Story by: Ben Sanders
A sleeping giant of Italian soccer has awoken from a slumber that has seen it mired in mid-table obscurity in Serie A since the turn of the decade. AC Milan’s most recent Scudetto was in the 2010-11 season, but the team has not claimed a major title since and has not even finished in the European tournament qualifying places in three of the last four seasons, but with the players the team has brought in combined with the quality young players already on the roster, Milan could be a threat to six-time consecutive Serie A winners Juventus, as well as Napoli and Roma.
In soccer money talks and attracts the brightest and best players to a club, integrating them with the young talents produced from the youth system. The legendary club has received a significant investment from Chinese businessman Li Yonghong to attract such players and complete a rebuild five years in the making.
Milan has spent $201.2 million on new signings this summer with an additional two players signed on loan fees. The biggest coup is Juventus and Italy center-back Leonardo Bonucci who is one of the top defensive players in the world. Bonucci has claimed the Serie A title with Juventus the last six seasons and appeared in two Champions League finals. Bonucci had been linked with several clubs, such as Manchester City and Barcelona, but ultimately chose to stay in Italy.
Milan also captured defensive stalwart Mateo Musacchio from Villarreal and sought-after left-back Ricardo Rodríguez from Wolfsburg. These signings, partnered with academy starlets, such as Alessio Romagnoli, create a vastly improved defensive structure with a mix of experience and exuberance. In Italy, structure is the most important part of the game, as teams work diligently to break down stubborn, rugged defensive lines. Also, 18-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma signed a major contract extension after much speculation.
All defenses need midfield protection with strong, powerful players who can intercept passes and read the game. This gap was filled with veteran midfielder Lucas Biglia and former Atalanta player Franck Kessié, who is one of the most highly touted midfielders in the game, to go along with cult heroes Riccardo Montolivo and Giacomo Bonaventura.
With these solid signings, new wide players Hakan Calhanoglu and Fabio Borini, in addition to Milan mainstay Suso, can maraud up and down the wings, providing crosses for newly purchased Portugal U-21-star André Silva.
Milan isn’t done splashing the cash either as reports link the club with making a loan move for Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanchez and purchasing $100 million-rated Andrea Belotti from Torino.
However, the main road block for Vincenzo Montella’s men will be the ability to mesh as a unit. With 10 new players in the squad, integrating all these new players and cultures into a young, burgeoning side, with the added pressure these new signings bring, will be a task as monumental as competing for the Scudetto itself. Keeping expectations low and performances high, while playing the attractive soccer Milan is known for is imperative for success.
Aside from the International Champions Cup preseason tournament, a ball will not be kicked in competitive action until late August, but if Milan can use the preseason friendlies and training camp to develop cohesion and understanding it could usurp the dominant Juventus and hoist the trophy come seasons end.
Featured image for this post courtesy of 101 Great Goals