22 May 2022. Fans storm the Piazza del Duomo as AC Milan have just won their first Scudetto since 2011. But how did the Rossoneri fall into the pit and how did the 18-time Serie A champion he reappeared from the vicinity of bankruptcy?
After successful owner Silvio Berlusconi decided to cease further investment in the club, Chinese businessman Li Yonghong took over ownership in 2017.
However, soon his disastrous spell came to an end as he defaulted on Elliot Management. A total monetary mismanagement during this period gave an unsatisfactory result to the players.
Moreover, key factors such as managerial instability, poor transfer moves and the team’s chaotic management have exacerbated the Rossoneri’s woes. No other manager seemed to hit the right notes after Massimo Allegri’s departure, and expensive signings such as Mario Balotelli backfired.
In 2019, AC Milan was in shock, going through arguably the worst phase in its history.
Enter Paolo Maldini, a club legend, who played an essential role as technical director. He appointed Stefano Pioli as manager despite Gazidis’ initial leaning towards Ralf Rangnick.
Moreover, his market moves were clinical – Simon Kjaer helped bolster Milan’s defence, Pierre Kalulu alongside Fikayo Tomori (signed for €28m) set up their game, and Mike Maignan, a prudential replacement for Donnarumma for just under 15 million euros. It has become apparent that Maldini and Milan have an amazing ability to spot a bargain, especially when it comes to young players.
However, his boldest move was arguably bringing back 38-year-old free agent Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Pioli’s tactical sense
Initially seen as a journeyman, Stefano Pioli was quick to show off his managerial prowess. One of his main tactics was to use a 4-2-3-1 formation where the full-backs played an advanced role on the pitch.
The AC Milan manager says the 2022 Scudetto winners were born in a “horrible” and “humiliating” 5-0 loss to Atalanta in December 2019.
“It was one of the most negative moments of my career,” Pioli admitted to DAZN, “but also one of the most valuable.”
“That’s when we realized what it took to grow this team.” (MilanTV)
Unsurprisingly, Maldini and Pioli got along well. “Paolo’s presence gives the club a winning mentality and embodies Milanese DNA,” former Milan footballer and coach Clarence Seedorf said in an interview with Corriere Dello Sport.
In his second stint for the Rossoneri, Ibrahimovic offered both experience and courage on the bench. He has been seen to motivate the entire team in countless instances, often producing a positive spirit. Moreover, his selfish flair was dampened by the touch of the humble Pioli.
AC Milan reclaimed the Serie A title in remarkable fashion with a 3-0 win over Sasssoulo, and forced city rivals Inter into second place.
The smiles returned to San Siro when Milan accomplished something magical, something no one expected three years ago when the team was in turmoil. Milan, however, are still paying the price for Yonghong’s disastrous tenure. They have not yet reached the financial level of many of their Italian, let alone European, competitors.
Nevertheless, while they might not have the best team in the papers with an immaculate financial situation, they have the best team and the best manager in Serie A.