AC Milan currently sit at the top of Serie A and have a six point lead over Napoli and Inter Milan. Among those three clubs, AC Milan have much easier fixtures and it is now their title race to lose. If they indeed end up winning the title, it will be their first Serie A triumph since 2011. Stefano Pioli is rightly credited with making AC Milan a force in Italy again. But Technical Director Paolo Maldini’s work deserves more recognition outside Milan. This article explains Paolo Maldini’s Role in AC Milan’s Renaissance .
Initial days as Sporting Director
AC Milan returned to the Champions League in 2021/22 after missing out on Europe’s top tier competition for 8 seasons. Milan’s downfall started in January 2014 when Max Allegri was sacked and Clarence Seedorf was hired. Milan finished 10th in that season and the club had issues from the management to players. After a period of turmoil, things finally stabilized in August 2018 when Elliott Corporation decided to buy the club.
Immediately, Paolo Maldini was appointed as the Sporting Director and he had a big job in his hands. His hands were tied as the summer window had already closed but the manager Gattuso was Maldini’s team-mate. Maldini’s first signing was Piatek from Genoa for 35 million euros but it proved to be a costly mistake. In the summer, Maldini was appointed as the Technical Director and was given full freedom to hire talents of his choice.
The summer of 2019
AC Milan’s renaissance was built on the back of four players they acquired in the summer of 2019. The players and their cost has been provided below.
- Ismael Bennacer – €17.2m
- Theo Hernandez – €21.5m
- Franck Kessie – €24m
- Rafael Leao – €29.5m
It was Maldini who gave the green signal to buy those players and his legendary status might have played a role in their signings. In addition to the players mentioned above, Milan also signed Ante Rebic on-loan from Eintracht Frankfurt with Andre Silva going the other way. All these players played a significant role in Milan’s second place finish in Serie A in 2020/21. All of them are now starters when fit for AC Milan in the current season.
More importantly, the five of them bring different skill-sets to the table. They are also very young, with the oldest one being Rebic who was 25 at the time of signing. Leao, Bennacer and Rebic are versatile players who can play a number of roles across the pitch. Maldini also appointed a new coach Marco Giampaolo in June 2019. But things did not go to plan and he was sacked after just seven games in charge.
Arrival of Pioli
Stefano Pioli was appointed as an interim manager in October 2019. Pioli’s arrival was met with lukewarm reaction from Milan fans but little did they know the role he will play in Milan’s renaissance. Pioli was noted for being a tactical chameleon as he never stuck with a single system. Two months later, Maldini signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, another acquisition which raised eyebrows as he was widely expected to retire from football.
However, Zlatan’s arrival inspired a turnaround and Milan did not lose a single game after COVID re-start. Expectations were high when the season started after the arrival of Saelemaekers, Kjaer, Diaz and Tonali. AC Milan gave their neighbors Inter Milan a tough fight for the title but their efforts faded away towards the end of the season. But this time, they are in for the longer run and Maldini’s studious long term planning might bear fruition soon.