Mad Mercato

Watching teams like Juventus and Inter pick up good players by dropping a lot of cash in the January mercato has a lot of Milan fans very angry. Some feel that we are conceding the Scudetto race or even risking Champions League qualification by not also spending big. Even their plan to bring in a new defender after losing Kjaer for six months has not come to fruition, and the market closes on Monday. Will anything else change for Milan before it closes? Do we lose faith in our team and the club's project? For some fans, there is only anger.

Don't be mad, just break even

One of the biggest problems with the transfer market is that so many media rumors fuel ignorance in so many fans. I have made no secret that I abhor the mercato, because even people who I typically respect for being rational and intelligent get swept up in rumor after ridiculous rumor. These rumors give fans a false sense of expectation and even entitlement about what the club can or will actually do in the market. At the end of the day, fans submit themselves to a roller coaster of emotions that leaves them bitter and angry for things that were never even real. 

This month has seen Inter bring in Gosens and Caicedo to reinforce their €140 million per year wage bill. Juventus spent between €75-80 million on Vlahović alone to reinforce their €180 million per year wage bill. Milan's wages are a paltry €80 million per year, and thus far, they have only brought in Lazetić, an 18 year-old striker for the future, to replace Pellegri. Yet despite the fact that both of those rival teams pay their players nearly double or more than double what Milan's players earn, we are still sitting in the top three, seven points ahead of Juventus.

Last summer, Milan bought 11 players for the price of this one

Contrast Juventus' mercato this month with Milan's mercato last summer. Juventus spent €75 million on a single player, whereas Milan spent that much and brought in 11 new players last year, including one for the future. The same people who celebrated Maldini's masterclass move for Maignan last summer have lost the plot and fail to see the wisdom in building a squad carefully. What if Vlahović gets injured, like Chiesa? What good would it have done for Juventus to drop so much cash for a single player then? Certainly we know how an injury in a split second can change fortunes for a season.

Will the big spending on one or two single players really decide the Scudetto? Maybe. But if you look at results per Euro spent, Milan are killing it in comparison to Inter and Juventus. This in spite of our tragic luck with both injuries and referees this season. Maybe we don't win the Scudetto this season, and maybe we have to claw our way through our injuries to qualify for Champions League again. But Milan are far more fiscally fit than either Juve or Inter, and that will translate to long-term success.

Football is unpredictable

Life is not fair. Serie A is not fair. Last season, they awarded the Scudetto to a team who couldn't even pay their players. Not only did Inter crash out of the Champions League while Milan fought through the Europa League, costing us fresh legs and injuries, but they basically bought that Scudetto by spending money they didn't have on players they couldn't afford. This season, they still have to play in three competitions, so the lead they currently have at the top of the table could dissipate very rapidly once they are playing three times a week again. Football is unpredictable.

Speaking of unpredictable, losing Kjaer created talk of a change in plans. Maldini had said we wouldn't do anything in this transfer window. After Kjaer's injury, Maldini spoke of the desire to bring in a new central defender for the rest of the season. If rumors are to be believed, they have worked very hard to do that, but it hasn't materialized. The difference between Milan and the other clubs is that even a short-term need does not derail them from their long-term course for success that they have charted. They are not short-sighted like a certain former sporting director, who would go shopping after every injury. They simply won't risk the entire project for a single player.

We have come so far

We have come so far since the Galliani "Fine as we are" days. Maldini and Massara have a project that they are adhering to. They are doing something we have never seen at Milan, or at least since Berlusconi bought the club in 1986: being fiscally responsible. They have put together a team that is young, exciting to watch, and overperforming. With some patience, we could see another golden era at Milan, but this time it will be one that is sustainable. 

Looking at the big news of the mercato, envy is a natural consequence. We would all love for Milan to splash some cash and increase our chances of winning. But our singular purchase of this mercato is one for the future, a purchase of renewal instead of spending big and risking it all. Juve and Inter are going all in to win a single trophy now and risk long-term financial consequences. But Milan are spending carefully now to win many trophies in the future and to be financially sustainable, too. It's easy to react and be mad at our mercato. But taking a step back, you may be able to see the building of not just a season of winning, but an era of success.

This post inspired by the music of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 24
il Derby della Madonnina
Inter vs. Milan
Saturday, February 5 • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)

Mad Mercato Mad Mercato Reviewed by Elaine on 1:41 AM Rating: 5
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