Monday, July 16, 2012

Riddle Me This

There are some strange things being said amidst all of this madness. People seem to be focusing only on the monetary side of things or only on the player side of things. But take a step back and look at the whole picture. The pieces just don’t fit. And I don’t understand how people can angrily speak of the betrayal from management and in the same breath say “I trust in Galliani.” The pieces just don’t fit. Or the piece about “rebuilding” and “having a plan.” If our management had a plan, why would they have ever put themselves in this situation? If our management was capable and transparent, why would our parent company have ever done anything to warrant a €564m fine? The pieces just don’t fit.

"Do you have a plan" "No, I thought you had a plan."

So let’s take the puzzle piece by piece. First the monies. It is well known that Milan had been carrying a large wage bill. With salaries like Ibra’s or Thiago Silva’s out of the way and accompanying payments & expenses, getting rid of them will save the club €150m over the next two years, according to Berlusconi himself. But why were we in that situation in the first place? Why didn’t we have players with reasonable salaries? Well, when you get players on cheap/free transfer deals, their salaries, bonuses etc. are more, costing more in the long run. And we can’t afford those kinds of expenses due to the fact that we’ve kept an increasingly large roster full of high salary players for too long. Oh, and that little €564m Fininvest fine that wasn’t supposed to impact Milan at all. Yeah, right. So it would be fiscally responsible then to drop the wage bill by €20m or more by losing the Senatori, then sell two of our highest paid players and reinvest the transfer monies into smarter buys of players with more reasonable salaries.

Okay, so many things wrong with this “fiscal responsibility” fantasy. If they had ever had a decent plan, they would never have kept such a big wage bill. Dropping it all of a sudden and then selling two top players risks all of the monies we could get from Champions League and a possible Scudetto. (Our Champions League haul this year was just under €40m.) You have to spend money to make money. Even Barbara Berlusconi wrote seven pages on why it was fiscally negligent to sell Thiago Silva. No, this was an impulse move, in direct correlation to everything going on in the economy, with the giant fine and Berlusconi’s other pending legal issues (as well as a possible new bid to run for Prime Minister again.) And the sale of Kaka should remind us that when a player (or two) was sold due to financial crisis, they have not reinvested all of the monies, so we can definitely not count on them to do that this time. You don’t pull a giant stunt like this after already doing so much to lower expenses to reinvest the income. You do this to balance the books.

Berlusconi checks Kaka's teeth to make sure he can get top dollar for him

For those looking at the player side of things, you are seeing that we stand to lose Serie A’s Capocanonniere from last year, with 28 league goals. Also the best center back in Serie A, if not the world. So I have seen many ideas of how to attempt to replace them. Some of you are even keen to reinforce other areas of the squad that have been lacking, such as a proper left back or another defensive midfielder. And others are remembering that we have lost ten other players that we had last year, and even if we are decreasing the numbers in the squad, we need to improve the quality. Then there are Muntari’s and now Strasser’s injuries, even if Constant was already brought in to cover for Muntari. Oh, and of course, Pato has picked up a knock playing with Brazil.

Ahhhh, fantalcalcio. And it’s enhanced by the prevalence of Football Manager. I have seen everything from lineups that would make Mourinho blush to people who have taken the reported transfer monies and “spent” much or even all of it to create a more competitive lineup based on current valuations of the players. Only that doesn’t account for their wage bills, which is how we got here in the first place. It also doesn’t account for the fact that we have never reinvested like that before, why is everyone so convinced we will now? Or those who say that we need to promote our own Primavera or invest in other youth. Well most of our Primavera are already out on loan or some even sold, which is why that won’t happen. We never do that. We went so far as to spend €300,000 and a precious non-EU spot on a 19 year-old Brazilian for our third keeper, rather than promote Piscitelli, who was good enough to be on our bench last year, but apparently not this year.

Milan Channel showing a starting 11 of players who have left this summer

You just don’t replace 10-12 quality players with the few players we’ve bought so far, with most having little to no Serie A experience. Considering the last time we had such an exodus, we bought Gattuso, Inzaghi, Pirlo, and Nesta, who were already established players as young or younger than the ones we’ve bought so far, then it’s safe to say that there is room for panic when we are now also trying to replace the irreplaceable in Silva and Ibra. We are taking the squad that supported those two, removing 10 players, filling in with unproven players, and now have these two gaping holes left to fill, too. I would love for our current players and the new players to step up and surprise me (like Nocerino,) but what are the odds that this will happen with more than one of them? I wouldn’t take that bet. An anomaly is bound to happen here or there, but it would be a miracle if we could come close to the level of play this year as we had last season. It just doesn’t add up. The monies and the players are intrinsically linked, you have to get both of them right to have continuous success.

And as for rebuilding… if Milan had a plan for rebuilding, they would have phased out the Senatori over the last several years. If they had a plan for rebuilding, they would have been working on having Primavera players to promote when we needed new players instead of having to go out and panic buy players. If there was a plan in place for rebuilding, why would they let so many players leave and then pull the two pieces of the puzzle that would start a domino affect on the players who were still left?

"Yes, Signore Galliani, that's a daily bathtub filled with champagne,
and a  vat filled with caviar in addition to wages and bonuses"

Yes, they could use this opportunity to rebuild. But what signs have you seen that they will? They are meeting with the agents of Tevez (approx. €26m transfer fee plus €13-16m in wages) and Rolando (has a €30m buyout clause in his contract) this week. How would that be rebuilding? No this is cash in on the players you can get the most cash for, and then send Galliani in with his tire iron to try to steal other players who might give us almost as much quality as the players we’ve lost. With similar costs and wages. And now a lesser support system, too. How is that rebuilding? We are not shopping young players, we won’t take risks with our own Primavera, we’ve shipped them all out to Serie B clubs despite having as much or more potential than the older players we’ve purchased. This is not rebuilding, it’s refinancing. And everyone knows what you get when you refinance – higher cost in the end.

No one ever listens to blondes, apparently dyeing her hair red didn't work, either

This is an epic fail from the club. We’ve been here before, only it’s getting worse every time. What will happen next, will Berlusconi sell his own daughter? I imagine that might be why she was brought into the board, because it’s not as if he listens to her. And she clearly has more sense than he’s ever had.

As fans of a team with a room full of trophies and a proud heritage of amazing players, we have been spoiled and have come to expect the best from our team. To be fair, the best always have some bumps in the road. But this is a bump that is all too familiar, one that is getting bigger and more treacherous all the time. I will not relax and wait for Galliani to “do his magic” in the mercato. I can see now that we have been here before, only not so badly. I can see now that if you take away 10 players with so much talent and experience, fill in with a few players without much Serie A experience, then take away the two players on your squad who are top 5 in the world at their position and try to replace them with players who aren’t (if they even get replaced,) you will NOT have the same level of team the following season. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.

"Without Thiago, where are we going...without Ibra, there is no challenge!!!"

Sure, I’m hoping they will reinvest at least some of the monies. Of course I want Galliani to find us some players with a lot of talent and lower wages. Who doesn’t want an infusion of promising youth, players who work hard and are talented enough to play at such a big club? But I don’t trust that any of that will happen. Not only have we never seen those things before at Milan, but Galliani was a big part in the raping and pillaging of our team, which we now know was calculated and planned. They told us Thiago Silva had to be sold, then that he would stay and asked us to thank the President as they were planning to add Ibra to the deal. If you still trust these guys, you truly might have fallen off of the turnip truck yesterday. Although they do say that ignorance is bliss.

The bottom line is that I love this club. I want to believe, but I am not na├»ve. I am ready to swallow the bitter pill of the reality that we are in, and hope to be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. But I cannot sit here and tell myself that everything is going to be okay, because it isn’t. This is the worst exodus, with the worst financial issues, and the absolute worst treatment of the players and fans that I have seen. And don’t forget our worst injury plague, too. It’s all of our worsts all put together to make one giant catastrophe. This club’s management needs a massive overhaul in attitude and practices if it is going to stay competitive and stay solvent. Without that, I shudder to think what the future holds. The pieces just don’t fit.


This post inspired by the music of Nirvana’s “Rape Me”


Our Next Match is the Trofeo TIM Tournament in Bari
THIS Saturday, July 21st
Inter vs. Juve begins at 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)
Milan play at 21:45 CEST (3:45pm EDT) and 22:45 CEST (4:45pm EDT)
The tournament consists of three 45 min. matches
between Milan, Juve, and Inter