Milan's Manager Dilemma

After nearly five years, the Pioli Out crowd seem to have finally realized their dream. Having constantly criticized the manager and blamed him for everything from the weather, the kits, to the mercato purchases, player performances, as well as the things he was actually responsible for, it seems that everyone has accepted that Pioli will be leaving at the end of the season. I mean, when pressed, management denies it and pretends to be annoyed by the questions. But they have leaked plenty of information to their spokespeople favorite journalists about having had serious talks with at least one manager, and reports actually have said the talks went all the way back to December. But the fans got wind of this name and vehemently disapproved of him as being the next Milan manager, leaving management reportedly rethinking their decision. And as a controversially successful season wraps up, Milan have a serious manager dilemma.

More questions than answers.

Pioli Is On Fire Fired?

Because Pioli is the only one at the club man enough to face the press before and after every match, he has been hounded relentlessly by the media regarding his future at the club. And he has patiently replied over and over that he would like to have his job performance evaluated at the end of the season. A very few have defended him or advocated for keeping him on, mainly due to a lack of suitable replacements. However, Pioli has increasingly seemed as alienated and lonely as Paolo Maldini predicted he would be when he gave his interview in December.

The fans have not been nearly as patient, with the Curva Sud calling for him to be sacked after being knocked out of the Europa League by Roma. And while clearly the constant criticism of Pioli has been demoralizing and affected the whole team, the damage has been done, one way or the other. Pioli has gone from coming up with the perfect matches when his back was up against the wall to losing the players and resorting to panic lineups and tactics when he needed the wins. The team has been unable to fulfill whatever his vision for the matches was, and performances and results (as well as fans) have suffered for it.

Many fans would be happy with a straight swap of managers, yet Bologna's manager is unproven.

Timing Is Everything

Pioli still has one more year on his contract, which would likely cost the club €4 million to buy him out of. However, he is also rumored to be on the shortlist of other clubs who are or may be looking for a new manager next season, in which case, he would need to break the contract, and Milan could actually get out of his deal much more easily. That may be why they are waiting until the end of the season to let him go, rather than make a change after the painful Derby loss or the losses to Roma.

However, if they are going to make a change, the sooner the better. The players need to know who the manager will be next year so they can make their decisions in regards to their contracts this year, too. Some of the big players may wish to stay or go based on this decision. The same holds true for attracting new signings, knowing who the manager will be is important to attracting new players. And building a squad for the manager will be important as well, not to mention the fact that the club are going to Australia later this month, and then on a US tour again, so need to have this piece in place as soon as possible.

Rumors of other managers replacing him have plagued Pioli's entire tenure.

The Right Man For the Job

The timing is a tough enough question, but choosing his successor is another dilemma altogether. To demonstrate to the fans and the big name players in the team already that this management are serious, they need to choose a manager with the potential to take Milan further. Further in Serie A and in Europe. However, they do not seem interested in spending for a big name coach, and reports are that they are looking outside of Italy. This is something which is disconcerting in and of itself, considering that Italian coaches are not only some of the best in the world, but also, they know Serie A, which is very technical and tactical.

It has been widely reported that Ibrahimović will have a lot of influence on who the new manager is, yet all the names he reportedly favors are somehow linked to his past as friends, former teammates, or managers. Will he consider all available choices objectively? And will he make the best decision for Milan, regardless of his past relationships? He has already been influential in requesting the person who signed him at the LA Galaxy to oversee the U23 project, even though he has never worked in Italy.

Milan fans reacted harshly to news reports of a certain manager linked with Milan.

Inexperience and Indecision

Additionally, Cardinale has to pay the costs, so that has immediately eliminated a lot of names of strong, proven managers. The names of the managers that they are willing to pay for do not necessarily seem to be an improvement on Pioli. In particular, Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui was reported to be very close to the job, but when fans got word of this, they started a viral hashtag Nopetegui, the Curva Sud made another statement, fans at San Siro voiced concerns, and someone even created a petition against hiring him. The irony is not lost on me, considering the similar Pioli Out campaign prior to his signing was completely ignored by the past management, and Pioli brought with him our return to the Champions League, our first Scudetto in 11 years, and a top four or better finish in Serie A each season.

This reaction has reportedly caused management to reconsider their choice. While there are a couple of profiles that are popular with fans, they each have drawbacks, whether it be cost, availability, or a proven track record. And while it's great that management might be listening to fans, is it great that they chose a potential manager that would draw such an immediate and hostile reaction from fans? Will they poll the fans every time there is a decision to be made? Or will they use the knowledge, experience, and resources at their disposal to make a decision that is football-informed? The media claim they have a set criteria for selecting a new manager, but the names being reportedly considered do not all meet these criteria, so this does not seem to be accurate or realistic. This is yet another example that demonstrates their complete incompetence and inexperience.

Can this random group of people make the right decision?

Milan have four more matches this season, but it is difficult to see that the results will have any impact on this dilemma. Rather, the management are in a very precarious position, balancing timing, finances, the fans, the team, the right person, their summer transfer window, and the future direction of their project. If they get this decision wrong, so many other things can go wrong. Getting this decision right could mean both support for their project and success beyond their expectations. But let's be fair. After the circus they made of our club last summer, expectations are pretty low. Those who know football have no actual power, while those with all the power have no footballing knowledge or experience. Keeping a manager on the payroll at all might be the most we can expect from them. But everyone is waiting and watching to see how they resolve this central piece of their project, Milan's manager dilemma.

This post inspired by the music of Billie Eilish's "What Was I Made For?"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 35
Milan vs. Genoa
Sunday, May 5, 2024 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)

Milan's Manager Dilemma Milan's Manager Dilemma Reviewed by Elaine on 9:30 PM Rating: 5
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