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End of an Era



While everyone anxiously awaits a decision from Paolo Maldini as to whether or not he will accept the offer to be Milan’s next Technical Director, there is a lot for us to think about, too. Just a few days ago, Abate, Gattuso, and Leonardo were all at Milan. Now, none of them are. Their careers and fates all intertwined in some very interesting ways, and now they all left together. They also represent an end of an era. Not only because of their history together, but because as they leave, Milan is making some big changes to modernize the club and become FFP compliant. Even more than those three leaving, all of these changes represent the end of an era.

More than just goodbye, an ending

Leonardo and Gattuso were teammates for a couple of years when the latter first arrived at Milan. At that same time, Abate was in Milan’s youth system. Later, Leonardo would coach Gattuso and Abate at Milan. In fact, it was Leonardo who began Abate’s transformation from winger to fullback. While it was Allegri who successfully completed that transformation with the help of the legendary Tassotti, it was Leonardo who first saw the fullback in him.

Their association took a turn, however, when Leonardo was fired from Milan and went to coach Inter. Unfortunately for him, Milan won the Scudetto that season, and amongst the celebrations, Gattuso and Abate lost their shorts, climbed into the stands at the Olimpico, and sang along with fans. They sang chants against Leonardo, well at least Gattuso did.  Even though Gattuso publicly apologized multiple times, it still had to be awkward last summer when Leonardo was appointed as Milan’s sporting director. I am not sure if their history is what fueled reports of differences between the two, or if those reports were accurate. I don’t know if Leonardo was the one who pushed out his former fullback protégé, or if it was Abate’s former teammate-now coach, Gattuso, who made that call. Perhaps it was both of them, but together the three of them left Milan to mark an end of an era.

Alpha and Omega?

Those three who were former players, a scout and a couple of coaches represent the last of the “old guard.” But they also represent the end of trophies and of Galliani’s rational player purchases and Berlusconi’s investments in the club. They played alongside legends, and some even consider them legends themselves. They are the last of a golden era at Milan. A golden era that left the club in massive financial trouble.

This week, Gazidis has been very honest about the new era at Milan. There is no timeline. It is not going to happen overnight, it never was. It will be a project based on developing young players. Not to be sold, but to grow into the Milan crest and become stars. There will be a balance of experienced players as well, but it will all have to be respectful of FFP guidelines. A very pragmatic approach to managing Milan, something completely new to the club.

He loves us, he loves us not...

Gazidis also wants to modernize Milan. He cited the fact that the club doesn’t even have its own app in 2019. And of course, the stadium issue. Despite talks of Inter and Milan owning a stadium together, whether it was a renovated San Siro or a new stadium, there are now talks of a possible stadium owned exclusively by Milan. All of these things are things that Milan has desperately needed to do. The club under Galliani and Berlusconi had really fallen behind on and off the pitch, and this new project is a massive undertaking. But necessary for Milan to survive and become competitive again.

The final piece of this project at this point is a new sporting director. Gazidis has chosen Maldini, but he has asked for time to consider the offer. He has expressed how it is much more difficult and much less enjoyable than playing. Yet it is easy to see how much he still loves the club. Whether a sense of duty will allow him to continue on, or if he chooses another path remains to be seen at this point. Whomever the new sporting director is, they will be responsible for the next steps in this new Milan era. And all of these big changes yet again will also herald the end of an era.


This post inspired by the music of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”