I'm honestly concerned about Milan. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do, and it’s an odd feeling. It’s a lot like I imagine it would feel if the guy in your office who really gets on your nerves suddenly went missing for several days -- you might strongly dislike the guy, but that doesn't mean you want to see him lying dead in a ditch.
By my count, Milan have now lost at least six of their key first team players from last season. Of those, two were absolutely world-class, and had all but carried the team to its comfortable second-place finish. Then they lost an additional two players -- Inzaghi and Gattuso -- who, while not part of the team's picture, were important bandiere for the club. Pretty much everyone they've signed as replacements are the types of footballers who would be seen as non-starting depth players for just about any other Milan squad over the past decade. Their best remaining forward just picked up another injury today, roughly the billionth muscular injury of his short career. There are rumors that Mexes is thinking of leaving too, and that Milan are looking toward the unwanted head-case Royston Drenthe and Genoa’s goal-less wonder Ze Eduardo as possible new signings.
I mean... What. The. Fuck?
Does anyone have any credible theories as to what's going on? We all knew FFP was going to give clubs some growing pains, but this is just beyond the pale. The only other times I can remember seeing such a dramatic drop-off in talent over a single summer all involve teams that had just been relegated -- Milan have not been relegated, in fact they’re still playing in the goddamn Champions League. Was it just inevitable that Berlusconi would eventually screw up his club as badly as he’s screwed up his country? Is he trying to sell the club for spare parts? Is there a gas leak at club headquarters causing mass hallucinations? Is Allegri really that annoying? Or is Milan just toying with people for a while before announcing that they've signed Messi and cloned a 28-year-old Maldini right before the transfer deadline? I'm honestly just baffled, and would love to hear theories.
What’s even stranger is that I’m not even enjoying watching the chaos. In fact, I don’t feel good about it at all. Schadenfreude is a huge – and thoroughly enjoyable – element of sports fandom, and I typically relish watching Milan and Juve fail. But even more important than laughing at your rivals is the feeling that your team has triumphed over a worthy adversary. Not to mention, in an era where talent seems to be draining away from the Italian peninsula at an alarming pace, the notion of watching Milan – like it or not, the most successful European ambassador that Serie A’s ever had – embarrass themselves in the Champions League doesn’t make me happy.
If Inter puts 7 goals past a backline of Acerbi and Bonera in the derby this year, will it feel a bit hollow? Or am I just going soft in my old age?