Inter and AC Milan take to the field this Sunday having received major facelifts this summer, after years of neglect to their once healthy visages. One new manager, and about €180 million in combined transfer fees have been invested this summer as both Milan sides plot a return to glory.
Though I am usually loathe to make predictions, at the start of the season I believed that AC would finish higher than Inter. Not because of quality of players, but because I thought that Sinisa Mihajlovic had more of an idea about how his team would play than Roberto Mancini. Despite my personal views for the man, he has some talent as a coach, as James Horncastle effectively argues. Though Milan had a mixed summer in many aspects, I thought they would be exceed expectations whilst Inter would underachieve.
So far, AC Milan have shown the worthlessness of faith and predicting the future. They were totally inept against a Fiorentina side which pressed and dominated them for 90 minutes. Their new defensive partnership of Rodrigo Ely and Alessio Romagnoli was a disaster. Ely was sent off after 38 minutes, while Romagnoli conceded the penalty that made it 2-0.
They were not much better against Empoli, but they scraped a 2-1 victory, thanks to a goal apiece from new strikers Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano. Other signings, such as Andrea Bertolacci, have yet to show their best. Early frustration from fans has turned to rage, with their ire being directed at Adriano Galliani, Milan’s sour looking CEO. In a statement by Milan’s Curva Sud, they said:
The real transfer coup we are all waiting for is the removal, voluntary or not, of our CEO…Once again he proved his incompetence on the market and if there were any more doubts he showed his real interests by negotiating for players with his usual agents (above all Mino Raiola) or doing moves with Genoa and his friend Enrico Preziosi (which earned him a lot of money in recent years).
Any eventual fireworks on transfer deadline day certainly won’t change our opinion. Unlike in the past, the club gave Mr. Galliani the necessary liquidity to sign top players.
Milan’s frustration at signings from Genoa had been heightened by the signing of Juraj Kucka, a Slovakian midfielder, for €3 million, rather than Zenit midfielder Axel Witsel. New Milan, same old problems.
Things look brighter on the blue and black side of Milan. They stole Geoffrey Kondogbia from AC for €30 million, as he preferred to work with Mancini. Other signings have included Ivan Perisic from Wolfsburg for €16 million, Stevan Jovetic and Adem Ljajic on loan from Manchester City and Roma respectively, and strangely, spending €3.7 million on 32 year old Felipe Melo.
Unlike AC Milan, they also made money selling players, something they had to do thanks to a Financial Fair Play fine (FFP) last season. They sold young starlet Mateo Kovacic to Real Madrid for €35 million, and made over €20 million on Hernanes and Ricky Alvarez. As part of their FFP fine, Inter have also agreed to a maximum deficit of €30 million for the financial year ending 2016.
This is an interesting change, as Inter have had an astonishingly poor financial record in recent years. As the Swiss Ramble points out, in the years 2007 to 2009, as Inter triumphed on the pitch, the club lost an astonishing €509 million. These losses were covered by the wealth of Massimo Moratti, who spent over €1 billion to eventually make his club Champions of Europe in 2010.
But as Bob Dylan kindly reminded us, ‘the times they are a-changing’. Moratti sold a 70% stake in the club to Indonesian businessman Erick Thorir for €250 million in 2013. Thorir has reigned in Inter’s crazy losses somewhat, as the club lost a mere $81 million (about €72.5 million) in the last two years. He has also spoken of the need for the club to modernise and branch out towards Asian markets.
On the pitch, Inter have won both their games, putting them in 3rd place behind Chievo and Torino. Stevan Jovetic, having finally found some fitness after a miserable time in Manchester, has scored all three of Inter’s goals. The two victories have masked some of their deficiencies though.
Their 1-0 victory over Atalanta was settled by a 94th minute golazzo by the Montenegrin striker. Against Carpi, the tiny newcomers to Serie A equalised thanks to some dodgy Inter defending, as a low, slow ball into the box by Lasagna was scuffed in Di Gaudio. The game was eventually won by an 88th minute penalty. Inter are still a work in progress, like their Milanese rivals.
Both Inter and AC Milan should belong in a group with Napoli, Fiorentina and Lazio that are battling for the last Champions League place. Though it has lost its lustre somewhat, the Milan derby still has the feeling of a great event, as the San Siro will be (for once) full of passionate support.
For those who of you who sigh with regret at the mention of Serie A, there’s this full match from the good old days. Presented by James Richardson (with hair), its Inter vs AC Milan from the 1993/94 season, when AC won a league and Champions League double, and Inter won the UEFA Cup.