Football Manager 2019 Club Development Series at A.C. Milan – Part I
A football club’s philosophy and DNA should transcend time, players and managers. Regardless of what point in their life-cycle the club is currently at, there are certain stereotypes, or even clichés that we immediately associate with certain clubs. What are some of the first things you think about when you hear the name Barcelona, Manchester United, Dynamo Kiev or L.A. Galaxy. Over time each of these teams, and others have developed a clear identity based on a culture underpinned by a clearly defined philosophy, and a strong DNA. Not all clubs have this defined. Or it is not as clear as maybe it should be. But in most cases the clubs with long histories of success have strong, defined, and productive cultures.
Now there are times when clubs lose their way, a change in leadership, as has been the case with Manchester United since the retirement of Alex Ferguson. Or in the case of A.C. Milan, they became victims of not only their own unparalleled success from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, but also the financial meltdown and general malaise that has infected Serie A, and Italian football as a whole for a decade or more, with Juventus the only club seemingly capable of rising above it. Sometimes a club needs to reinvent, or redefine itself in order to emerge from the embers of it’s past successes. A.C. Milan have gone through this rebirth once before in the mid 80s when Silvio Berlusconi appointed little known coach Arrigo Sacchi. The rest is history. The success enjoyed from 1987 to their last Serie A win in 2011, is only but a memory. After changing ownership twice since that last title triumph, Milan are at a similar point as they were in the dark days of the early to mid 1980s.
Long gone are the heydays of the 1990s, when Milan was the club to be at, when the world’s elite gathered at the San Siro. No longer among the Europe’s top clubs, Milan currently struggle to be considered among the top 3 in Serie A. Juventus, Napoli, Roma, and city rivals Inter, enjoying the lion’s share of success in recent years. Milan’s decline has not been sudden. Since the turn of the millennium Milan had made an art form out of extending the careers of players well into their late 30s. Both Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta played under Arrigo Saachi in the late eighties. As a result Milan gained a reputation as an old folks home for ageing superstars who’s stars had long faded. The effectiveness of Milanello Sports Centre had in extending careers had ultimately backfired.
Attempts to reverse this trend have ultimately failed as the club has overspent on mediocre players particularly over the last decade. It has contributed to Milan’s slide down the Serie A table where title challenge has been replaced by European qualification hopes. During this time Berlusconi has departed, first selling to a Chinese consortium who turned out not to have the funds to sustain Milan, let alone foster growth. Recently the club have been acquired by a U.K. based investment firm and here we are. Milan appear to be lost, and bereft of an identity. The culture of the club a shambles, no clearly defined philosophy, and lacking the foundations that a strong DNA can bring. It is a club lost in the successes, and failures of the last 30 years.
So as I take charge of A.C. Milan in Football Manager; what a perfect opportunity to reinvent, or re-envision the culture of as this giant seeks to assert itself in the modern football landscape.
What will success look like, what are the obstacles and challenges we will likely face, and how will we get there? Remember we are not looking for a quick fix, but a sustainable approach, the quick fix is partly what got Milan here in the first place. Ultimately we want to build a team capable of consistently competing for domestic and continental honors. So we have a rough idea about what we want to be able to achieve but what are the obstacles. I have identified 5 obstacles to success:
- Player Quality
Milan are in no position to compete with Real, PSG, or Man City in terms of transfer fees or salaries, and unless Middle Eastern Oil money makes it’s way to Milanello, they won’t be; at least not in the short term.
While the squad is arguably the best it’s been in nearly a decade. It falls short of Juve’s in terms of overall quality, and lacks the depth needed to compete at the top of the European game.
Since the departure of Berlusconi, Milan has lacked the leadership at board level to make any real progress. Long term commitment is needed form the new owners.
Milan fans demand the success they have become accustomed to, and many have grown up with. Will I be able to provide just enough to keep them content while I steer the club in a new direction?
Before you even begin, will you get buy-in from the club hierarchy, without it your efforts will not get the support in terms of time and finance that they will need and may be very well doomed before they start.
The solution as I see it, is this, Build the club up again on a solid foundation of youth development, and investment in young professionals. Develop as many as I can, keep the best and most useful, sell the rest. Without the financial muscle to compete with the modern super clubs in the transfer market, it is the most viable solution to taking Milan forward, and securing a long term stable future. We will go into more detail in later posts on how we will go about rebuilding the club culture under a youth based philosophy. That helps define the goals a little more. And as I see it the goals fall under two categories.
There will be 3 layers to this long term goal:
- Champions League Qualification by x date
- Serie A Winner by x date
- Champions League Winner by x date
There are also 3 layers to this long term goal:
- Have x number of players coming through to First Team Squad per year by x date
- Have x number of Homegrown players in First Team by x date
- Outgoing transfers of Homegrown players to generate x million dollars each year by x date
That’s all very high level with times to be defined later as we learn more about the strengths and weakness of the club in the weeks and months ahead.
In Part 2
Now that I have established at a very high level of what I hope to achieve with Milan. Next time, I will look at A.C. Milan in more detail, and how the individual pieces fit together and contribute to building a cohesive culture and a club philosophy centered on youth development.
Continue to part 2 here [coming soon]