Milan's Post-U.S. Tour: Coming Back to Earth

Milan concluded their U.S. Tour in Las Vegas on Tuesday with a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona. In addition to having lost all three friendlies, which in and of itself is not a big concern, we learned a lot about our squad. While we got to see some of our new players get time, this match in particular demonstrated the lack of depth, despite the exciting new signings. And with Krunić reportedly asking to leave, it signals a huge red flag for our midfield, with Pobega the only current continuing midfielder from last season. Changing so many players, and with even more changes on the way, this tour had the sobering effect of coming back to earth.

Milan, we're not in 1899 anymore.

Milan were dominated by Barcelona in possession, especially in the first half, when the Blaugrana kept Milan defending for their lives. Leão had a chance or two, and Reijnders had a couple of chances, but it was Ansu Fati's fantastic goal from the top of the box in the 55th that determined the match. Kalulu got his first minutes in the U.S., subbing on for Florenzi in the 64th, who just lacked the speed to keep up, and Kjaer also saw his first minutes of the tour, coming on for Thiaw in the 73rd minute. 

A proud first for our star player.

Leão got to wear the armband for the very first time when Theo Hernández was subbed off for Primavera defender Bartesaghi in the 80th. That looked like a stroke of genius just one minute later, when Bartesaghi made a breathtaking block on Ansu Fati to keep the score at 1-0. New boys Loftus-Cheek and Reijnders also earned yellow cards in the first half for trying to stop Barça's speedy players, while Pulisic struggled and had a worrisome fall where he hit his head, as well.

The eye opening moment in this match, however, was at halftime, when Xavi made his subs. After starting a reasonably strong starting 11, he brought on the likes of Sergi Roberto, Ansu Fati, Alejandro Balde, Frenkie de Jong, and Robert Lewandowski from the bench. This is something called depth. Pioli still has nothing like this. His subs were Kalulu, Kjaer, Luka Romero, Pobega, Colombo, Primavera defender Bartesaghi, and Saelemaekers.

Pioli's starting 11, but still he did not have a lot left on the bench.

Not only did Barcelona deservedly win this match, they exposed a truth about this team that no one has been willing to talk about. We knew that seven players were out of contract, then Maldini and Massara were fired and Tonali sold. Furlani insisted that this is "not a Year Zero," but then they went and spent the money from Tonali and then some, and is still spending. This demonstrates a continued naïveté from this management that is disconcerting.

With the exits of Gabbia, on loan to Villareal, and Rebić, sold to Besiktas, that makes nine players out. Krunić would make ten, and there are reports that De Ketelaere and Adli are also on the verge of leaving. That would be twelve players out this summer alone, and there could still be even more.

Sure, they save on wages, but they got nothing in transfer fees.

Thus far, they have signed Colombo back from Lecce, as well as seven new players. It definitely feels like they are gaslighting Maldini and Massara by signing so many of the players they ever talked to or about. Furlani has been quite smug in his interviews this week about how good this transfer window has been and how competitive the team will be in the league and in Europe. Yet there are several glaring problems that they are not discussing.

First of all, changing the entire midfield in the summer, barring Pobega (and Bennacer, who is out until at least December), is terrifying. Not only has Pioli had to change systems completely to accommodate these changes, the team needs more time to learn the new system and to gel. But the season is less than three weeks away. And with five of our first ten matches against some of our toughest opponents, this is honestly a recipe for disaster.

Another new player, this one has not even trained with the team yet.

Not to mention changing so many players altogether. Chukwueze has not even trained with the team yet, and Okafor did not play any minutes in the U.S. Any new signings that come in will have even less time with the team. Even though the Club have spent quite a lot to bring in more established players, it still takes time to gain chemistry and understanding. But we don't really have any time. 

That hasn't stopped this management from just cleaning house, though, changing players out more often than Theo changes his hair color. They claim they are "building a team to compete in Europe and Serie A," but actually, they have gutted the team and it is more of a revolution than simply reinforcing. Which is, by definition, a Year Zero.

Maybe they should leave the cooking to those who are more qualified?

I was told repeatedly not to criticize the management and to "let Furlani and Moncada cook." This comes from many of the same people who have told me that women belong in the kitchen. Perhaps they should let me do the cooking, because at least I understand the recipe for success. And it is not by changing so many players out all at once. They needed to keep Tonali at all costs, as well as keep as many other players as possible and make the transition a little more slowly to sustain success now and in the future. 

Secondly, this plan, to sell an important player each transfer window who has tripled or more in value since being brought in and developed, is not a sustainable one. We only have so many players like this, and given their new method of paying an average of €20 million each for established players, we will not be developing as many players that will triple or more in value like the previous sporting directors did. Which makes it an unsustainable transfer practice.

Kalulu was purchased for €500K and 3 years later is worth €40m.

That leads me to the third point, which is UEFA's financial sustainability, formerly known as FFP. Milan are still on a suspended FFP sentence from last year. They met the criteria this financial year, but should they spend more than they bring in this coming season, then the remaining €13 million fine would need to be paid, and Milan would risk being banned from UEFA competitions. 

While they received around €100 million in Champions League revenue this past season, that only gave them approximately between €40-€50 million surplus in the budget to invest maximum with UEFA's margin of error. With the approximately €55-60 million for Tonali in income, they have spent this much already. So anything more that they spend from this point will need to be compensated with increased income this season to avoid issues with UEFA.

Thiaw nearly tripled in value in one season, but that was apparently a "failure."

After so many have criticized last season's transfer window due to one player not yet reaching his potential, this management are in talks to drop him on a loan with option to buy at a reported loss of €10 million. (This idea of last year's "failure" is really odd, considering that no one could have predicted this outcome, and another player that was purchased for €6 million is now worth €15 million. That is not failure.) 

They also sent Rebić away for free, with only a bonus payment, also a loss. It turns out that it actually is difficult to make money on player sales (unless you remove a vital player and risk the tactical system and the entire team's success in an attempt to fund one transfer window.) Who knew? But now they will need to replace those players this summer with money right away, which will add to the bill and increase our chances of UEFA punishment. 

Reijnders had a shot saved, he is exciting, but still needs time to develop chemistry.

While even I wrote off this transfer window in the beginning, based on last year's lack of spending, they have certainly signed some potentially good players. However, all of this talk about the team being stronger or better than last year is really debatable. At this point, given that the players are all new, the team is definitely weaker right now than at the end of the season, although it definitely has the potential to be stronger eventually. However, by changing so many players, it could all backfire, too. And by spending so much to replace the players who left, without getting any money for other departing players, it will be very difficult to actually reinforce the bench like we desperately needed to.

Our weakness before was largely in attack, especially that right wing, which they have definitely addressed. But they did so by completely gutting our midfield, which actually makes the entire team weaker, and will significantly impact our defense as well. Losing such a quality player like Tonali was more devastating than can be measured, and the effects remain to be seen. It will be difficult for any one player to come in and replace his many talents, let alone even all of the midfielders we sign.

A revolution in the midfield will take some time to become stable again.

Heading straight into a difficult stretch of Serie A matches, with Champions League Group Stage matches impending as well, this team will need to miraculously come together for us to stay competitive and to progress to the knockout rounds in Europe this season. It is definitely not hopeless, but it is also very naïve to assume that success is guaranteed. The U.S. Tour was not a failure in terms of scorelines, but it was a wakeup call from the dreamland of this transfer window. It demonstrated that this team is still fragile, and that this summer's events will definitely still impact the team going forward. If nothing else, the U.S. Tour represented a coming back to earth.

This post inspired by the music of Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)"

Our next match is 
the Trofeo Silvio Berlusconi
Monza vs. AC Milan
Tuesday, August 8, 2023 • 21:00 CEST (3pm EDT)

Milan's Post-U.S. Tour: Coming Back to Earth Milan's Post-U.S. Tour: Coming Back to Earth Reviewed by Elaine on 4:00 AM Rating: 5
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