Are we about to see to an AC Milan renaissance?
We sat down with Claudio Perfetto from the Gianluca Di Marzio team to discuss his thoughts on the new AC Milan......
Q. So first things first what were your thoughts on Milan's transfer window? Did the new owners deliver?
A. Yes, they delivered so far. We will need a few more transfer windows to see their real commitment to the team, but they are off to a great start. If they turn around and sell a few players next summer, then my opinion might change, that's why I believe we have to wait and see before we can tell if they delivered or not. As far as this summer, though, they committed to the project and brought enthusiasm back to the club. They spent a lot of money on new players, which was necessary if the goal is to get back to the top of Italy and Europe.
As far as the management of the window, great job by Fassone and Mirabelli. They tied down Montella early, they knew which players they wanted and which players fit their system. You can tell they knew which players they wanted because they purchased players early in the market, closing some deals quickly and other deals they waited until the demands were lowered. They improved the defense tremendously by adding Bonucci, Ricardo Rodriguez, Andrea Conti and Mateo Musacchio. They did a great job adding Kessie and Biglia to the midfield, although I think they could have used another player there just for depth purposes. It was also great to see them tie down Donnarumma even though there was a ton of drama.
Q. Just on a Donnarumma then what were your thoughts on the situation? On the outside it appeared the player attempted to hold the club to ransom. Has all been forgiven?
A. We don't know if it was him or the agent that was unsure about Milan. It seems like he wanted Milan all along and the agent was the one being difficult. The great market Milan had definitely overshadowed the Donnarumma saga, in the first game at the San Siro it was almost an afterthought. At the end of the day I think all is forgiven. He has made some great saves since the season has started. He is a great talent who is only 18 years old. He grew up at the club so the fans want to love him and want him to be a symbol of Milan. He does have a clause in his contract, so he could leave in the future, but for now I think all is forgiven and obviously if he stays long term no one will care about what happened this summer.
Q. Interesting! In terms of Milan's season what would consider the bare minimum requirement for it to be a successful season? On all fronts.
A. The bare minimum for Serie A has to be fourth place. Fassone admitted himself that if they don't qualify for the Champions League, they can't really invest more into the club next summer and in fact, they might have to sell off a big name. That would be disastrous and hinder the progress they made this summer. So that is the most important objective for the season. As far as the Europa League, I would like to see them finish first in their group, and then depending on their draw for the knockout stages make it to the quarterfinals. That would be a nice return to Europe. We can't expect too much out of them because this is a team that has to get used to playing in three competitions and playing twice a week again. As far as the Coppa Italia, semifinals really should be the goal but that also depends on their draw. They can't put too much focus on this competition, however, because Champions League qualification is so important and Serie A and the Europa League can provide that.
Q. With the signings made by the club do you feel they are capable of mounting a title challenge this season? Or will it be a case of a work in progress this season for Milan?
A. Right now I wouldn't expect much more than fourth. It is great to have a bunch of new signings, but those signings all have to mesh and create chemistry and that is not going to happen overnight. Right now, they have to focus on getting results even if the matches are ugly. Juventus and Napoli are definitely ahead of them because they have strong cores and winning mentalities, so I don't believe they can win the title. The club has stated that fourth place is the goal, and I think the fans should expect that as well.
Q. I see. I must ask, what are your thoughts on Milan's new young star Cutrone?
A. He has been magnificent. If you watch him play, he doesn't look like a youngster at all. His movement is great and he isn't afraid to get right into the box and go after the ball. I love the Kalinic signing because I don't think there should be too much pressure on Cutrone. He has been great but he is still young. They should let him play at the moment while he is hot, but it is good that they have an older, experienced Serie A striker in Kalinic to take some of the pressure off of the youngster. I definitely would love to see him keep it up though, and I think he will.
Q. Taking that into account, where does that leave Andre Silva?
A. Andre Silva has tremendous potential, as you can see from his form for Portugal, and he will definitely get opportunities. He is also very young and will need time to adapt to Serie A. We saw last season that Montella wasn't afraid to play Bacca and Lapadula together, so all 3 strikers - Kalinic, Cutrone and Silva - will get their opportunities. If all three of them are in great form, then that would be a nice problem for Montella to have. Due to his transfer fee and potential, if Andre Silva is in form he will definitely play.
Q. Certainly a mouthwatering prospect for Milan fans! In terms of Montreal then, with new owners there's naturally speculation about the manager. Do you feel Montella is the man to lead Milan forward in this new era?
A. There were rumors that Montella was chosen last season together with the new ownership group, led by Fassone and Mirabelli. The fact that they signed him to an extension speaks volumes of their confidence in him. Additionally, he did a great job last season. They finished in sixth place, one spot above Inter even though Inter had much more talent. Milan had very little to no investment last season, purchasing Jose Sosa and Lapadula, while bringing in players on loan. As far as speculation, if the results are not there then there will certainly be speculation. He never managed a squad like this before with so much investment, so the pressure is on. Right now he is off to a great start. Milan has played in six official matches (four Europa League and two Serie A), and have won all six. The upcoming match against Lazio will be a nice test for them. As long as the results come and he stays in the fight for a top four spot, you won't hear any rumblings about his job security.
To answer your question, he has shown with everything I just stated that he could be the right man thus far.
Q. I see. As a final point and I understand nobody likes to answer these questions! But could I take some predictions from you? Champions? Top 4? (In order) Top Scorer? Milan POTY? Milan's breakthrough player? Bottom 3? Team to watch outside the big sides?
A. Top 4 - I am going to be bold and give Napoli the win, so - Napoli, Juventus, Roma, Milan
Top Scorer - Paolo Dybala
Milan POTY - Franck Kessie
Milan's breakthrough player - Manuel Locatelli
Bottom 3 - Crotone, Verona, Benevento
Team to watch outside of the big sides - Torino