Remember July?

It seems like a distant memory. Milan’s season was just restarting, and newspapers were repeatedly reporting that Ralf Rangnick to Milan was a done deal, even though none of them knew in what capacity he would be coming. For those of us who opposed this move from the start, these are horrible memories. Rumors swirling, fans disrespecting Maldini and throwing him under the bus for some German guy who never even won a single Champions League trophy. Disrespecting Pioli and our team, who were fighting to finish out the season. That was July.

The decisions of Gazidis threatened to leave football in the shadows
Gazidis' decisions threatened to leave football in the shadows

Since that time, Milan finished out their season undefeated after the break, and played the best football we’ve seen in the Milan shirt in years. It turns out that the beautiful football was what tipped the scales, confirming Maldini, Massara, and Pioli and leaving Rangnick to quit his day job and contemplate his life… again.

How did we get from that time, where fans were insisting that Maldini didn’t know what he was doing as a director, calling Maldini a clown and much worse, and heralding Gegenpressing as if it was the only style of football that existed? Whereas now, Maldini is once again being revered and heralded for his amazing signings of talented young players for ridiculously low costs. How did we come from such a low point to such a high point in less than two months?

Remember this guy?

First, there was the football. Once Pioli was given some time to train the team without distraction, his first real “preseason” with this team, he was really able to instill his ideas and create the environment and teamwork he would have created if he had started last July. This, combined with the presence of the older players that Maldini was finally allowed to buy in January, created something like Maldini’s original vision for this team: a young team with players who are committed to Milan, with a few more experienced players to help them.

This vision would have been implemented two years ago, but for Gazidis insisting on his vision, of a 100% young team. Leonardo couldn’t manage to get Gazidis on the same page as his vision for the team, so left after a year. The whole Giampaolo thing backfired in part because Gazidis blocked players like Ibrahimovic or Cesc Fabregas. Having so much change in management and only young players impeded Giampaolo from being able to do his job properly, as well.

Collateral damage from a useless plan

After hiring Pioli, we now know that Gazidis waited all of two weeks before going behind the backs of Maldini and Boban to contact Ralf Rangnick. And he stayed in touch with him for nine long months of rumors, with Milan fans willing to sucker punch the ultimate Milan legend for what they thought was the next good thing. But they were wrong. So wrong.

The rest of us knew that continuity was more important than ingenuity at this point. That starting another new project was a mistake when this project was ready to explode. The results and the football throughout July demonstrated that Maldini was right and Gazidis was wrong. And in the end, Gazidis could not argue with results.

They stuck to their ideals... and won

What has happened since is nothing short of magical. Maldini snatched Sandro Tonali from Inter’s limp clutch, and he closed the deal with Brescia in five days, earning the rare praise of crazy Cellino, Brescia’s owner. But he also did it with FFP in mind, as the cost for Tonali for this year is only going to be €5m on our balance sheets. Tonali is widely considered to be the most talented Italian player of his generation, and is a lifelong Milan fan. Unless someone in Serie A signs Messi, this truly could be the best Serie A signing of this mercato, especially because he is so young and promising.

Another player reportedly taking medicals today is Brahim Diaz, an attacking midfielder from Real Madrid. Maldini got him on a dry loan, but with a gentleman’s agreement to buy out/a buy back option for them. Ridiculous. Makes Galliani’s deals look pathetic in comparison. Especially when you consider the quality and age of the players. But hey, remember July? When those Milan fans were saying Maldini was a terrible director and getting Rangnick tattoos?


Also this summer, Maldini brought in the talented young right back, Pierre Kalulu, the brilliant 17 year-old attacking midfielder Emil Roback from Hammarby, and brought 21 year-old Pobega back from loan. All fantastic young players to help the Primavera and first teams, all for incredibly low costs. It turns out that Rangnick is not the only one who can find young talent for cheap. And it also turns out that Maldini knows more about Milan and winning than Rangnick ever will, and he should be shown some serious gratitude for putting up with all of this for the good of Milan.

So here we are, it’s early September, the season starts in a couple of weeks, and the transfer window only just opened. Once again, Maldini has completely impressed in the mercato, and his vision for Milan just brought us the best football we’ve seen in years. Finally, people are believing, even if it took them a couple of years to find their way. Finally, Gazidis has had to admit that people in football might know more about football and Milan than he does. And stupid, ungrateful fans are acting as if they never stanned for Rangnick and insulted Maldini. Hopefully, all of this will serve to teach them to trust Maldini. Remember July?

This post inspired by the music of NIN’s “Down in It”

Our next match is a friendly
Milan vs. Monza
Saturday, September 5 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

Remember July? Remember July? Reviewed by Elaine on 12:30 AM Rating: 5
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