On Saturday, A.C. Milan hosted the surging Roma side led by Luciano Spalletti at the San Siro to wrap up the 2015-16 Serie A season. With a Europa League spot on the line, the Rossoneri squandered their chance to gain qualification as the Giallorossi cruised to a 3-1 victory over rookie manager Cristian Brocchi.
The defeat capped off a regular season filled with great expectations after a 90 million euro summer investment, only to see the club finish in seventh behind Sassuolo for the sixth and final European spot Italy has to it’s top league. Let’s review the season to forget for the Rossoneri.
Under the recently sacked Siniša Mihajlović, Milan began the season with a road defeat at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Firenze against Fiorentina, falling 2-0. Stumbling out of the gate, Mihajlović and the squad had their fair share of bumps as they suffered defeats in four of their first seven league matches. It wasn’t until Mihajlović summoned young Gianluigi Donnarumma from the Primavera to provide a jolt of energy and enthusiasm into the squad, replacing the struggling Spaniard Diego Lopez. Since the teenager took sole possession of the goal against Sassuolo in a 2-1 win, the Rossoneri began showing signs of becoming a contender for Europe. They trounced a Lazio side many thought could compete for a league title with a scoreline of 3-1.
Of course, while Donnarumma caught the attention of everyone across Italy, and all of Europe, it was the performances of newcomers Carlos Bacca, Alessio Romagnoli and Juraj Kucka along with spark-plug Giacomo Bonaventura which propelled the club to an impressive pursuit of third. From November 28th’s 4-1 win over Sampdoria to February 27th (14 matches), Milan performed to a 7-6-1 record, leading supporters of the club to believe in a fairytale return to the UEFA Champions League. During this streak, Milan impressively defeated Fiorentina 2-0 and Inter 3-0 which were two of the biggest triumphs this season.
This string of performances removed Mihajlović from the hot seat and provided fans with optimism for a tactician to rally around for the foreseeable future. However, once M’Baye Niang, who partnered tremendously with Bacca atop the 4-4-2 formation, sustained an ankle injury from a car crash in March, it all came crashing down. The performance of the club began to slip dramatically as did the results. Riccardo Montolivo and Andrea Bertolacci failed to provide security and stability to a Milan midfield starved of quality, but it wasn’t just the two Italians who are at fault. Collectively, the entire squad dropped points and the final knockout blow to Mihajlović came at the hands of Juventus whose win ultimately led to the Serbian’s sacking. Milan Primavera manager Cristian Brocchi took his place at the bench for the remainder of the season.
While Silvio Berlusconi hoped to rejuvenate the side under a new leader, Brocchi showed his inexperience in the final six rounds, dropping points to the likes of Carpi (0-0) Hellas Verona (2-1) and Frosinone (3-3). The former Milan and Lazio midfielder did provide Jose Mauri and Manuel Locatelli with more playing time than Mihajlović which was welcomed by club supporters. Unfortunately, the youngsters could not provide enough of an impact.
After 38 rounds of play, Milan finished in 7th place on 57 points and with a goal difference of +6. Milan did manage to take advantage of a favorable path to the Coppa Italia final under Mihajlović during the season, which now puts the club in position to win an unexpected trophy. However, its the winners of their fifth straight Scudetto in Juventus that stands between them and the winner’s podium on May 21st at the Stadio Olimpico.
Despite the disappointing finish and one that could result in another season of observing European play from the couch, Milan did have some noteworthy performers – and moments – this season. Carlos Bacca, who made the lucrative €30m move from Sevilla last summer, managed to score 18 goals with so few chances. The Colombian’s goal output was good for third in the league behind Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain and Juventus’ Paulo Dybala. Gianluigi Donnarumma, now 17 years of age, conceded less than one goal per match with a lackluster defensive unit supporting him and managed to tally 11 clean-sheets along the way in his first season, via transfermarkt. Juraj Kucka, who was purchased from Genoa for 3 million euros last summer, cemented himself as the club’s best midfielder this season. The Slovakian easily outperformed Bertolacci, who arrived for 20 million euros. His energy, marauding runs end-to-end and his grit earned him the nickname “The Tank.” Lastly, we witnessed a long-time leader of the Rossoneri call it quits on a successful career. Christian Abbiati had won nearly everything possible with the club; three Serie A titles, a UEFA Champions League crown and two Italian Super Cups to name a few. Unfortunately, the club could not send him off with a farewell win, but the Curva Sud at the San Siro granted him an ovation he will never forget.
All in all, the season was yet another miserable one. Fans witnessed a silent winter mercato while having aspirations for European football, another questionable managerial sacking, a potential investor vanish, and an overall misguided plan for the future. Albeit an unlikely feat, the only hope to salvage something from this season awaits on Saturday against Juventus for the Italian Cup final in Rome. There you have it. 2015-2016 in review.