As Italian football finally returns this week with Juventus hosting Milan in the Coppa Italia second-leg, we put your questions to Milan fan and journalist Matthew Santangelo.
You can follow Matt here on Twitter.
1. Who’s stronger: present day Juventus or Milan 1993/94 ?
Fabio Capello’s Milan of 1993/94 is regarded by many as one of the greatest sides of all-time. To put into context why they are put on such a pedestal, the Rossoneri won the Serie A title scoring just 36 goals in 34 matches, but only conceded 15. They then went on to smash Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona in the European Cup Final 4-0, doing so without Marco van Basten, Gianluigi Lentini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta due to suspension or injuries. No disrespect to Juventus and this dynasty they have built through the years, but for me it is not close.
2. Thoughts on Ibra’s impact in this latest stint at Milan? (was it worth it in your opinion)
I’d say it has been a success. On the surface, it may not seem that way due to their current position but there was an immediate injection of star power and leadership in him as the guardian to many of these young players. To train with a serial winner and champion like Ibrahimovic on a daily basis has brought out the best in several players, and he is the type of player with an aura that ultimately helps elevate those around him.
3. Feelings on Ralf Rangnick coming to Milan? (and Maldini potentially being pushed out?)
Ralf Rangnick’s CV and success in Germany speaks for itself. How he transformed sides like Schalke, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig to play aesthetically pleasing attacking football, acquire and nurture talent and build a squad around a certain philosophy is perhaps what Milan need; that is a revolution. However, there is something in me that would like Maldini to stay because, personally, I think he has been given the raw end of the stick in all of this. In addition to how ‘holy’ he is as a lifetime servant of the club, some of the names he helped acquire last summer like Theo Hernandez and Ismaël Bennacer have now become key men for the current project. If there is a way Rangnick and Maldini can co-exist then I’d be all for it.
4. Top 4 looks impossible this season, would lifting the Coppa Italia be enough to call it a successful season?
No it would not. After missing out on top four last season by a single point, the goal was to hit 4th. They have not done that so it is hard to consider anything a success.
5. Your opinions on the Milan direction in general, when do you feel is the earliest they can get back to where they belong? Feels like there’s been a lot of stop starting in the past few years
You are right, plenty of stop starting, resets and year ones. The time is now to see steady forward progression back to the summit of Italian football. As things stand, Milan do have several really strong players in the squad to serve as a foundation, but they must hire the right coach who can instil confidence in both the players and fans so that they have a real solution on the bench. It could take another year or two until Milan are very competitive again. With a proper appointment at the post, in management and on the market, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility to see the Rossoneri back as a big-time competitor. But, we can’t see a one step forward, two-step back approach here. Progression is key.
6. Facing another minor rebuild, is it the constantly overturned project that stunts Milan’s redevelopment or is it the lack of capable people being placed in charge? Or both?
This was somewhat addressed in the above reply. Milan’s failures and current standing are the result of a culmination of bad decision-making and bad decision makers. Now, it is about correcting the wrongs from the past and building a top down club that is properly managed with a winning vision, a quality coach and the players worthy for the shirt who are up for the cause.
7. Tough to predict, but who are the core pieces to remain if Rangnick arrives
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Ismaël Bennacer, Theo Hernandez, Ante Rebic and Rafael Leão. This isn’t to say some of the others can’t emerge as key men. Names like Lucas Paqueta, Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie have to prove they belong.
8. Does Gigio Donnarumma re-sign?
Yes, I believe he does re-sign on a short-term deal.
9. In your opinion, why have Milan not climbed the heights of success in recent years – what are contributing factors?
Once again, addressed this above. Bad management, poor decision makers in regard to hiring coaches and not the right blend of players.
10. Opinion on Italy’s heritage authority approving the San Siro demolition and out of the touted new designs, do you have a favourite?
As much as I love the San Siro and how important it is for the club, the city and football as a historic arena for calcio, the harsh reality is it isn’t ideal for big clubs like Milan and Inter in the modern game. Clubs of their stature must leverage their rich history, culture and success to continue to grow and adapt with the current times. We all know the benefits Juventus have reaped as owners of their own stadium, and that is something Milan fans will have to prioritize over nostalgia unfortunately. As for the designs, I’d have to take a look further into the renderings. From the little I do know and have seen, the commercial opportunities are there for money to be funnelled into the club and boost the economy, while also making the ground around the stadium itself more than just a place to watch a football match.
11. Your combined Juve-Milan XI of the current teams?
Donnarumma; Cuadrado, de Ligt, Romagnoli, Sandro; Kessie, Bentancur, Bennacer; Dybala, Rebic; Ronaldo
12. Prediction for this game