Milan 3, Salernitana 3: Emotional Overload

For both clubs, their fates were decided ahead of this match. Milan had sealed second place, and Salernitana knew they would be relegated. Therefore, the 3-3 draw with Salernitana was actually the secondary story to so many emotions. And Milan's new kit launch was almost a non-story. Pioli made sure that the players whose contracts are up all got some playing time, while the players were primarily focused on sending Pioli off in the best way possible. From a giant circle of hugs before kickoff, to a guard of honor, touching speeches, chants from the fans, tossing Pioli in the air, and one final round of "Pioli is On Fire," the entire evening was beautiful, but also a complete emotional overload.

The entire night was filled with intense emotions and goodbyes.

Emotions had been building for some time. Following Giroud's announcement that he would leave at the end of his contract, Milan posted a farewell video that included special messages from the next generation of Milan players. Kjaer's agent had also announced that he would be leaving Milan by mutual consent, and he, too was interviewed about his time at Milan, with his teammates and others also sharing messages with him.

Pioli was honored from the beginning.

Once the club informed Pioli that he would no longer be continuing as manager on Thursday and they were able to work out a mutual consent exit deal that benefitted everyone, the players began thanking him on social media. On Friday, the Club released a beautiful and stirring two minute video tribute to Pioli that had even the most hardened fans in tears.

Saturday night, the stadium was filled with fans with individual tribute signs to the players and Pioli, even if the Curva Sud were still hell bent on punishing their team for this management's failures with another first half protest. It just so happened to also be the 50th Milan appearance for both Reijnders and also for Captain America, Pulisic. Ahead of the match, Florenzi also received his Fair Play Moment of the Season Award from Serie A. Just before kickoff, the entire team, including staff, surprised Pioli by surrounding him on the pitch and applauding him, which inspired the fans in the stadium to do the same, and ended in hugs for all the players from Pioli.

Leão immediately went to hug Pioli after he scored.

The match kicked off and Milan attacked the Salernitana goal feverishly. It seemed that their emotions were translating into a desire to send everyone off with a win. That put Fiorillo, the Salernitana goalkeeper, to work immediately, fending off shots from Giroud and Rafa Leão within the first three minutes. After a valiant effort to keep a clean sheet, it was Fiorillo, though, who made a horrific error, letting the ball slip through his hands with Leão right there, and Leão absolutely took advantage of it, easily scoring in an open net. 1-0 Milan.

That was followed up with a goal from Giroud five minutes later, from a Florenzi cross. 2-0 Milan. A perfect ending for his time at Milan. Just like our last prolific number 9 when he retired 12 years ago, one last goal for the road. Theo Hernández also got a goal ten minutes later, but it was called back after a VAR review because Leão had been offside before his assist. A shame, it was a great goal, too. So, still 2-0 Milan.

Giroud's final goal for Milan, and he sends his love to the fans.

The Curva, like a woman wearing white to a wedding trying to upstage the bride, once again made this farewell match about them after halftime by finally showing up in force with banners, a sea of flares, and chants for the entire second half. Only it only served to emphasize how petty and selfish they had been to detract from those for whom this day was really about, those who had sweat blood for us. I mean, Maldini should have been there for this night, for example and he did not feel right because of this management, but he did not spoil the party.

Having never lived down their horrific behavior from Maldini's farewell match, this actually will go down as even worse, with Pioli and the departing players having served valiantly and never insulting them in any way. But the Curva could not simply honor them. Despite having boycotted the previous four weeks, with nothing really to be done to appease them at this point, they just could not help themselves.

He does exist!

In the 59th, we learned the answer to a question fans had been asking all season: Does Caldara really exist? And that answer was yes. Yes, he does. He came on for Gabbia, who had taken a knock and received some treatment. Adli also replaced Leão. And these sentimental subs marked the beginning of the drop in mentality, but it did not really matter. This match was about emotions.

Milan finally conceded 20 minutes into the second half, a goal by Simy from a corner. 2-1 Milan. Colontuano also brought on our Milan-owned defender, the young Marco Pellegrino, in the 75th minute. Then it was Calabria's turn, he scored his first goal of the season from a Pulisic cross. 3-1 Milan. 

Calabria saved his first goal of the season for the very end.

Next, it was time for Giroud's ovation, he was replaced by Jović in the 84th to a thunderous applause from the entire San Siro, and his song ringing throughout the stadium, too. Hugs and tears everywhere. With these distractions, we conceded yet another goal, Sambia, from a set piece. 3-2 Milan. Whatever. Then it was time for more emotional substitutions.

Nava made his debut in goal as Mirante was subbed off to applause, seemingly for the last time, as his contract is up June 30th as well. Very kind of Pioli to let both of them play. At the same time, our last Viking, Kjaer, was subbed on for his very last appearance for Milan, replacing Tomori. Nevermind that we had just conceded a goal, the stadium was filled with love for the man who had long dreamed of playing for Milan and was now saying goodbye.

Mirante played most of the match as his own farewell.

The distractions were probably just too much, and poor Nava, because moments after the restart and him coming on, we conceded yet another Simy goal. 3-3 all. That seemed to wake up the Milan players enough to remember to actually defend, and even go for the win, with some late chances. Even Caldara almost scored a header in the final minutes. But it was not to be, it ended with both teams sharing the points.

That was only the beginning of the tears, though.

The team set up an honor guard. Mirante and Caldara were acknowledged, and then it was Kjaer's turn. First a video with highlights of his time at Milan, which was also played on the big screens in the stadium. Then he walked through the honor guard of his teammates of the past four years, and made the farewell speech of a true leader, filled with words of devotion and heartfelt sentiment for the Club, his teammates, and fans. The stadium echoed with his song, and he was given a framed jersey signed by everyone in the team.

Kjaer says farewell.

Next up was Giroud. He had posted his own video on social media that was enough to get the tears flowing the other day. The video in the stadium was filled with his many goals, and even his brief stint as goalkeeper. He was emotional as he walked past his teammates onto the pitch for the last time, too, but clearly determined not to end up as a meme like Ibrahimović did last year when he cried at his farewell. Giroud's speech was interrupted several times by choruses of "Si è girato Giroud." (but he did not mind, he clearly loved every second of it.) He received his framed jersey and took his final bows, too.

Giroud speaks to all the Milan fans.

Then it was time to say farewell to Pioli. How do you thank someone who has given you so much? I swear the cameras panned around the stadium, and every child on camera was in tears as well as many of the adults. With his signature dignity and grace, Pioli choked back his own emotions to thank everyone at the club, the fans, everyone. And the fans erupted in a spontaneous "Pioli is On Fire," then joined by the music from the stadium DJ and the entire stadium. The players ran to him, picked him up, and tossed him in the air, a proper way to send off a manager who had lifted them up. He managed to get everyone to stop to finish his speech, but eventually, everything descended into a sea of hugs, tears, family, and fans honoring everyone.

A proper farewell for the man who helped bring Milan back to life.

Not unlike the mass exodus of the Senatori in 2012, I cried so much for these farewells. In many ways, it felt similar, as if it is the end of a cycle. I almost forgot about the match, it really felt more like a friendly. Because after three years with Giroud, four years with Kjaer, and five intense years with Pioli, this evening was about properly thanking them and sending them off. Sure, it was a shame we could not send them off with a win, but I really don't know if anyone cared that much. It seemed that everyone was just on an emotional overload. 

This post inspired by the music of Crowded House'
s "Don't Dream It's Over"

Our next match is a Friendly
Roma vs. Milan
Friday, May 31, 2024 • 13:00 CEST (7am EDT)
Optus Stadium, Perth, Australia
Stream on the Milan App or on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Milan 3, Salernitana 3: Emotional Overload Milan 3, Salernitana 3: Emotional Overload Reviewed by Elaine on 3:00 AM Rating: 5
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