Much pessimism surrounds the likely sales of Thiago Silva and Ibrahimovic, but moving forward, there might be a silver lining for AC Milan yet.
The dreaded day hovering over every AC Milan fan’s head has arrived. Paris Saint-Germain, drunk with the power heralded by oil money, have finally succeeded in prying the undisputed jewels to Milan’s crown, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, away from the club in a massive €62 million combined bid.
What might have broken Milan’s firm resolve, following Thiago Silva’s contract renewal with the Rossoneri and the constant denials from the club’s board in dismissing rumours linking Ibrahimovic swapping Italy for Paris? Ominous predictions of the Serie A giant’s downfall on the pitch now circle the club following owner Silvio Berlusconi’s admission he has opted to sell the duo to former management alumni Leonardo and Carlo Ancelotti, but closer analysis suggest astute reasoning was made beforehand at Milanello in allowing the pair to depart.
Beginning from the obvious, this world-record transfer fee would go some way to alleviating the massive burden on Milan’s widely known accumulated club debt. With Financial Fair Play about to kick in, preventing debts rising above €60 million for a third consecutive year to help her stay afloat financially will be just as fundamental as compared to ensuring sporting success.
Despite the obvious respite to the financial situation (potential amount gained, including wages, stands to amount to around €150 million), much pessimism circulates around the ability of a historical side of Italian football to challenge adequately, even amongst the board as became evident when Barbara Berlusconi wrote a dossier convincing her father as to why Thiago Silva could not be allowed to leave, earlier this summer.
How synonymous are Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to the Rossoneri’s cause, and indeed, are Milan committing hara-kiri through this apparently thwarted decision? When seen as the forcing of a new era at the club, not so. Change is inevitable, and that Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani are prompting it now instead of prolonging the club’s dire monetary situation is a brave act.
Selling the pair took courage, but in reality, it is just another day in the life cycle of a club, when winning cycles come and go, but the important aspect of the club’s continuous survival remaining. The transfer market still has two months to go before it closes, and a quiet mercato for Milan thus far could now burst into life.
The transfer dues paid by PSG could see the club spring for big names in replacement of Ibrahimovic. Despite mounting debt, Milan still generate the highest revenue in Serie A (effective as of 2011), ensuring if Galliani should manage to bargain the price of either Carlos Tevez or Edin Dzeko down in similar manner to the way he did when he brought the departing Swede in from Barcelona, they could yet make a few steals of the season.
In the face of accepting Ibrahimovic’s impending departure, one has to analyse the conundrum presented by having Serie A’s top scorer of last season in the team. With more value than merely scoring goals, Ibrahimovic is a unique player with a special set of skills that will be sorely missed, but that by no means makes him irreplaceable.
Instead, new tactical opportunities abound, and fans should not mourn what Ibrahimovic used to bring their side, but rather, embrace the new capabilities Tevez, Dzeko or Mattia Destro would herald. Count in Alexandre Pato’s and Antonio Cassano’s return to action as well as Stephen El Shaarawy’s readiness to burst onto the scene, and you get a collective attack that could surpass the feats of a previously one-man show, such was Ibrahimovic’s influence that could almost be defined as limiting on the side.
While Thiago Silva’s departure will be harder to patch over, it could turn into a blessing for Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri. After Brazilian compatriot and Milan transfer target Dede committed his future to Vasco da Gama, the onus is on Galliani to turn his attention to young Italian talent in Davide Astori, Angelo Ogbonna and Francesco Acerbi (already with the club).
The attributes of such centre-backs would need to be developed greatly if they are to even come close to providing the sort of stabilising presence Thiago Silva managed with such aplomb, but the recipe is there for them to become competent stoppers for both Milan and the national team. Milan stand to do themselves and the national team an excellent (and low salary) favour.
Acquisition, even big name ones, do not necessarily guarantee stable transitions, as was evident with Ronaldinho’s and Klass-Jan Huntelaar’s failure to cover for Kaka’s departure in 2009, but coach Massimiliano Allegri has already astutely acquired the components needed to achieve tactical equilibrium on the pitch. With new playmaker Riccardo Montolivo’s graft and direction offering support to Kevin-Prince Boateng and Mathieu Flamini once they return from injury, Milan stand to be just as potent moving in attack as well as defence next season.
It is a brave new period for the club, and while the massive upheavals at squad level will require time and patience for new players to bed in, the recipe is there, not for immediate success in the red half of the San Siro, but rather for sustainable success. A strategic direction will pay dividends to helping Milan get back to the top, and supporters must keep faith in the club’s management as they take it forward, the first act of which will be freeing themselves from the bondage that was Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva.