Only a few days before the famed city derby, (also the same day the entire city of Milan temporarily shuts down) Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi has once again undermined the tactics of one of his coaches.
At the end of a disappointing campaign last year, the Italian Prime Minister unleashed a scathing attack on former coach Carlo Ancelotti, blaming him for Milan's failures, and pointing out that the current Chelsea boss did not play the seemingly unmotivated and overweight Ronaldinho nearly enough. Also mentioning that the fans paid their tickets to see the former Ballon d'Or winner gracing the pitch rather than the bench.
This starts the argument about how much an owner should have a say in his teams tactics and strategies. Although Berlusconi is the one paying all the salaries, and funding lavish transfers such as the Ronaldinho one, isn't it the managers job to deem which players are in optimal physical condition to be able to participate a full 90 minutes? The first game Ronnie played in a Milan jersey was the season opening defeat against Bologna. He was rolling back the years with his scintillating form, captivating the 80,000+ that packed the San Siro to witness one of the greatest footballers of our generation. But after that inspired effort, his effectiveness spiraled downwards (especially during away games), as he gained weight and was taken out of the regular lineup.
So can Ancelotti be blamed for the lack of fitness of Ronaldinho? Only time will tell as new coach Leonardo has deemed the Brazilian playmaker as being Kaka's immediate replacement.
Last week the Serie A season commenced with Milan fans dubiously awaiting their encounter with Siena. A cloud of doubt and uncertainty filled the air as Milan had lost 6 consecutive preseason friendlies, with unconvincing showings against weaker teams. Leonardo spearheaded his attack against Siena with out of form striker Marco Borriello, who has fired blanks at his time with Milan. After an impressive season at Genoa where he scored 19 goals, Borriello has been plagued with a string of injuries and a suspension in his two so far unsuccessful stints with the Rossoneri. Alongside the target man, the electrifying Pato played in a role similar to that of Kaka's, and Ronaldinho was slotted right behind the pair.
The game resulted in a 2-1 win for Milan, with Ronaldinho playing a major part in assisting both goals, but that did not stop Berlusconi from ranting about Leonardo's tactics. The owner wants Pato to be placed as a main striker (even though the young Brazilian admitted he did not have the physique necessary to play in this bruising role), with Ronaldinho besides him and Clarence Seedorf connecting the midfield to the attack in a "trequartista" position.
Since being appointed as the new coach of Milan, Leonardo has stressed that he wants to adopt the tactics of the 1982 Brazilian National Team. Namely, he wants his fullbacks to be offensive minded and push forward constantly, and players at the front to "free-roam" and not have an exact position on the pitch. It will be up to the much maligned Czech international Marek Jankulovski, and his aging counterpart on the opposite flank - fullback Gianluca Zambrotta, to aid in replicating one of the greatest national teams in history. Seems like a harrowing task considering fullbacks in general have been Milan's Achilles' heel the past few seasons.
Berlusconi has always been an owner that likes to control his teams formation and strategies, which is one of the reasons I believe he appointed his "Yes-Man" Leonardo. It will be interesting to see if the coach incorporates the owners strategies against Inter, although reports suggest new acquisition Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will make his official Serie A debut alongside Pato.
Bitter memories linger from last years derby in the vast archives of my mind. One image in particular has haunted me and millions of other Milan fans alike ever since: Adriano scoring a goal off of his arm which was unfortunately allowed as a legitimate strike..
Hopefully this coming weekend, revenge will be sweet.
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