To recall the happenings around AC Milan in recent times causes great grief.  The upper chambers have seen far too many ins and outs. The corridors of Milan have revolved through Marco Fassone, Adriano Galliani, Leonardo, Massimiliano Mirabelli, Paolo Maldini, Ivan Gazidis, Zvonimir Boban and Paolo Scaroni. The instability at the top has seeped into the game on the pitch. Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi, Siniša Mihajlović, Vincenzo Montella, Gennaro Gattuso, Marco Giampaolo and Stefano Pioli have tried to stabilize things on the pitch but to no avail.

The summer of 2017 saw Milan take an aggressive stance towards resuscitation as they shelled out money for Leonardo Bonucci, André Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Lucas Biglia, Mateo Musacchio, Ricardo Rodriguez, Frank Kessié, Nikola Kalinić, Fabio Borini and Antonio Donnarumma. Bonucci would tuck his tail between his legs and return to Juventus after a year, Silva forgot his scoring boots in the Europa league and Conti would sustain a season-ending injury. Injuries and age derailed Biglia and Musacchio never became the partner sought for Romagnoli. Kessié is still making 50-yard sprints only to pass the ball to the opposition keeper leaving you wondering how so much talent can just go unrefined. A lot of Milan fans continue to debate what exactly “playmaker” Çalhanoğlu brings to the pitch; Not fast enough to be a wide man while not possessing the qualities to play as a midfielder (we call this the Draxler paradox). Despite these signings, fortunes on the pitch did not improve, Li Yonghong was stuck financially, eventually letting go to Eliott. 

Li Yonghong had failed to meet his loan repayment of €32 million, after acquiring the club from long time owner Silvio Berlusconi. The €740 million purchase was financed by loans from Eliott Management Corporation worth €300 million accruing an annual interest rate of 11%. If these figures do not add up, fret not because they actually do not add up. The dream that Li Yonghong would have been able to pay this debt hung on guess what? Aggressive marketing in Asia. A corporation as dutiful as Elliott surely knew that there was a large chance they would get to usurp the Milan based club. Eliott blew hot and cold from the first moments that they gained control. The decision of whether to sell or not lingered. They decided on improving the club’s fortunes and then selling it off. They first had to find their way around a ban from Europe for financial fair play irregularities. Between 2015 and 2017 the club had sunk itself financially, biting off more than it could chew. 

There had to be repercussions.

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Fassone and Mirabelli were dismissed in the summer of 2018 with Leonardo returning as Sporting Director. Paolo Maldini finally returned, taking a spot as Sporting Strategy & Development Director. Ivan Gazidis officially joined on the 1st of December 2018. 

The season was unsuccessful as Leonardo and Gattuso resigned in May 2019. Maldini would take over as Technical Director with Boban hired as Chief Football Officer. While they did a good job recruiting players like Ismaël Bennacer, Theo Hernandez and Rafael Leão; the man put in charge was not up to it. The idealist Marco Giampaolo could not get his ideals ingrained in his players. Not that the ideals were spectacular in any way, a 10th place finish with Sampdoria was his biggest accomplishment. Pioli has been hired with mixed results. Already Boban is gone with Maldini unsure about his position. 

The Milan giants have struggled for consistency on and off the pitch in recent years. (AP)

Ralf Ragnick is being rumoured as the man to herald this turn around for Ac Milan, the rumours have mentioned him occupying two positions, as a Sporting Director and as a coach. He has done this before. Whatever is to be done, a clear vision with sustainable means to achieve such a mission must be put in place. 

The first step to the last statement is hiring a man whose direction is currently changing football in different corners. Ralf Rangnick is the 61-year-old football head who serves as the head of sport and development for Red Bull GmbH. While not possessing a spectacular CV, the German has been a major influence in German football for about half his life. Figures such as Jürgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann have been inspired by the legendary coach. After losing out to Joachim Lowe as assistant coach to Germany in 2005, he would win the 2005 DFL-Ligapokal with Schalke where he played. He took over at TSG Hoffenheim in 2006, Rangnick took the club into the Bundesliga from the third tier. He won back-to-back promotions as they established themselves in their debut top-flight campaign of 2008/09, they even topped the table at Christmas before finishing seventh. In a second stint at Schalke, he would take Die Königsblauen through to the Champions League semi-finals where they lost to Manchester United having knocked out Inter Milan. He brought RB Leipzig up to the Bundesliga in the 2015/2016 season stepping aside for Ralph Hasenhüttl. He also held the Leipzig job for the 2018/2019 season as he held the seat down for Julian Nagelsmann.

This is a man whose vision can lead Milan out of the mediocrity it has lingered in for years.

Rangnick is a well-respected figure in German football. (Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

None of the hirings so far have the wealth of knowledge the German will bring to the San Siro. Before Klopp’s heavy-pressing style, there was Ralf Rangnick. It is not surprising that Klopp has constantly signed players linked to Ragnick (Firmino, Mane, Keïta and Matip have all played under Rangnick). The German tactician is the right man to set a steady trajectory and he will likely identify the right person to take over from him when he reclines to strictly sports directorship. This is the smartest decision the Singers can take if they ever plan on recouping some value from AC Milan. Rangnick is a shrewd recruiter and a revolutionary tactician whose methods have very modern applications. In his last outing as a coach, he finished with Leipzig in a respectable 3rd position and this is what Milan must aim for first before Scudettos and glory. His sides are positionally drilled, aggressive pressing machines and that knowledge will be required to fill the failings of past administrations. 

The football season is on a pause due to the pandemic but Eliott knows they have to make a decision pretty soon. Stefano Pioli has not done a bad job but he also hasn’t awed, much of Milan’s offensive movements despite improving from the dourness and predictability of Giampaolo’s football still lacks a lot in quality and cohesion. Defensively, they have also not looked great; Theo Hernandez, while showing he can win games from left-back, can also be a liability as his positioning is erratic. The right-hand side is still a coin toss between Davide Calabria and Andrea Conti with neither showing enough consistency. There is also the issue of finding Romagnoli the right partner in defence. These are key decisions that need the best minds to ponder on them. A man who can identify players and even coaches, developing them and setting them down their own career paths is what Milan needs. Rangnick is known to have played an important role in PSG boss Thomas Tuchel’s development as a coach having played for and worked as a coach under Rangnick. The Rossoneri need an individual like this to craft a vision, oversee a structural change and set elements in motion for continuity. 

The fantastic job he has done at Salzburg and Leipzig attests to this.

BY: Daniel Ochei

Daniel Ochei
June 8, 2020
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