While their rivals have been busy strengthening over the summer, AC Milan’s plans have been put on hold ever since UEFA’s financial fair play verdict in June resulted in the Rossoneri being banned from European competition.
The response was to launch an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS], and the Italian giants have successfully made their case and had that decision overturned to be reinstated into the Europa League next season, which should now finally allow them to plan ahead.
From question marks over whether or not key individuals would stay without European football and the financial pressure that would have been applied to the club without that revenue stream, to the lack of significant reinforcements this summer to bolster Gennaro Gattuso’s squad. It has been a problematic period for the club.
With growing frustration and anxiousness at the San Siro, the transfer of ownership to Elliott Management from Yonghong Li and the subsequent CAS ruling now means that there is a real sense of optimism again that they can accelerate their plans in the coming weeks to prepare for the upcoming campaign.
Milan have been restricted to three signings all on free transfers thus far, with Pepe Reina, Ivan Strinic and Alen Halilovic arriving at the club. Having finished 31 points adrift of champions Juventus last season and eight points off the pace for a top four finish, it’s evident much more will be needed.
That’s not to mention the fact that the Turin giants have landed the transfer of the summer in Cristiano Ronaldo to strengthen further, as they’ll be the team to catch in Italy yet again while also now having the firepower to seemingly end their wait for success in Europe.
While there are still issues to be sorted out at Milan with Elliott perhaps overseeing a reshuffle at the top of the hierarchy to put their own officials in place, Milan essentially have a month to now make the necessary changes to the squad to put themselves in a serious position to compete.
As seen last season, the Rossoneri simply didn’t have the quality and depth as well as the experience to launch a genuine assault on the top four in Serie A while they also fell short in Europe.
With that in mind, there are still key areas to address this summer, and perhaps with European football secured they will now not only be able to convince fundamental players to stay but can also attract the big names needed to take them to the next level.
Realistically, the objective next season will be to secure a return to the Champions League. Nevertheless, given the history and ambition of the club, Milan will demand to be in the race for major honours come May.
The first priority in order to do that has to be keeping Gattuso’s key players. Leonardo Bonucci, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Suso and Andre Silva are among a group of players who have been continuously linked with an exit this summer and so perhaps with the issue of European football resolved, Milan won’t be under pressure to sell in order to raise funds for their own spending, or face the headache of transfer requests.
If the club are going to continue to move in the right direction, the emphasis has to be on keeping the current core in place and building on it rather than merely spending the last few weeks of the transfer window looking for replacements.
Provided that they can keep their star names and perhaps ship out those who struggled to have any sort of positive influence last season, it sets Milan up perfectly to address key issues in the squad.
From a lack of quality alternatives in midfield, most notably for Franck Kessie to allow Gattuso to rotate, to a glaring absence of consistent firepower in the final third, a midfielder and striker will surely be at the top of the transfer shortlist this summer.
Having assembled a young nucleus to the squad with their spending spree last summer, this time round it has to be different for Milan. Even if they perhaps focus their attention on two major additions, those voids need to be filled and the Rossoneri need to see Friday’s overruling as the catalyst to finally kick-start their summer.
The CAS decision ultimately sees Milan claim back what they earned on the pitch last season. That in itself will lift the players and coaching staff, now with a seemingly reliable and stable ownership in place after the end of the short-lived Yonghong Li era, perhaps better times are on the way for the Italian giants.