With 112 years of history, the best is yet to come for Milan.
On the 112th anniversary of Milan, I tried to think back to the day I really knew I was a Milan fan. I was 10 years old. I grew up in America. As such, there was no local team to support. My friends who played football in school (as did I) were beginning to pick clubs in Europe that they would follow and support.
“I’m picking Chelsea,” one of my friends told me, “they’re basically the Red Sox of the EPL, they haven’t won in 50 years.” Was this a game about choosing a team at random that they thought was going to be successful? The whole ritual seemed strange to me, I knew which club I was supporting, because it was the same club that my grandparents talked to me about when I was a young boy. It was the same club I chose every time I played a FIFA video game dating back to FIFA 94 on the computer. I wasn’t going to choose my club at random. I knew my choice because I had a history behind my pick.
So it was fitting that my club is Milan, the club of history. The second most European Championships (which sounds more impressive if you phrase it as: the club which has won the most Champions League competitions). Tied for the most international trophies in the world. The second most Italian championships. The original club of Milan. Milan is a club that has history behind it, both through the club itself, and the players that have been apart of it. Donadoni, Ancelotti, Trapattoni, Baresi, Meazza, Altafini, Maldini, Van Basten, Weah, Nesta, Shevchenko, Kaka, Rui Costa, Boban,Seedorf, Savićević, Tassoti, Costacurta, …the list goes on. Milan builds legends. This is also the club that boasts the widely considered greatest team of all time, Sacchi’s Milan of the late 80’s.
What excited me about Milan was the style of play combined with the results it has garnered. Italian football has long been criticized for being about the result more than the performance. With Milan, the win is important, but it is just as important to play with class, and to convince with the performance on the field. From watching my first Champion’s League final of 95 (in 2001 when I discovered the Internet had old matches), to watching Milan clinch their latest Supercoppa (minus a few spots here and there) Milan are always a team that plays interesting football. Perhaps it’s because it’s the team I grew up with, but for me, some of the best football that I’ve seen besides the current Barcelona squad was played by Ancelotti’s early 2000’s squad. The midfield of Gattuso, Rui Costa, Pirlo and Kaka performed at a level that kept me following Milan despite being half the world away. Since I’ve been alive, Milan has won 5 Champion’s League trophies. More than any other team.
What got me excited about Milan then remains now. Milan play exciting football, and frequently score absolutely stunning goals, sometimes three at a time. The impressive part, however, is that this football is played by world-class players without being a financial liability. This is what keeps me enthusiastic and upbeat about our future prospects as a club. Milan after emerging from the lows of the late-Ancelotti-Leonardo run of form, has rebuilt at multiple levels. Milan’s youth program has seen a massive overhaul over the last half-decade, and has become one of the premier youth programs not only in Italy, but increasingly among Europe. The Primavera has even won the Copa Italia TIM cup in 2009-10. They have also produced future starting talent on the squad: Merkel, and players sure to challenge in coming years: Strasser, De Sciglio, Carmona, Kingsley Boateng and more.
Over in the first squad, the midfield additions of Kevin Prince-Boateng and Antonio Nocerino are two keys to the future of Milan. Also, the additions of squad players such as Alberto Aquilani and Urby Emmanualson have helped revolutionize a midfield that has been considered static in recent years. The attack has gone from an out-of-confidence Klass Jan Huntelaar and Marco Boriello to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Alexandre Pato, and Antonio Cassano, with the possible addition of Carlos Tevez. The defense continues to take shape, but with the backbone of Abate and Silva, the other places should fill out shortly.
So on this 112th anniversary of the founding of Associazione Calcio Milan, I believe Milanisti across the globe have a lot to look forward to. The club is in excellent position for the implementation of Financial Fair Play rules. There is little debt especially when compared with other squads such as Barcelona, Manchester United, and comically (and unsurprisingly), Inter. Additionally, many high wage players are on short contracts, and thus, Galliani and co. are able to adjust the wage bill on a year-by-year basis, especially based on the form of players over 30, who sign one-year extensions based on performance. The youth program continues to churn out players who will be ready to compete at the first team level, and we currently have one of the most exciting squads in Europe.
Congratulations to AC Milan on their 112th anniversary!