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Written by Arjit

Ok Fellow Milanisti ! Let’s Discuss Milan ! Let’s Talk Some Red & Black !


The Milan – Rangnick saga finally came to an end, much to the relief of the Rossoneri fanbase all over the world. The whole affair seemed to resemble a classic Italian soap opera that delivered on its promise by leaving audience stunned via an astonishing and unexpected final twist before curtains came to a close in the end. There was a sudden influx of reports leaking especially from Kicker in Germany that Rangnick would not be arriving at AC Milan in his ‘Supremo’ role and that Pioli would be signing an extension for a further two more years as a reward for excellent recent results and performances. This all while the club was toiled in a battle for automatic qualification for Europa League in an all important clash against fellow high flyers Sassuolo. Any slip up would allow Sassuolo to close the gap on final Europa League spot that Milan currently held. The game had barely made it to half time when reports started leaking out catching the Rossoneri fanbase off guard and bewildered.  


Just to provide some context here, the club had been actively pursuing the signature of ‘The Professor’ as Rangnick is widely regarded in German football. This dated back to December 2019 after the humiliating defeat at the hands of Atalanta when it was first reported that the club had held serious private talks with the German with view of taking over the fallen Italian giants in an unprecedented role of sporting director as well team coach at the same time much like the English style manager role previously held by Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger all those years ago. This public pursuit of Ralf Rangnick also claimed casualties during its course with the club CFO and former legend Zvonimir Boban who had just joined in his new role in the summer of 2019 after leaving his post as Deputy Secretary General in FIFA after he had been convinced by old friend Paolo Maldini to join him as part of new management with aspirations of restoring former glories and bringing AC Milan back to the top of Italian and European football. Boban was believed to have given an unauthorized interview to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport wherein he criticized the club CEO Ivan Gazidis of going behind his back and carrying out discussions with Rangnick on becoming new Milan boss come the summer.  


The former director even went on to say that a deal had already been struck between Gazidis and Rangnick that would see the latter taking over the reins in the summer. He claimed that he and Maldini were not informed over this alleged agreement leading to a break of trust and managerial distress. Boban was fired from his role citing ‘just cause’ as a result of unauthorized interview he had given which breached code of conduct. The Italian newspapers called Gazidis a traitor responsible for the mess created during an ongoing season thereafter provoking backlash from club supporters who now viewed Gazidis as being dishonest and irresponsible incapable of doing his own job whilst causing an air of disharmony within the club. There was a sudden flood of several other reports soon after revealing some sort of rift and discord within the club management. Fast forward another six month and the Rangnick trail has been abandoned in favor of continuity and stability via handing Stefano Pioli an extension, a decision which has been hailed as logical and deserved in the eyes of several experts as it allows the current manager to build on the solid foundations already been created during his time with the club and carry on his excellent work for another two seasons with the Red and Blacks.


The matter has been put to rest and the decision to retain current boss Pioli has been officially confirmed by the club. The decision to keep Pioli and not go all out for Rangnick is being viewed by many as an easy way out but could yet prove to be the boldest decision that the management could have made. The club has for once decided to pull together in one direction without any managerial power play or disagreements towards achieving a common goal of finishing in the top four in Serie A next season which will guarantee them an automatic berth in the top competition of European football which is the Champions League. Pioli and his staff have been awarded the chance to build on their recent work and continue on the path they have started. This very opportunity has been previously elusive to his predecessors such as Gennaro Gattuso and Sinisa Mihajlovic. Pioli has been patient, dignified and respectful during all this time with continuous speculation around Rangnick taking over the managerial duties from him. He must be given great credit for his ability to shield his team from all this drama whilst motivating them to concentrate on giving their maximum efforts on the football field where it really matters.


There has been an air of calmness around the club training center Milanello which has filtered to the squad directly through the manager. The squad has been able to train with a sense of serenity which has been reflected in their recent results and more importantly performances. Both the players and Pioli along with his coaching staff have been reaping the benefits of working with each for an extended period of time. This will be the case moving forward as well with Pioli able to work with his players free of the media rumors and more importantly finally free of the looming shadow of Rangnick hanging over his head. This is the least that Pioli deserves after what he has gone through. 


This whole saga has also affected the club technical and sporting directors Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara respectively, especially the former since Rangnick was widely tipped to take over dual role of director and manager hence leaving Maldini’s position redundant. Maldini even had a jibe at Rangnick during all this wherein he came out and publicly criticized the German for having a lack of respect which came after Rangnick had publicly come out acknowledging discussions had been held between him and the club over his new position. Maldini even went on to say that Rangnick was not the right profile for the club. So friction was already there between the two even before anything had been signed. There were some who believed that Maldini and Rangnick could coexist with Maldini taking up a slightly lesser role at the club at an operational level thus leaving the sporting side to Rangnick but this hypothesis was never really on the table as both had a personality clash and wanted important roles moving forward. The non arrival of the German means that both Maldini and Massara remain in their roles and continue to act upon the vision for this project they have embarked upon together with Pioli at the helm. They will now have the chance to carry out player recruitment based on how they see fit for the club moving forward which is evidently signing young players with potential who can develop at the club into future stars along with few experienced players who have played at the highest level in order to guide and provide leadership to the younger ones. This right mix of youth and experience is the way forward in the eyes of current management and so they have a job on their hands to deliver now that the whole saga is over and the dust has finally settled down.


Stefano Pioli at 54 years of age has enjoyed a long journeyed career in Italian top flight. It is not a case of Milan unearthing a gem or some sort of up and coming manager trying to make his name. The Italian is very much reputed and respected within the coaching community as someone possessing great tactical acumen that enables him to be flexible and adaptable in terms of his approach depending upon the quality of squad available. He has gained quite a reputation for himself over the years for deploying a variety of formations that best suit the characteristics of his players to make them feel comfortable in their roles and get the best out of them on the field. He has not been shy either of playing more than one style of football depending upon the match situations. He has also had multiple experiences of taking over clubs at their low moments and turning their situation around once given the right amount of time and support from the club. He has earned the nickname of being the ‘Stabilizer’ as a result. He is viewed in the Italian peninsula as someone who comes and brings a certain degree of calmness and stability with him thereby steadying the ship and even kicking on from there to the next level if given the opportunity. He does not demand world class players and has shown his willingness to work with a young and talented core of players at his disposal. He is not flamboyant in nature or animated on the touchline but rather lets his work speak for him. This makes him the ideal candidate for the Milan job as the club has a good core of young and talented players who could thrive under the tutelage of a manager such as Pioli who possesses the required personality and experience at the top level to further help their progression.


The club owners Elliott Management have always stressed that they plan to take the club forward through signing young players who can then be turned into potential superstars at the club. This model helps keep the club finances in check whilst enabling them to operate within the set parameters of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play. The club has struggled to do so in the past as evident by the fine they received from UEFA and their subsequent ban from the Europa League for one season due to breach of FFP regulations between 2016-2018. Pioli has shown already in his stint with the club that he is more than capable of working well with young players and achieving excellent results. This was also pointed out by Ivan Gazidis as a notable reason behind Pioli’s extension. 


Another solid reason behind Pioli staying on could well be the unconditional support and backing he has received from the players from virtually day one. The Italian arrived at a critical time when the squad was not doing well and was low on confidence after a disastrous start to the season. He did so well to calm the whole situation down and work on the mental aspect of the game before going into tactics. The manager made sure the players felt confident in themselves and comfortable around him so they could best express their talents on the field. This is evident in all the player interviews recently where they explain on how Pioli came in and helped them pick their heads up before gradually introducing his football ideas to the team. The squad feels at ease playing under him now which has been clear to see as the team finished the season unbeaten since the resumption of Serie A after lockdown with notable wins against the likes of Roma, Lazio and Juventus. The team has improved massively since Pioli took charge which is seen in the likes of Ante Rebic who has exploded onto the scene in 2020 and Hakan Calhanoglu who finally looks like the player from his Leverkusen days. The team has performed at a high level in recent times playing some of the most spectacular and fun to watch football we have seen since the Allegri days. This meant it was always going be risky firing Pioli and heading towards another revolution under Rangnick in the summer. The fans have seen this sort of script repeat itself year after year and would not take kindly towards another Year Zero which is why the club made the decision to stick with the current project with Pioli at the helm. 


The ownership at Milan have decided to opt for something that the club has lacked recently, stability and continuity. ‘Why fix something that isn’t broken’. Bringing in Rangnick would have meant a revolution from top to bottom with changes at directorial and managerial levels. The club has something good going for them with Pioli and the decision to continue together makes sense. This also confirms Maldini’s position as the club’s technical director. Pioli took over when the club was languishing in mid table and has since guided them to a sixth place finish. The team finally appears to be in a happy place whilst enjoying their football. Pioli is seen as the right guy at the right time for the club capable of building a young and competitive team that plays progressive football, and so now the ball is in Pioli’s court to deliver on the early promise.

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