Reorganizing Milan's New Sporting Sector

When Cardinale abruptly fired Maldini and Massara, it was announced that the sporting sector was going to be restructured into a "working group" without a sporting director. This was just one example of how incredibly ignorant our owner and CEO are about football, as all Serie A clubs are required to have a certified Sporting Director as a condition of being registered. So they complied by finding someone from the youth sector who had completed the required courses to be a Sporting Director, which seems to be an appointment that is primarily in name-only. Because firing Maldini and Massara was not about their competency, it was about giving more people, namely investment bankers, more control over sporting decisions and removing those who were actually qualified to make them (or at least those who would oppose them and actually want to be successful.) That is the purpose of the reorganization of Milan's new sporting sector.

Cardinale gives the thumbs up to more bureaucratic power, less qualified personnel for our Sporting Sector

Let's start off by clearing something up. Maldini is being painted as some power-hungry executive who did not work well with others. That could not be further from the truth. He is no Galliani, who absorbed all of the positions below him until he had absolute control over everything. Maldini has always been a team player, as his peers have attested to. He worked very well with Massara and Pioli, and with Boban and Leonardo before him, as well as everyone else in the sporting sector. 

Milan's Sporting Sector Dream Team, being fired one by one for their integrity

What Maldini had fought the entire time he was Technical Director, was more autonomy to function in making sporting decisions. Such as when Gazidis blocked the return of Ibrahimović the first year, or other transfers. Or how Gazidis went behind his back to talk to Rangnick just two weeks after Pioli was hired, then fired Boban for disclosing his backstabbing ways. Even at the end, Gazidis failed to tell Maldini about he sale of the Club until it was announced to the general public. Still, he maintained a positive working relationship and worked humbly as a team player  in spite of all of this.

Unlike Leonardo, who left because he was not given the money he wanted to spend on players, Maldini shrewdly worked within the restrictive budgets provided. He found young, unproven talents for low transfer fees who increased their market value exponentially. Or he found experienced players like Ibrahimović or Giroud on free or low-priced transfers who were gamechangers on and off the pitch. He also simultaneously lowered the wagebill, while increasing the value of the squad, as well as, obviously, results.

Results speak for their work, working together with everyone, they transformed this club.

With such a proven track record, and even having won awards for everything he had done, last summer when Cardinale bought the club, Maldini and Massara negotiated until the final hour for more autonomy, amongst other things. They did not get what they wanted, but ended up reaching some sort of an agreement. In fact, the transfer targets Botman and Renato Sanches, who had agreed to come to the club in April, ended up going to other clubs while Maldini and Massara were fighting for their own jobs. And at the end of it all, Cardinale gave them less money to spend than expected, as well. 

This battle had been going on for a year already before Maldini was sacked. It was not so much based on the results of this season, as many fans believe, but more based on Cardinale's desire to have Furlani and possibly others have more power over sporting decisions. That is what Maldini was reportedly "uncomfortable" with, and evidently why the controlling owner fired him for not being willing to change the way he did things. Like if a new owner came in and told an airline's director of operations that he had to let the CEO, with no training or experience, fly the planes. Maldini didn't want Furlani making transfer decisions, so Cardinale fired the Technical Director so he could.

Contrary to popular belief, Cardinale came in with very different ideas than Maldini from day one, undermining his work from before the purchase

Perhaps the most telling is a quote from Maldini last year, after winning the Scudetto, discussing how disrespectful Elliott had been and firing warning shots to new owners RedBird. He said, "I am not the right person if you want to build a project that isn't aimed at winning. I could never do that." If you'll notice, in all of Cardinale, Furlani, and Scaroni's statements about their goals for Milan, they never use the word "winning," they only use the words "compete" and "competitive." 

Originally, under Elliott's ownership, Milan had a technical director who oversaw the entire sporting sector and supported staff and players, transfers, worked to keep it fiscally sound and would interface with the CEO, the public, and others. The Sporting Director worked closely with the Technical Director and also supported staff and players, and specifically worked with scouts and the rest of the parties to negotiate and implement transfers. Both worked closely with the first team manager as well as members of the women's and youth teams to support them on a day-to-day basis as well as managing transfers.

Those who seek power are often the least qualified to wield it.

Under the new "working group" plan, it was announced that Geoffrey Moncada would be promoted from being head scout and given more responsibilities, and that Pioli would have "more input" in transfers (even though he had always had plenty of input.) The inexperienced Furlani, whose entire career has been in investment banking,  would basically spearhead the group and negotiate with other clubs for transfers and work with Cardinale and the data specialists as well. This "reorganization," of removing the qualified individuals and giving power to the highly unqualified, or "working group," was supposed to be innovative. In reality, it was a huge step backward in terms of qualifications and effectiveness, not to mention losing the undeniable influence of Paolo Maldini when interfacing with other clubs and convincing players to sign for Milan.

Around mid-June this year, fans like myself began to publicly ask questions about Moncada's contract. Several times this past year, it was announced that he was negotiating a contract extension amidst interest from other clubs, and even that agreements had been reached, only no contract was ever signed. His contract was due to expire June 30th. Beginning July 1st, I began to ask daily on social media, and some of us reached out to Milan's marketing and communications directors online as well, but received no answers. 

Antonio D'Ottavio has been Geoffrey Moncada's righthand man.

Finally, on Thursday, after contacting the marketing accounts yet again, news agencies reported that Milan had actually hired a Sporting Director on June 20th to comply with the FIGC's regulations. They had promoted from within, giving the job to Antonio D'Ottavio. He has been at the Club since 2017, serving as the head scout of the youth system, and has been described as Moncada's righthand man. Prior to that, he worked at Inter, joining Milan with Mirabelli, as well as having experience at Sunderland and Torino.

I am assuming the title was given to D'Ottavio, as Moncada is unlikely to have completed the necessary courses to become a Sporting Director in Italy. D'Ottavio, on the other hand, had completed them, just last year. And speaking of Moncada, the mystery of his contract, still not announced anywhere by the club, was reported to have been extended by those same sources. This method of discovery fuels many people's suspicions that, as we talked about on the last podcast, rather than announce things with transparency like Elliott and Maldini did, this Milan are leaking information to the press, and allowing them to announce it to the public. That is dangerous, because they also publish every rumor from all corners of the earth, so it is impossible for fans to know what is true or not.

D'Ottavio with the Scudetto.

Basically, without the official title, it seems that Moncada is functioning similarly to Maldini, as sort of a Technical Director, while D'Ottavio is, at least on paper, the Sporting Director. Their "reorganization" just means they fired two far more qualified and experienced people, taking our head scout away from his position to do something else, and are letting an investment banker 'fly the planes' blindly, or make all of the final decisions. That is a really bizarre "working group." Literally, Cardinale just gave more power to a less qualified person and lined up more yes men, removing any people he felt threatened by. (Can you say narcissist?)

Additionally, they did not renew the contracts of Angelo Carbone, the former Milan player  and longtime scout who had been head of the Youth Sector since 2019. This, despite the Primavera going to the UEFA Youth League semifinal for the first time, the Women's Primavera winning the Viareggio Cup, The U15 Women's team winning the Scudetto this season, and many other impressive accomplishments amongst our Youth Sector. It is reported that they want to "revolutionize" the Youth Sector for some reason, winning is apparently not the goal.

Four years, improvements across the board, but now he's gone, too. Success seems to be the key to failure.

They also said goodbye. to former Milan backup keeper, Flavio Roma, the Goalkeeping Coach for the men's first team this past year. That makes four key members of the sporting sector gone within three weeks. The "reorganization" feels a lot more like cleaning house. Or an authoritarian takeover of the sporting sector by people who simply  want "yes-men." Investment bankers who have no business making sporting decisions. 

The signings thus far from this new "working group" (with token Sporting Director and acting Technical Director) are all targets that Maldini had identified or even negotiated with before leaving. Only without his influence, they missed out on all of his first choice targets. And they are paying more for the players he had already been negotiating with clubs for, with higher wages, too. They sold Tonali and are going on a spending spree, which seems to lack foresight and planning to build a team properly. Simply put, they are getting less in their purchases and paying more, and Tonali was sacrificed to fund their scheme.

Maignan's goalkeeping coach, Flavio Roma, is also gone.

Cardinale did get some good news this week in that UEFA decided that both Toulouse and Milan could both compete in their respective competitions next year after he and other mutual board members vacated their positions at Toulouse. However, UEFA imposed some strict conditions for the two clubs, which ironically match the reasons Cardinale bought multiple teams in Europe in the first place:

• Neither of the clubs will transfer players to one another, either on loan or a permanent basis, whether indirectly or directly, until at least September 2024.

• The clubs will not enter into any kind of cooperation, common technical, or commercial agreements.

• The clubs will not use any common scouting or player databases.

Toulouse will play in the Europa League by virtue of winning the Coupe de France,
but Cardinale will not get to connect the two clubs for scouting, player loans or transfers, etc.

Basically, UEFA prohibited Cardinale from doing everything he had planned to by owning both teams, because he failed to understand the rules of having two clubs in Europe. From not even understanding the most basic of regulations, such as needing a certified Sporting Director, to removing all of the qualified people and allowing unqualified people to fly his proverbial plane, Cardinale's reorganization of Milan's new sporting sector reeks of micromanagement by someone who clearly does not understand, respect, or love the team or even the sport. Worse still, he took a project that was actually working, and in only a year, has managed to completely derail it. 

How long before Pioli is fired, too? He's a man of integrity and also qualified to do his job.

There is some comfort knowing that Moncada is still involved, as he has done a great job scouting. Knowing that D'Ottavio has been his go-to person is also helpful (although he did also work with Mirabelli.) But Pioli is left standing all alone without support, holding a fixture list with five big matches in the first ten matchdays, a nightmare for any team, let alone a team with so many young players and so many personnel changes. There is no clear message from the club, or if there is, it is not about winning, but about remaining somewhere between relevancy and relegation. It is about business, and as Ancelotti said, projects that prioritize business over sport are "destined to fail."

This is not Milan. There is no longer a functional sporting sector, let alone a clear project. There is not even anyone in the pictures to welcome the new players, no one offering fans or the general public vital information after so much has happened. They seem to be leaking information to the press instead. In reorganizing Milan's new sporting sector, it feels less like a historic football club and more like a couple of investment bankers have taken over the team and are holding all of us hostage.

This post inspired by the music of NIN "Piggy"

Reorganizing Milan's New Sporting Sector Reorganizing Milan's New Sporting Sector Reviewed by Elaine on 6:00 AM Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.