Monday, July 8, 2013

Back to Milanello

Do you remember the feelings you had before going back to school each year? Excitement? Anxiety? Hopes and dreams? Each year as the boys come back to Milanello, I have a lot of those same emotions, and this year is no exception. While I may be a bit jaded after last summer, still I find myself surprisingly optimistic and hopeful for this season. Kind of like going back to school when you are a senior, and maybe kinda popular, too. The season ahead will make or break my optimism, and the mercato still before it, but for today, I’m kind of excited about watching the team come back to Milanello.

Milanello: just like a school waiting for the students on the first day of school

If you’ll recall last year on this day, we were still mourning the loss of our Senatori. The signings of Serie B and Ligue 1 players to replace some of them had us cautiously optimistic. And the Ibra-Silva storm was still brewing on the horizon, so most of us could still sleep at night. It was exciting to see the boys fresh-faced from their short vacations and eager to start training for the new season.

It was very shortly thereafter that management would betray our hearts and our dreams by selling our two best players, then dance on the graves of said hearts and dreams by telling us how much money they had saved themselves and how great these players were that they had brought in to replace them. But that “first day of school” feeling, meeting the new players, seeing the press conferences, watching the curva cheer them on… it was slightly magical in spite of everything.

Last year, these were our "big" signings... only one out of three panned out

So I am hoping that today will be even more so. Despite potential storms on the mercato horizon, we are in the process of bringing in three excellent upgrades to our midfield: Poli, Honda, and possibly Ljajic (who will likely feature more as a seconda punta in the new formation.) Add that to the likes of Cristante and Petagna being promoted from the Primavera squad, and Saponara joining us from Empoli after being signed on a co-ownership deal in January, and I have become very optimistic indeed. These are the kinds of signings I would have liked to have seen last year. And considering how lucky we were this past season despite not being properly reinforced, I am very, very hopeful of what we might be able to accomplish with the reinforcements. Even if we kept the same coach.

Of course, we have a number of players who were on national team duties for their countries who will not be there today. But Poli should have completed his medicals by now and is expected to be at Milanello, even if the deal hasn’t been completed as of this writing. There are players like Urby Emanuelson who should be returning from loan, and Nigel De Jong returning from his Achilles tendon injury. Which player will come up big for us this season? Which player will surprise us and make us want to buy his jersey? Which young player will break through and be a revelation? All of these questions will be going through my mind as I watch them train for the first time together this season, even if so many players won’t even be there.

Will the big man grace Milanello with his presence today?

I don’t expect to be blown away by the quality of a squad that will actually look very different come the end of August when Serie A kicks off, but I do have that nervous excitement that I used to have on the first day back to school each year after summer break. There is a growing energy with the club based on the events of the past year. The idea that maybe, just maybe we might have learned something from our mistakes. And definite indications that there is a hunger to win again, and perhaps the funding and hard work necessary to make that happen. So pack your lunches, put on your new school clothes, and fasten your seatbelts. The boys are coming back to Milanello again. And maybe, just maybe this might be the humble beginnings of something big again.

This post inspired by the music of The Ramones