Milan can fly again with Montella – now Silvio must sell to Chinese to reach the skies

The arrival of l’Aeroplanino at San Siro offers the Rossoneri’s long-suffering fans serious grounds for optimism as owner Silvio Berlusconi is finally set to hand over control.


Shortly after Vincenzo Montella’s appointment as AC Milan coach was confirmed late on Tuesday evening, joint-CEO Adriano Galliani was asked when it had been decided that the former Italy international was the right man for the job. “I don’t remember,” he replied. “I haven’t eaten all day!”

It may appear like a throwaway line but it was actually an indication of how quickly Milan had moved to wrap up a deal for Montella. This, after all, is a club in which key decisions are usually made during dinners with owner Silvio Berlusconi at his home at Arcore. However, there was no time for such luxuries this time around – not with the former Italian Prime Minister currently in the process of trying to sell the club to Chinese investors.

As recently as Saturday, Berlusconi was still entertaining the idea of retaining the services of Cristian Brocchi, who had been installed on a contract until the end of the season following the sacking of Sinisa Mihajlovic in April. The former youth team coach was keen to accept a new role at Brescia but was asked by Berlusconi to wait another 48 hours to see how things panned out.

It initially appeared as if Marco Giampaolo would take the reins, after impressing at Empoli last season, while surprisingly serious consideration was also given to persuading Fabio Capello to return to San Siro. On Monday, there were even reports of a ‘Mister X’ having entered the fray, a mystery man not previously touted for a role that had already been linked with Unai Emery, Manuel Pellegrini and Andre Villas Boas.

Of course, it was no secret that former Sevilla boss Emery had been the No. 1 target – a respected, high-profile coach was exactly what the incoming Chinese owners wanted – but it has been a long time since Milan has been able to compete with Paris Saint-Germain… on or off the field. That was precisely why Berlusconi considered sticking with Brocchi but that was vetoed by his Chinese business partners. In the end, though, a compromise was reached: Montella.

While the circumstances surrounding the 41-year-old’s arrival were undeniably chaotic, it is a shrewd appointment on Milan’s part. It may have been a rushed decision – but it is the right one.

Firstly, it is worth pointing out that Milan has flirted with Montella before – as recently as last summer – and it has long been felt that it was only a matter of time before he ended up at the Giuseppe Meazza as he ticks all of Berlusconi’s boxes: he is young and he is Italian.

Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly of all given the weakness of the current crop of Rossoneri players, this is coach that has already proven at both Catania and Fiorentina that he can not only get the most of seemingly average squads – but also get them playing attractive football. Indeed, it was telling that “his brilliant style of play” was referenced in the press release confirming his arrival at San Siro.

Certainly, Montella’s Fiorentina side was a joy to behold at times, with Borja Valero and David Pizarro pulling the strings in midfield, Juan Cuadrado and Joaquin providing incision from out wide and Giuseppe Rossi shining in attack.

Montella led Fiorentina to three successive fourth-placed finishes in Serie A – as well as the 2013-14 Coppa Italia final – and there is no doubt that the best passing side on the peninsula could have achieved even more had Rossi and former forward Mario Gomez not been so handicapped by injury problems.

Of course, the one regret is that Montella’s time at the Artmio Franchi ended on a sour note. The former Roma coach felt that certain promises had been broken by owner Diego Della Valle, while the club accused Montella of stalling over signing a new contract in order to invite offers from elsewhere.

“We would have expected clearer, more respectful and less ambiguous behavior from the coach, in respect of the shirt, the fans and the club which has given him so much,” Fiorentina fumed in June of last year.

“So, with great regret we must take note of the fact that there is no longer the relationship of trust necessary for the continuation of any relationship, and we are therefore forced – for the good of the club – to sack Vincenzo Montella.”

Eventually, both parties settled their differences and Montella was cleared to take charge of Sampdoria in November. That particular reunion did not work out well for L’Aeroplanino (The Little Aeroplane), whose career had taken off at the Luigi Ferraris in the mid-to-late 90s, first with Genoa and then city rival Samp.

Of course, working for an eccentric ego-maniacal president didn’t help – and one could ask why anything will be any different under Berlusconi at Milan. However, the key here is that Berlusconi is finally set to follow through on his promise to sell the Rossoneri . A deal has now been agreed that will see the Chinese investors hand over $830 million for an 80 percent stake, with the option of acquiring Berlusconi’s remaining 20 percent in three years’ time.

A transfer hit list has already been drawn up, with Milan hoping to reunite Montella with Roberto Soriano (a long-time target of the Rossoneri’s) and Adem Ljajic, with whom the new boss worked at Sampdoria and Fiorentina, respectively. Of course, Gianluca Lapadula has already arrived from Pescara and he could be joined by Genoa forward Leonardo Pavoletti and Palermo trequartista Franco Vazquez.

It is also expected that Montella will make the most of the young players now at his disposal, as he earned his coaching stripes as a youth team coach at Roma, where he brought through the likes of Alessio Romagnoli, the current Milan center half who has nothing but “beautiful memories” of their time together in the Italian capital.

For the first time in many years, the future offers optimism for Milan’s long-suffering fans. There is an understandable fear that L’Aeroplanino might just be the latest coach to crash and burn at San Siro but if he is properly backed by the club’s new owners, he can get the Rossoneri flying again.

The original version of this story which was published by goal.com Serie A can be viewed here.

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