There are Champions League festivities all over Milano in the spotlight this weekend. While in the back alleys and evil villas lurks a nationalistic billionaire publicly struggling with the idea of letting go of his 30 year hostage, AC Milan. Should the sale go through, whether or not he will retain any power, real or imagined, his vision is for Milan to have a young, all-Italian starting eleven. But is that even realistic? Or just another one of his campaign catchphrases? His political party is, after all, called the Forza Italia party. But in today’s global football environment, coupled with the state of Serie A, it seems to be just another one of his delusions.
You don’t have to look much further than the goals. WhoScored tweeted this infographic with the number of goals scored this past season by Italians. Milan are fourth from the bottom, with only 12 goals scored by Italians this season, tied with Juventus. You know, Juventus, that team that won the league for the fifth consecutive season this year, and also currently has the most players called up to the Italian national team? Same number of Italian goals as Milan this season. And half of our Italian goals were scored by Bonaventura, just one player, too. Sassuolo are the only team who finished ahead of us in the league who are also in the top ten of that infographic. The other five teams who finished ahead of us in the league are all in the bottom half. At least this season, winning teams had very few goals scored by Italians.
The stereotypical response to this data would be to infer that Italians play defensively. Take that for whatever you like. But the reality is that there simply aren’t a lot of goalscoring Italians playing in Serie A. While many, especially Berlusconi, have complained that there are too many foreigners playing in Serie A, these stats show that Serie A would be pretty boring if they didn’t.
|The stars of Sacchi's Milan, not at all Italian|
But hasn’t it always been this way to a certain degree? Think of Sacchi’s Milan… sure, there were a lot of Italians. But the players who won the matches with their goals were primarily Dutch – van Basten, Gullit, and Rijkaard - all imports. Think about all of the other greatest and most beloved goalscorers and creative players for Milan… Shevchenko, Kaka, Weah, Boban, Savicevic, Seedorf, Ibra, and more. All imports. Of course we also have our Baresi, Maldini, and plenty of Italian legends who have contributed to Milan’s success through Berlusconi’s reign of terror. But we wouldn’t have success without the goals, and the goals of our “imports” are a huge part of what won us so many trophies.
With the poor state of Milan, Italians may have more time to try to make Milan’s next top goalscorer. But if Milan are ever going to be competitive again, we don’t have time to wait for the Berlusconi-induced baby boom kids to grow up and see if they can cut it. We need goalscorers now. And since all players seem to score more goals once they leave Milan, and Berlusconi seems to prefer the non-scoring Italian attackers such as Matri and Cerci, we need a Bacca to come in and get us on the scoreboard. Well we really need several Baccas. But my point is he’s not Italian, and he was hands down our most prolific scorer this season. Plus, how can Berlusconi talk about an all-Italian squad when he personally insisted upon renewing Mexes? Especially after losing such a fine Italian defender like Daniele Bonera in the same transfer window. It’s contradicting decisions like that one that make Silvio seem even more insane than he already does.
|Berlusconi sits proudly amongst his trophies won by foreigners alongside his precious Italians|
We discussed on recent podcasts how much the modern game seems to have left Berlusconi and Galliani behind, and nothing is more painfully obvious than this bizarre infatuation Berlusconi has with his nationalistic views. Does he want a team that will win? Or does he want to win votes? One can only conclude that with a team that is entirely made in Italy, it’s not about winning. Perhaps if he can bring himself to get to the San Siro tonight to watch the Champions League final, he’ll see that nationalism no longer has any place in football. Having the most Italian team can get you to sixth in Serie A, but if he truly wants to see Milan in the Champions League again, it will take more of a global effort.
This post inspired by the music of the Champions League Anthem