Milan-Verona Preview: Last Dance

Sunday is the last match of the season. For some Milan players, it will be their last chance to wear the Milan shirt. For many of us fans, some of those players could not possibly leave fast enough, as they have overstayed their welcome (looking at you, Bakayoko.) While for others, many of whom we may not even yet realize are leaving, we will look back and wish that this match lasted much longer than 90 minutes. For Verona, this is their ultimate last chance to stay up, as only a result against us and some luck with other results will keep them in Serie A next year. So for many players and many reasons, there will likely be many tears at the final whistle on Sunday, as this will be their last dance.

Will this be the last dance for papa Ibrahimović and little Brahim Díaz?

Hellas Verona are the original club from Verona who have spent many years in Serie A and even won the Scudetto in 1984-85. They also infamously ruined Milan's title run on the final matchday of the season back in 1972-73 at the San Siro, and there has long been a specific rivalry between the two clubs. Had we not qualified for Champions League last week, I am certain they would have very much enjoyed taking that from us as well. So thank you again, corrupt Juventus.

Zaffaroni is proof that the third time is not always a charm, at least when it comes to managers

Last year, under Igor Tudor, Verona finished ninth in the league. He left in the summer by "mutual consent," and the club are now on their third manager of the season, Marco Zaffaroni. This year, they come into this match in 18th, tied with Spezia on 31 points, but below them due to a goal differential of four goals. Spezia will be playing away to Roma simultaneously, with their relegation battle the only real question left in the league. 

Last week, Verona managed a 1-1 draw with Empoli, but it was not enough to pull them out of the bottom three. For that match, Zaffaroni lined up: Montipò; Magnani, Hien, Cabal; Terracciano, Sulemana, Veloso, Tamèze, Depaoli; Ngonge, and Djurić. He will definitely be missing Dawidowicz, Thomas Henry, and Duda, who are all injured. Both Lasagna and Doig are in doubt as of this writing, struggling to achieve fitness for this match after injury.

The 6'5" (1.96m) Thiaw was helpful in keeping the 6'6" (1.98m) Djurić from scoring at home

When we travelled to the Bentegodi in October, we managed a 2-1 win against the debut of their second manager, despite missing seven players. One good thing came from that match, though, it was the debut of a young German defender, Malick Thiaw, who has been very important to Milan's season. This time, Pioli will only definitely be missing Bennacer and Ibrahimović to injury, the latter who has worked tirelessly to try to be available for this match, but is highly unlikely to be called up. He is also out of contract this month, and must make decisions about his future. It is reported that there will be a special tribute to him during the match.

It is impossible to quantify what Ibrahimović has meant to this team.

Others who are out of contract include:

Bakayoko - Finally. His AC Milan gym membership is expiring. I will gladly help pack up all of his weird hats.

Dest - he has only made 14 appearances for Milan, was not included in the Champions League squad for the knockout rounds, and has not been called up for a match since early March and not played for Milan since January. His €6 million annual salary is Milan's highest, higher even than any player renewal, and his €20 million buyout clause was prohibitive from day one. He was only brought in at the very last minute due to Florenzi's long-term injury just ahead of the closing of last summer's transfer window. He will be leaving.

Meh. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't worth €6m/year or a €20m buyout, either.

Tatarusanu - Thank you for exceeding expectations, but I am hoping Milan do not offer a renewal. With a deal for Sportiello reported to be complete, and Vásquez brought in this past January, it seems safe to say that he will be leaving.

Mirante - Thank you for all of the friendlies. (See notes on Tatarusanu.)

Amidst renewal rumors, will Maignan also be getting an all new supporting cast next season?

Vranckx - His loan from Wolfsburg is ending, and while Milan have an option to buy, it remains to be seen whether he fits into Pioli's future plans. Certainly, based on number of appearances, it would seem that he will not be staying.

Brahim Díaz - The end of his loan deal is the most polarizing. If Real Madrid were to give us a very exceptional deal, and Pioli would be willing to start him less often, I think most fans would enjoy keeping him for his grinta. But he has stood in the way of De Ketelaere's development this season by convincing Pioli to play him so much. It is painful to think how much better the young Belgian would have been by now had he been given more time, because he clearly has more natural talent and vision, plus more physicality. Brahim is talented, but his impulsive play lacks awareness, and he simply gets overpowered and loses the ball way too much to be a starter. I love the guy, but that is the honest truth. When thinking about spending €20-30m to keep him, I just can't, not when it sounds like Cardinale may be stingy with the investments again. However, if this is his last match, it will still be very emotional, because he has carved a special 5'7" (1.7m) place in our hearts, especially with emotional goals like the one away to Juventus two years ago or again this season at the San Siro.

Love him as a person, but he may actually be better suited to play in Spain.

There are plenty of other rumors about players who might be sold or loaned, including Origi, Rebić, Messias, Adli, Pobega, Ballo-Touré, and more, but many of those rumors are based on wishful thinking, as all of those players are still under contract. Certainly, Maldini and Massara have their work cut out for them this summer to improve this squad, with the biggest challenge being convincing more players to leave to make room for new signings.

One massive signing they have already made that cannot be rated high enough is the much anticipated renewal of Leão. His words confirmed the value of having a blend of younger and more experienced players. Some fans have criticized Maldini for allowing players who were purchased by previous sporting directors to leave on free transfers. But to his credit, he refused to be held hostage by their ridiculous agents and demands. However, Maldini was able to successfully negotiate and renew both Bennacer and Leão, both incredibly valuable young talents who were brought in by him for his project. Should either of them leave, Milan will definitely make money on them, which demonstrates the end of an era of poor player resales that has plagued this club since Galliani's time.

Leão with his proud parents after signing a shiny new contract through 2028, wearing a not-so-shiny new kit.

In summary, after a season that is seen as a disappointment for many in terms of results, Milan have seven players out of contract, as well as others who could potentially be appearing at the San Siro for the last time as a Milan player. Whether they get to play in the Milan shirt, which will be the seizure-inducing new first kit for next season, remains to be season. Pioli has the option to wax nostalgic and give some of the departing players some time, or to play for dignity and take three final points to finish the season on a win. Verona will definitely have a say in that outcome, as they are literally fighting for their Serie A lives. But I suspect that Pioli will want to give the fans one last victory at home, as a way of thanking them for their epic support all season long. No matter who wins, it will be an emotional one for many of the players, many of whom it will potentially be either their Milan or Serie A last dance.

This post inspired by the music of Måneskin's "Gossip"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 38
Milan vs. Verona
Sunday, June 4, 2023 • 21:00 CEST (3pm EDT)
This match can be streamed LIVE on Paramount+ in the U.S.

Milan-Verona Preview: Last Dance Milan-Verona Preview: Last Dance Reviewed by Elaine on 4:00 AM Rating: 5
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