Pressure mounts on AC Milan manager Vincenzo Montella ahead of Milan Derby

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 02 October 2017, 16:29

It was the end of June 2016 and Vincenzo Montella had just been appointed as head Coach of AC Milan. A string of failures that included Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Cristian Brocchi had all gone before him and it was clear to the former Fiorentina man just how large the task at hand was going to be.

At that point owner Silvio Berlusconi was looking to call time on his highly-decorated tenure as owner of the Milan giants, but had very much pulled the plug on any funding for the playing squad whilst he found a buyer.

The process of selling to Chinese investors was subject to a farcical number of delays and all the while Milan had spent just E28 million in the summer transfer window of 2016/17. But Montella was used to such constraints, as after all, he worked at Fiorentina for three seasons and secured consecutive fourth-placed finishes on a meagre budget.

With the promise of funds incoming, he set about doing what he did best. His man-management skills and tactical acumen united his paper-thin squad and the man nicknamed L’aeroplanino brought the best from players such as Manuel Locatelli, who had been plucked from the youth team much sooner than he would otherwise have been.

An ability to get players working for each other is something the Coach specialises in, and together his side achieved a sixth-placed finish that handed them an Europa League berth. This season marks the first time the sleeping giants have entered into European competition since 2013/14, an unthinkable absence for a club with such pedigree. The aforementioned takeover finally went through, meaning this summer that Milan spent an extra ¤200m on top of the measly ¤28 that had been invested the year before.

The squad was completely overhauled, but Montella seemed like the ideal man to turn the numerous new acquisitions into a credible team. He had done so at Fiorentina, his arrival in Tuscany back in 2012 marked by the arrival of no less than 18 new players in a 29-man squad. He had taken that club to a European semi-final in his third and final season in charge, but alas Milan need results much quicker than that.

A highly-unusual business plan means that the Rossoneri - now partly financed by US hedge fund Elliott, an operation compared to that of a “vulture capitalist” - are under extreme pressure to raise funds via Champions League qualification. This is in order to satisfy extremely high debt repayments, with the aim of raising money via extra interest from Chinese audiences the second of a two-pronged approach.

Under Montella, the new squad has notched up four wins and three losses, not a bad record it must be said, considering the mammoth task of uniting so many new faces. Taking into account his previous record, many other clubs would not even be considering the future of the Coach, but it is absolutely essential for the future of this giant club that the leadership gets the team back to winning quickly.

“We are only seven rounds in, we have a new team, so no Coach has a magic wand,” Rossoneri CEO Massimiliano Mirabelli told Sky Italia reporters after a second-straight defeat against Roma last weekend.

“You can’t get certain results straight away. We have a group of players who need to become a team, so as far as we are concerned, Montella is working well. We just have to hope that work brings important results.”

Those comments seemed scarily close to the dreaded vote of confidence, and Sky also stated that the boss was hauled into Casa Milan on Monday. The meeting was said to have been scheduled in order to discuss the recent sacking of the club’s fitness coach and the current state of play with the squad.

As if the next match for the Rossoneri - a derby encounter against rivals Inter - wasn’t enough pressure, a threat of the sudden availability of club legend Carlo Ancelotti only serves to put the current boss under more pressure. The 58-year-old, just fired by Bayern Munich, won a League title at San Siro alongside adding two Champions League trophies to the already glittering cabinet.

If Montella does indeed receive the axe, whichever club he arrives at next will be lucky to employ such a competent and tactically intelligent boss. It just might well turn out to be a shame for Milan that they do not have the luxury of giving him the time he so desperately needs in order to achieve the required results.

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