When even Leonardo Bonucci is struggling to adapt to new surroundings you know there’s something in Vincenzo Montella’s contention that getting the best from AC Milan’s massive eleven-player summer splurge will take time.
But just because the 42-year-old is right doesn’t mean he’ll be at the San Siro to see the investment of the club’s Chinese ownership bear fruit.
We’ve seen it before. Think Andres Villas Boas at Spurs with all that Bale money. Or even Ronald Koeman at Everton.
Both clubs spent heavily, providing both men with a raft of new signings in a summer transfer window.
Naturally, expectations were high – but it really does take time to integrate players. Neither manager was given that time.
And Montella will know that he’s unlikely to be afforded much leeway either if he can’t get his side performing consistently sooner rather than later. As there will be no later.
Bonucci is a great example of how tricky player integration can be – even for just one player.
Recognised as a world class defender, the man Milan paid over €42 million for has been in the horrors at his new club.
The Italian international struggled to adapt to Montella’s favoured back four set up, but even a switch to a more familiar Juventus-like back three hasn’t really helped either.
Doubtless the Rossoneri’s record signing will come good. But if new surroundings, new team mates and a new coach have thrown him, then it’s hardly surprising that players like Andre Silva, bought for €38 million from Porto, with no experience of Serie A might be struggling to find their feet.
The highly rated Portuguese striker, who caught the eye of many big clubs last season in scoring 24 goals in 41 appearances for Porto, has yet to register a Serie A goal.
You have to feel for Montella though. On paper, Milan have recruited well. And it’d be a real shame if the former Fiorentina manager was to be prevented from proving that.
You can see it though can’t you? The players struggle to find form, and Montella is shown the door.
Then a new manager strides in, results improve – even though it may be just that the players have finally settled in – and he gets all the praise.
Montella deserves a proper shot at this. His work last season for the club when money was tight should have bought him time to get it right under the new regime.
He achieved the club’s goal of a return to European football (last season’s sixth place finish qualifying the club for the Europa League) with a squad far less promising that the one he has now.
Indeed, it was Milan’s highest Serie A placing since 2012/13.
Naturally though, having shelled out just shy of €200 million in the summer, the club’s owners are within their rights to set loftier goals – with a return to the Champions League apparently their minimum requirement.
But if they know the game, they’ll realise that a manager cannot be expected to get things right overnight, especially when he has eleven new players on his hands.
They should also recognise that Milan have a lot of ground to make up on their major Serie A rivals.
Champions Juventus proved as much with their dominant 2-0 win at the San Siro on Saturday evening. Montella’s post match reflection captured it nicely –
We have a squad full of prospect while they have a squad full of champions.
But whatever about the Old Lady, the other hopefuls in the chase for the top four places – Napoli, Roma, Inter and Lazio – are also some way ahead of the Rossoneri in terms of development and stability.
Money alone will not close the gap, but of course, football is not always fair and owners don’t always see the game as a manager might.
Indeed, Milan’s owners need the money a return to the Champions League would generate to keep the show on the road and so may act swiftly to replace Montella if the gap between their investment and the top four starts to look unbridgeable.
Though given the former Roma great pre-dated their arrival, they may show little compunction about showing him the door.