AC Milan: Rising Again


Now that the COVID-delayed summer transfer window has come to a close, Serie A—the top flight of Italian soccer—began league action on September 19th.

Coming into the season, many sportswriters predicted that Cristiano Ronaldo-led Juventus would make a run for their 10th straight Scudetto title. (The last team to win the league other than Juve was AC Milan, back in 2011.) Despite a successful league campaign in the 2019-20 season, Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri was sacked over the summer. He was replaced by club legend Andrea Pirlo, a fairly inexperienced coach who may shake up the team. Inter Milan and A.S. Roma were also expected to contend for first place throughout the season. 

In reality, the team that shone the brightest over the first nine matchdays is AC Milan, which is led by 39-year-old Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimović. After returning from a spell with LA Galaxy in the MLS, Thor has been an inspirational force for this Milan team off the field as well as on—he currently leads the league with ten goals, having scored in each appearance so far. The team is coached by Stefano Pioli. He, and many other AC Milan directors, were set to leave over the summer, to be replaced by German management coming from Leipzig, including coach Ralf Rangnick. After a spectacular run of team results at the end of last season, however, Pioli was rewarded with a new contract for Milan.

Milan currently sits five points ahead from the rest of the league, at the top of the table. However, these good results have not come without difficulty. The Italian team faced a very difficult challenge to qualify for the UEFA Europa League, and they certainly have not found it easy to progress after securing their spot in the group stages. Milan’s 24-game undefeated streak across all competitions ended with a 3-0 defeat to current group H leaders, Lille OSC, on November 5th. This surprising loss was a bit of a reality check.

With the current global pandemic, the team has also played through some key absences. Coach Stefano Pioli is currently coaching from home, given his recent COVID-positive test. Daniele Bonera, who has taken over in-person coaching duties despite his lack of experience, has done surprisingly well in Pioli’s absence. Zlatan Ibrahimović is currently recovering from a hamstring injury and should be back on the pitch soon. He is an extremely important balance to an otherwise very young and inexperienced squad. Nevertheless, the team has still been able to achieve good results without their star man.

Whether AC Milan will be able to hold their pole position in the Italian table will depend on what moves club directors Paulo Maldini and Ricky Massara can make during the upcoming winter transfer window. The Elliott Management Company, AC Milan’s owners, seem willing to invest substantial amounts to bring Milan back to the top of club soccer, both in Italy and across Europe.