A team of brilliant youngsters put together by a manager the fans didn’t want… AC Milan are bringing back the glory years to the San Siro and their aim is to FINALLY end Juventus’ historic domination of Serie A
- AC Milan currently lead Serie A going into Christmas after an unbeaten start
- Stefano Pioli’s side has an average age of 24 – even with Zlatan Ibrahimovic at 39
- Pioli and ex-Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis have reduced the age of the playing squad
- Ibrahimovic is the goalscoring talisman up front to add experience to the ranks
After a decade in the shadows, AC Milan are the best they’ve been in years and lead the Serie A table as we near the half-way stage.
Stefano Pioli’s side are the only team yet to lose a match in Europe’s top five leagues this season and showed their title credentials once more on Wednesday night with a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio.
Yet as recently as two years ago, Milan played just a supporting role in Italy’s top league. They were a side who turned down the chance to play Europa League football due to financial worries and were stuck in mid-table with inconsistent results.
AC Milan are leading the Serie A title at Christmas after ten years without a Scudetto title
Sportsmail looks at how Stefano Pioli’s side have transformed themselves into contenders
Sportsmail looks at how Milan have turned their squad into the most exciting group of young players in Italy and are threatening to break up Juventus’ dominance in Serie A….
When Milan last won the Scudetto back in 2011, the Rossoneri were blessed with the likes Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta in defence.
Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo provided the base in midfield while Ronaldinho and Robinho supported striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front.
It was truly a collection of world superstars but the current crop of Milan players are on course to replicate their achievement of a Scudetto win – even though the majority cannot be described as household names.
Milan’s last team to win the Serie A title had a great deal of talent such as Ronaldinho (right)
Among the 2011 champions was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is leading the line for Milan today
Since becoming Milan manager last October, Pioli has overseen a dramatic decrease in the average age of the squad. The side that beat high-flying Sassuolo 2-1 last Sunday had the average age of just 22-years-old.
Youngsters such as Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz, Alexis Saelemaekers, Jens Petter Hauge and Sandro Tonali have been brought in and promoted to key components of the team.
Meanwhile, academy stars such as Matteo Gabbia and Daniele Maldini, son of former defender Paolo, are in and around the first-team to bring the average squad age even lower.
The average age of the Milan side that beat Sassuolo on Sunday afternoon was 22-years-old
The move was perfected by Pioli but masterminded by former Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, who has created a squad similar to Arsene Wenger’s Gunners teams in recent years – filled with exciting young talent with the occasional drop of experience to help the youngsters develop.
While this addition of youthful exuberance has energised this attacking Milan side, it has also helped to develop the more experienced players in the squad.
First-team stars such as Frank Kessie, Ante Debic and Hakan Calhanoglu, who are all in a slightly higher age bracket, are the veteran leaders in this Milan side who are developing leadership skills all while remaining in their prime.
Former Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis (above) has been behind AC Milan’s youthful revelution
Under-23 players such as Rafael Leao (middle) are key components of Pioli’s (left) Milan side
At the top of the pitch remains Ibrahimovic, who still leads the line for Milan a decade after their last Scudetto win via short-term trips to PSG, Manchester United and LA Galaxy.
Ten years may have passed but the Swedish forward is on the same type of form as the 2011 title triumph.
The 39-year-old has battled coronavirus and had two separate muscle injuries this season but still leads the Milan scoring charts with ten goals in nine games, including a goal every 70 minutes in Italy’s top-flight.
Ibrahimovic may turn 40 next year but his athleticism and presence up front is one of a player half his age. Not only is he still clinical in front of goal but he brings others into the game with his selfless holding up of play.
Ibrahimovic is Milan’s talisman and leads the club’s scoring charts with ten goals in nine games
The Swede may lead the scoring charts but a plethora of attacking team-mates, including Leao, Diaz, Saelemaekers and Samu Castellijo all sit close to him in the goal tallies.
Goals are coming from all over the pitch, not just from Ibrahimovic’s boots, but the veteran striker’s return to Milan after winning several trophies in France and England means he is the perfect talisman to lead the club on a title charge.
The Swedish striker is not only a favourite for Milan supporters but Pioli too. After all, the 55-year-old coach would not be in a job if it weren’t for Ibrahimovic’s rise in form.
Ibrahimovic (middle) does not just score himself but brings fellow attackers into the game
After being hired midway through last season, Pioli was only intended as a stop gap manager before RB Leipzig director of football Ralf Rangnick arrived as a new head coach in the summer.
The Italian was not Milan fans’ first-choice appointment and the hashtag #PioliOut was trending among the supporters even before the Italian was announced.
Their fears were confirmed as Milan sat in 14th place at one point last season under Pioli but Ibrahimovic’s return to the San Siro in January sparked an upturn in fortunes for the Rossoneri and their manager.
Pioli (right) would not be in a job if Ibrahimovic had not returned to Milan back in January
Ibrahimovic’s ten goals in 18 league matches helped Milan stay unbeaten for the final 12 matches of the season. After finishing the season in 6th place, Milan terminated the agreement they had with Rangnick and stuck with Pioli.
Since then, Milan have moved to the next level under their manager and have never been closer to a league title over the past ten years.
Just imagine what would have happened if the fans had got their way and Pioli never took over…
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article