The loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva is not only a huge blow for Milan, but also the whole of Serie A. Gone are the days when the top stars see Italy as an attractive option to ply their football. It is not only Milan struggling to maintain their status, as many other of the clubs struggle to offer competitive transfer fees and wage to attract world-class players. This situation has been growing for a number of years now, but with arguably the best centre-back in the world and Ibracadabra leaving the peninsula, the star quality of calcio has taken a huge hit.
With loyalty not one of his characteristics, the 30 year-old Swede was always going to be tempted by the money, but at 27 years-old Silva is at the peak of his powers. Despite signing a new contract with the Rossoneri just weeks before, their inability to hold onto the Brazilian shows a lack of ambition from the club. Following the loss of Alesandro Nesta, the Milan defence will have to start from scratch again. Thiago Silva’s influence on the team cannot be overestimated, continuing the tradition of great Milanese defenders from Paolo Maldini and Nesta, this responsibility will now fall on Phillipe Mexes!
With Ibra seen as dragging this Milan team by the scruff of the neck, and Silva being the bedrock of the defence, it is hard to see where the Rossoneri go from here. With Financial Fair Play Regulations coming into effect, the clubs are beginning to re-evaluate their priorities and try to shave massive amount of their wage bills. But with a reported €40m for the Brazilian and another €26m for Zlatan maybe the blow to Milan will further be softened. Besides the last time Berlusconi sold a 30 year-old striker for big money he seemed to have made the correct decision.
Scoring 28 goals in Serie A this season earned Zlatan Ibrahimović the Capocannoniere award for 2011/12. This year’s total beat his previous personal best set in 2008/09 with Inter, at 25 goals the first time he won this award. His performances had lead to praises that it is his best campaign yet, which ironically was the first year he has not won the league title since 2003. Obviously upset at the Milan’s inability to retain lo Scudetto, the usual transfer talk has started around Ibra. Linked with former coaches Roberto Mancini and José Mourinho at Manchester City and Real Madrid respectively the Swede’s future is unclear, even if he (and his agent, Mino Raiola) has confirmed his ties to the Rossoneri:
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t win the Scudetto, but this has been my best scoring season on a personal level. My future? I have a contract at Milan and I intend to respect it.”
Trophies: 2 Eredivisie, 1 KNVB Cup (both Ajax); 1 La Liga, 1 Supercopa de España (both Madrid); 2 Scudetti, 1 Coppa Italia, 2 Supercoppa Italiana (all Milan); 4 UEFA Champions League (1 Ajax, 1 Madrid, 2 Milan), 2 UEFA Super Cup (Milan), and 2 Intercontinental Cup/FIFA World Cup Cup (1 Madrid, 1 Milan)
Individual Honours: 2 Dutch Talent of the Year, FIFA 100, 1 UEFA Best Midfielder Award, 2 UEFA Team of the Year, Real Madrid Team of the Century, L’Equipe’s all-time European Cup dream team, Nelson Mandela Legacy Champion
Trophies: 3 Scudetti (1 Juventus, 2 Milan), 1 Serie B (Piacenza), 1 Coppa Italia (Milan), 2 Supercoppa Italiana (1 Juventus, 1 Milan), 2 UEFA Champions League (Milan), 1 UEFA Intertoto Cup (Juventus), 2 UEFA Super Cup (Milan), 1 FIFA World Club Cup (Milan), 1 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship, and 1 FIFA World Cup.
Individual Honours: 1 Serie A Young Footballer of the Year, 1 Capocannoniere
Trophies: 3 Scudetti (1 Lazio, 2 Milan), 3 Coppa Italia (2 Lazio, 1 Milan), 4 Supercoppa Italiana (2 Lazio, 2 Milan), 2 UEFA Champions League (Milan), 1 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (Lazio), 3 UEFA Super Cup (1 Lazio, 2 Milan), 1 FIFA World Club Cup, 1 UEFA Under-21 European Championship, and 1 FIFA World Cup.
Individual Honours: 1 Serie A Young Footballer of the Year, 4 Serie A Defender of the Year, 1 UEFA Club Football Awards Best Defender, 4 UEFA Team of the Year, UEFA Euro 2000 Team of the Tournament, 2 FIFPro World XI, and FIFA 100
Thanks to bitter rivals Internazionale, the Bianconeri have won their 28th Scudetto (or 30th if you listen to some people). As the world watched the Derby della Madoninna Juventus got on with their match with Cagliari (played in Trieste). With one eye on the Milan Derby they saw out a 2-0 win to secure the Championship as anything other than a Milan win handed Juve the trophy. The irony of the situation meant that the team giving la Vecchia Signora the trophy was the team that for so long accused them of cheating and being undeserving of so many Scudetti!
What a difference Antonio Conte has made to this team. A new stadium was accompanied by his appointment as coach, along with several key signings. Andrea Pirlo was the architect from midfield, Arturo Vidal was the engine of the team, Stephan Lichtsteiner was the outlet from full-back, Mirko Vučinić was the difference-maker (at the end of the season at least); even the much maligned Marco Borriello scored the decisive goal vs Cesena to effectively seal the Scudetto! Conte’s work with some of the veterans was also impressive as players such as Andrea Barzagli put in consistently excellent performances to maintain the surprising unbeaten season (so far). After Vučinić scored after only six minutes to settle the nerves against Calgiari, and Borriello forced an own goal, all the Bianconeri could do is pray that Inter do them a rare favour!
All the pressure was on the Rossoneri. They had to win against neighbours Inter. With tensions high the Nerazzurri bossed the game for most of the first half and Diego Milito put Inter into the lead. With their superioity there was the sense that they needed another goal cushion, and this proved to be true as Kevin-Prince Boateng was awarded a penalty after Júlio César clearly took the ball. Zlatan Ibrahimović converted the penalty after César tired (and failed) to psych him out. Within a minute of the restart the Swede added an excellent second after Lúcio gave him too much space. Now Milan were going to take the Scudetto fight down to the last game, that is until il Principe decided to complete his third hatrick since the New Year. Two penalties saw the most recent winner of the Bidone d’Oro give Inter the lead, which was spectacularly added to by Maicon from distance. A 4-2 victory for the Nerazzurri which also had the undesired consequence of handing Juventus lo Scudetto. Still in with a (very slight) chance of Champions League qualification, Massimo Moratti confirmed that young coach Andrea Stramaccioni will be given the chance next season.
The deserved winners of the Scudetto, Juventus have one more match left before they can become only the third ever Serie A team to go the entire season unbeaten after Milan and Perugia. Having done an exceptional job, perhaps Conte’s greatest achievement is becoming the first coach since 2002-03 to beat Zlatan Ibrahimović to a league title!