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Mercato Math


Anyone who reads this blog or listens to the podcast knows that I hate rumors almost as much as I hate the journalists who create them. And nothing brings out the worst in rumors and journalists as much as the mercato. There are so many reasons, but this transfer window could easily show why more than ever before. If you’ve been paying attention to Milan in recent years, perhaps you’ll know why, too. It’s not rocket science, it’s some very basic mercato math.

"I know about maths!!!"

Let’s start with the squad size. Everyone knows that if you are competing only in the league and maybe the cup, 25 players is more than enough. Galliani has said that, too, that he wants to get the squad down to 25. In fact, without Europe for so many seasons, financially, he desperately needs to get it down to 25. But he has not been capable of doing that so far, choosing to panic buy for injuries, bringing back players for nostalgic purposes, and most importantly, unable to sell players who should never have been at Milan in the first place. In fact, the only deal he has confirmed for this transfer window is the loaning of Suso so that he can justify bringing Boateng back. Mind you, we will still own Suso, so once again, we are taking on another player and his salary, which means more players to unload in the summer. But Galliani did say that maybe if players leave he’ll bring in more reinforcements. And while we all have our wish lists of those players who we would personally pack and move for, no one ever wants to leave Milan, so don’t hold your breath. I’m betting on 28 players come February 1st, most likely the same 28 players we’ll have on January 4th when the mercato officially opens.

Now let’s talk about the financial side of things. Berlusconi spent big this past year. By his count, €150m invested in the club, although all of us question his judgment of how that money was spent as well as whom he had spending it. Nonetheless, he opened his pocketbook when he had someone promising him €540m to invest in a minority stake of Milan. That deal has never come to fruition, and recent reports indicate that it never will. Which means Silvio’s in trouble with his kids, who don’t want Fininvest to keep floating Milan’s growing deficit every year. Kind of like maxing out a credit card, only you have to answer to family when you have used their card. And if the family credit card is maxed out and you are not seeing any returns on your investment, then it is very unlikely that you are going to spend again anytime soon, it’s as simple as that.

Silvio says you are definitely smoking something if you think he's spending again in January

Mind you, the big man is certainly worth enough. But much of his net worth is actually tied up in physical investments, or to put it in terms we can understand: there is no actual cash available. So no cash, his kids are upset with his credit card-like spending, there is no Thai cavalry coming to bail him out, and the team is not playing well enough for his liking. Why would he invest money in January? He won’t. I mean I would not bet my children on it, but I would be very, very surprised if he spends even one euro, let alone splashes the cash for the players you people are talking about.

Next up in the math lesson is Adriano Galliani himself, the master of spin maths. He won’t address spending €8m on a Brazilian (like his girlfriend) also named Adriano. Instead, he’ll deflect to Bonaventura, who cost €7m, has managed much better returns, and we stole out from underneath Inter’s nose. That is the kind of accountability we get from the man who is handed the Berlusconi checkbook. But in reality, both his transfers and his contracts/wages are running Milan into the ground. Milan have the third highest wage bill in Serie A, but have barely managed to climb back up to sixth place and will be lucky to stay there. If you look at the quality of the players of the teams that are in 1st and 2nd in wages in Serie A, there is a massive difference in quality. That quality, of course, is the singular responsibility of Galliani, as he has worked so hard to ensure his autonomy.

Galliani is great with the addition, not so much with the subtraction

So while Mihajlovic is definitely going to get blamed for all of this and more, these two old men are not going to spend and invest in a proper midfielder as they should have done at any point in these past four years. Instead, they will hand Montolivo a three year extension, let a champion like De Jong walk away from the club and bring in another Kucka or Birsa or whomever Genoa has right now for twice the transfer fees and wages that player is worth. And that is if we are lucky.

It’s no secret that I hate the mercato, especially ever since the Summer of 2012, when 14 of our best players left simultaneously and the money was not spent on new players. From that summer to now, we saw 70 players leave Milan and 56 new ones come in. And still we struggle to stay in the top 10. That’s just not right. This past summer was pretty amazing, when we saw 18 players leave from our books + more on loans, most of whom were definitely not our best players, and we actually brought 10 new players in, more of whom were of Milan caliber, even if we still missed the most important piece. But again, with everything going on at the club financially, I can’t imagine that anything that positive will happen in January. Especially when Galliani is leading with his loaning of a promising young player to bring back a player who was absolutely awful for us his last year at Milan, then got pushed out of his next club. Not a good sign for the mercato, not good for the wage bill for the club, either.

"She doesn't like my big transfer coup!"

So hate me if you will, but I am going to err on the side of reason this time around and predict a very minimal mercato, if any at all. Particularly with all that is going on at the club financially right now. Feel free to dream about your €25m+ transfer fee players who would be perfect at Milan. Feel free to click all of those ridiculous rumors that are already flooding the interwebs and make those lying, soulless journalists rich with all of your clicking and speculating. I know how this works. And there are millions of places out there who will humor the delusions of said journalists and those who sadly believe them. But this site isn’t about money or clicks or selling one’s soul, so here, we’ll continue discuss any transfer moves when they are real and tangible. Especially since they likely won’t be worth discussing much this time around. And when all of your mercato hopes and dreams have been dashed come February 1st, you’ll be saying “I should have done the math.” That’s right, mercato math.


This post inspired by the music of Howard Shore’s LOTR Soundtrack “Hope Fails”