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Warning Signs


With Twitter ablaze with rumors and unfounded optimism, there seems to be little concern for the actual future. Or the past, for that matter. We all want so desperately to achieve success that lessons learned have been forgotten and all warning signs are being ignored. It is fine to have hope, it is amazing to think that we actually can have hope after the past three years. But as with every road and every journey, it might be good to proceed with caution.

Too many warning signs to ignore

First of all, the most important warning sign: the deal with Bee Taechaubol is not done. We don’t actually have a €470m cash infusion… yet. And although there were also promises of investment from Berlusconi, he has said that before and disappointed. While obviously, the promise of cash is enticing after having so little invested for so long, we have been burned this way before. Additionally, there is FFP to consider, and while there are indications that they will loosen the rules, we are starting with a €91m debt from calendar year 2014, so will need to spend carefully if the money does come. What good would it do to get into Europe again if we are then sanctioned? How will we build a stadium if we spend all of our money on players?

We also need to remember the past. Buying older stars with big wages and long contracts is what got us here in the first place. They are simply unsustainable with our business model. Galliani has shown that time and time again. But what we haven’t seen is Milan’s ability to adapt to the new era of football. And along with the aforementioned FFP, it is particularly hard to build a team with instant success anymore. It takes years of building and planning, spending wisely, and grooming young players to build a team that will succeed. Even teams like Manchester City and PSG throwing bags of cash at their teams took years to find success. Inter and Roma are facing FFP sanctions after new ownership has thrown lots of cash at new players, and neither team has won anything yet.

Success is not just bought, it's built

People talk about Sacchi’s Milan. Well when Berlusconi bought the club, there was a core group of players/leaders in Baresi, Maldini, Costacurta, etc. They provided consistency, leadership, and a core defense from which to build upon. So when Berlusconi swept in with his cash, Sacchi, and three now very famous Dutch players, they achieved success quickly. (Sacchi’s Milan also didn’t have to worry about FFP, either.) Milan don’t have a core group of players like that. We don’t have that necessary foundation to build from. Instead, we have seen 52 players leave the club and 46 new players come into the club in less than three years.

Even with the promise of money, it needs to be well spent. But if we haven’t learned from the past and adapted to the new world of football, then it doesn’t help us moving forward to simply throw the yet-to-be-shown cash at big players. Especially by offering them big wages and long contracts. Again. We obviously still haven’t learned our lesson.

How the prospect of money and new players looks to poor Milan fans

But the biggest warning sign is that we don’t have the foundation that we had before when Berlusconi bought the team near bankruptcy and built it into a success story… with actual cash, invested year after year after year to sustain the success. Clubs who have success cycles now have the foundation, they have young players being developed, they have better income sources, and good planning. We have none of those things. So while investing potential new money is obviously enticing, we need to spend well and spend smart. There may not be any instant fix for this club. No instant success, just add money. Again, we need to heed the warning signs.


This post was inspired by the music of Muse’s “Drones” album