFA putting the hammer down shouldn’t shock anyone. Despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport (COS) delaying the inevitable last season, excessive losses were breaching its Financial Fair Play rules. While striking a deal to miss out on the Europa League now allows the Rossoneri to focus on their league form, and perhaps go the extra mile for the Coppa Italia, the shame won’t be shoved under the rug anytime soon.
The punishment is a blot on the Italian giant's reputation. Before the turn of the century, they were world-famous for their dominance both domestically and in Europe. The seven-time Champions League winners were the team to beat.
However, Milan haven't qualified for Europe’s pinnacle since the 2013-14 campaign. Not many consider them a threat anymore, with one disaster after another only aggravating relentless mockery from rival fans.
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Right now Milan's ownership is effectively the Elliott Management Corporation. In Italy, American owners aren’t the most trusted bunch. Just ask a disgruntled Francesco Totti. The Italian left his role as Roma's director last month citing terrible decision making from James Pallotta, a US billionaire businessman. Totti believes the owner is pushing aside his boyhood club's traditions.
Milan's American hedge trust fund is scouting for takeovers. That being said, they also see potential in using the club for their own benefits. Having integrated men who possess Rossoneri DNA into the upper-management, at least the new owners know what it’ll take to get back among the top sides. Indeed, with Paulo Maldini as technical director, the culture and fighting spirit could reflect onto the squad. Granted, the UEFA ban along with other recent embarrassments must hurt the Italian legend, but perhaps his presence will usher in a brighter era.
By appointing Marco Giampaolo three weeks ago, the Rossoneri are trusting a manager who has more than a decade of experience in Italy. The 51-year-old’s impressive work at lowly Sampdoria - a team which incidentally outscored II Diavolo this past season - is an encouraging sign. With talented individuals and blooming talents such as Krzysztof Piatak, Franck Kessie and Suso gracing the San Siro, the long-term project could well pay dividends.
Without a European headache, Milan can focus on getting back into Serie A's top four. As rivals tough it out on the continent, they can fix any issues while doing utmost to avoid a hiccup. The UEFA ban might even prove motivational in earning a Champions League spot next season. Qualifying for Europe's top club competition will naturally attract better players. Moreover, the monetary gains will improve their poor financial situation.
The Rossoneri challenging as Serie A title contenders isn't yet in sight. However, now with experienced footballing minds dictating operations, perhaps their darkest days are on the brink of ending. Taking baby steps is Milan's way to go to reclaim lost glory.