The last couple of years have been very poor for football supporters in the beautiful city of Milano. Juventus have appeared as the dominant force in Italian football yet again, and the likes of Napoli, Roma, Fiorentina and, most recently, Lazio have joined them in the top three in the last few years. Since AC Milan won the Serie A in 2011, neither them nor city rivals Internazionale have really been close to challenging Juventus. 2014-15 represented a new low, as Inter finished 8th with Milan in 10th. Both sets of fans have grown increasingly frustrated at the lack of positive results, attractive football and quality in the squads. This summer it finally seems like the clubs are ready to challenge again, with a feeling of positivity flowing through both clubs, if you look at their respective transfer dealings.
Roberto Mancini returned last year after his stints at Manchester City and Galatasaray, but the team is not nearly as good as the champions he left in 2008. They lack a strong defence, and while they do score goals, they don’t win nearly enough games. Finishing 8th was a new low, and new owner Erick Thohir is definitely backing Mancini get things right at Giuseppe Meazza. Mancini has been clever so far in the window. He already has one of Europe’s best goalkeepers in Samir Handanovic, so he has focused on his defence. The big name is Miranda from Atletico Madrid. He has proven himself to be a world class defender with his performances for Diego Simeone’s team over the last few years and now he arrives to shore up a leaking defence. Another centre-back has also joined from La Liga, and that is Jeison Murillo from Granada. Murillo impressed for Colombia at the Copa America this summer and will challenge club captain Andrea Ranocchia, Nemanja Vidic and Juan Jesus for the spot next to Miranda.
Completing a hat-trick of La Liga signings is Barcelona right-back Martin Montoya, who will be a reliable performer defensively as well as an asset going forward.
The most expensive signing is French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia who has joined from AS Monaco. Inter beat off interest from many European clubs, including Milan, to secure his signature and he will become the physical presence Mancini wants in front of his defence. So despite Inter going under the nickname Pazza (crazy), Mancini seems intent on not conceding 48 goals again.
Also in that midfield is the likes of Copa America champion Gary Medel, Fredy Guarin, Marcelo Brozovic, Hernanes and Croatian wonder-kid Mateo Kovacic. In attack Xherdan Shaqiri, Rodrigo Palaco and top goalscorer Mauro Icardi will get Mancini the goals he needs to improve his team. It remains to be seen how Inter will set up formation-wise next season as Mancini didn’t seem certain what shape best suited his players and changed it a lot. What’s apparent though, is the fact he will have a better squad than last year which is capable of lining up in multiple systems and shapes.
If the new arrivals hit the ground running, Inter will certainly be a team to watch.
Milan have appointed a new coach, as the former Inter (!) free-kick-specialist Sinisa Mihajlovic have taken over the reigns following a hugely impressive season at Sampdoria. Sampdoria finished the season in 7th, a point ahead of Inter and another three ahead of Milan, to qualify for the Europa League. Mihajlovic, however, won’t compete in Europe following his move at the end of his contract with i Blucerchiati. Milan’s lack of European football might help them domestically, and Mihajlovic is believed to try and shore up a defence that conceded 50 goals in the league last term. His Sampdoria side, by contrast, conceded the fourth fewest only Juve, Roma and Lazio conceding fewer. With the likes of Ignazio Abate, Cristian Zapata, Alex, Gabriel Paletta and Matteo Di Sciglio to call upon to make up his back-four, he should be able to improve the defence. A new centre-back might still come in, but it’s not a necessity.
Where they did lack a little was their attack, as Mihajlovic’s side only scored 48 goals. So, considering Milan’s lack of a proper centre-forward, il Rossoneri have gone out hard this summer and signed both Sevilla’s Carlos Bacca and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Luiz Adriano. It remains to be seen how Mihajlovic will set his team-up with top goalscorer Jeremy Menez also wanting to play centrally. There is also Stephan El-Shaarawy and Giacomo Bonaventura so there is surely lots of goals in Mihajlovic’ team come the new season.
At Sampdoria, Mihajlovic lined up in either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 that was mostly used last year. A similar formation at San Siro would mean either Bacca or Adriano would have to start wide. Or he might go with the, in Italian football, popular 4-4-2 diamond with Menez behind the two additions.
Another interesting signing is midfielder Andrea Bertolacci from Sampdoria’s fierce rivals Genoa. The midfielder spent last season on loan there from Roma, but has now joined Milan on a permanent deal. The Italy international joins a midfield with players like captain Riccardo Montolivo, Andrea Poli and Nigel De Jong. Also, Simone Verdi has returned from Torino, and the youngster surely deserves a chance to show his quality under the new coach. As I’m writing this, Milan also announced the signing of 19-year-old Parma midfielder Jose Mauri on a four-year contract. More young talent coming in the door at Milanello.
We are still only in early July, but the arrival of Mihajlovic and new signings Bacca, Adriano, Bertolacci and Mauri makes the Milan fans more excited over a new season than they have been for years. And then I haven’t even mentioned Silvio Berlusconi’s desire to bring Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the San Siro…