Just two points separate AC Milan from their city rivals Inter, and their most recent fixture was a dramatic 2-2 draw. Yet memories of the days when the Milan derby served as a contest for the title are fading fast. AC Milan’s salvaged point manages to keep Inter at bay in the race for sixth place, as both sides struggle to recapture their form of the 2010/11 season.
The theme of subsequent years has been the rise of Juventus and the decline of the Milan sides. AC Milan claimed the Serie A title that season, ending an imperious run of five consecutive titles for their rivals. Yet Inter did not have a barren season, with the small matter of the Champions League trophy to provide consolation for their second-placed league finish.
AC Milan followed their title with eminently reasonable second and third-placed finishes, but the four years since have seen the Red and Blacks flirting with mid-table. Their failure to qualify for European competition for three consecutive seasons has ensured that the club is now formerly one of the most attractive propositions for top players, with Juventus hoovering up much of the leading talent in Serie A.
This changed status is epitomised in Serie A betting, where odds of 80/1 on a top-3 finish this season reflect the chasm between the top clubs and Milan. Yet there is hope that next season will transpire differently, as this summer promises to be one of transition for the red half of Milan. A deal worth €1 billion has seen the club welcome a Chinese consortium as owners, bringing platitudes about making AC Milan a European heavyweight once more. Vincenzo Montella’s squad will require investment if that is to become a reality.
Montella has already been hit by the news that Barcelona will seek to utilise Gerard Deulofeu next season, the Spaniard having been one of Milan’s strongest performers in a loan move this year. It is imperative that Milan can retain goalkeeping prodigy Gianluigi Donnarumma. The wonderkid is destined to attract attention from the wealthiest clubs in every transfer window for all eternity, but if Milan can convince the man touted as the heir to Gianluigi Buffon that his future is best served playing regular football at the San Siro then it will be a fillip for a club with Champions League aspirations.
A transfer that would herald the beginning of a new era would be a realisation of the rumours of Cesc Fabregas trading London for Milan. At 29 years old, the Spaniard is still operating at the top of his game and could relish the guarantee of regular football that Milan will offer. Talk of world-record fees for Paulo Dybala of Juventus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund will almost surely prove to be just talk, but the rumours alone are a statement of intent from ambitious owners of a reinvigorated club.
Serie A is crying out for a challenger to Juventus, currently eight points clear and destined to claim another title. It is not too long since AC Milan could boast a side featuring some of the world’s finest players. Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko and Alessandro Nesta are three names from a line-up that is often spoke about in reverent tones as one that football fans from the mid-2000s feel an affinity towards.
It is a sad reality that it will require considerable financial investment to transform AC Milan back into a European giant, but it is a reality nonetheless. If the new owner can take the Rossoneri to the top of the Serie A table, then few will be complaining about the means. Inter fans might have a thing or two to say.