Milan in Freefall - AFR Voice Ep.32

‘Crisis’ has been the buzzword this season for the pod, with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and even Barcelona getting blasted with the dreaded ‘c’ word. But finally we have turned our audio attentions to a club that deserves it more than most – AC Milan.

The Rossoneri are a shocking 40 points adrift from league leaders Juve and we discuss where it all went wrong. Is rookie manager Clarence Seedorf ripe for the sacking in the summer, and will the struggle for power in the boardroom be resolved anytime soon?

Elsewhere, we look at Europe in more positive tones, heralding Bayern’s 50-game unbeaten run, ruffling the hair of little Lionel Messi for eclipsing recent AFR profilee Paulino Alcántara as Barça’s all-time record scorer, and bow down to the mighty Zlatan for making his own little bit of Parisian history.

All that plus a quick fire witness report from Chelsea’s Champions League clash against Galatasaray, a report on Jermain Defoe’s perfect MLS debut and an evaluation of Rivaldo’s career which came to an end this week. He was arguably one of football’s all-time greats, but why won’t he be remembered as such?

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Already a great in Milan, what is Kaka looking for?

By Anthony Lopopolo

Even journalists asked for his autograph, the ultimate sin. Even the fans who make the most intimidating stadium in Europe stood and applauded for Kaka. He dashed across the field at Celtic Park in November like he did on that famous night in 2007 against Manchester United when two defenders ran into each other as he headed the ball by them. 

What’s always present is his composure. Kaka stands tall and scans and navigates the field while running with perfect posture. (That’s all the more remarkable given that he was almost left paralyzed after slipping off a slide at a swimming pool.) Not all of the passes hit the target, although not much is hasty either. And when it’s just him and the ‘keeper, he often rolls the ball into the net, gently.

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Through Ryu’s Lens: Milan falls in the Milan Derby

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Minimalist Club Crests by Daniel Nyari

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The comeback / La remontada

The Copa del Rey was lost. Doubt was rising throughout Europe, but Barça showed us that nothing has changed. Before the match, Piqué said, “Any fan who doesn’t think we can turn it round against Milan should give his ticket for the game to someone who does.” The Camp Nou crowd supported their side all night long. This one was for Tito, and it was a performance for the ages.

[Posted by Eric. Gifs by Dale Con Comba]

#TheFuture x AC Milan

It’s a surprisingly good time to be a Milan fan. I mean, support endures the good and the bad, but this year was supposed to be a rough, rebuilding year for AC Milan. They started out Serie A poorly after losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, faced financial uncertainty with Silvio Berlusconi’s problems, and shipped Pato back to Brazil because he was as brittle as a duck.

The transition has instead formed something beautiful. Milan’s academy has risen, and indeed the club hopes to emphasize their value of players  grown under the Rossoneri foundations. The current Milan side has become the youngest since the 2002-03 season. The front-three of El Shaarawy, Balotelli and Niang have a combined age of 60 with the Frenchmen only recently turning 18.  With Filippo Inzaghi helping the next generation develop, AC Milan’s series called “The Future" takes us behind-the-scenes to see where we’ll find the next Maldini and Super Pippo ready to emerge. [Posted by Eric]

New heroes rise in Milan, but what did they reveal?

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By Anthony Lopopolo

They didn’t like being called the favourite. Barcelona almost always are these days, but something about AC Milan frightened them. Not so much the team, or its players, but the very thought of playing against Milan. Barcelona’s people spoke of their opponents in the round of 16 in the Champions League as if they were patron saints of the tournament. (And to some they are.)

But they came into Milan’s San Siro revering a familiar foe to such great extents. Milan’s history, their seven European titles, and their past performances against Barcelona — despite winning none of the seven previous games — intimidated them. Barca’s president, Sandro Rosell, didn’t feel relaxed. Xavi, too, speaking like a historian of the game, felt uneasy. “They have always made things difficult for us,” he told Sport.es before the game.

If Milan’s new team — only four of the team’s starters remained the same since the last time the two sides met — didn’t intimidate them, this idea of history did. Not what Milan are, but what they represent: a club demanding respect. Now, Bojan Krkic, the former Barcelona player, had at least said so: “Barca has the best in the world,” he told reporters, “but the San Siro commands respect.” So the visitors gave them every bit of it, maybe even too much. After all, it is Barcelona’s opponents who so often give too much respect. So often those opponents give up possession for the sake of defending.

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In which Zlatan forgets his stripes; or Postzlatanica

By Max Grieve

Lo! And now the towers fall
Under some words too great
Alas, they had them built too tall
And they could not bear the weight
There Zlatan goes, and so goes all
Imagination. Allegri sighs, defeated
"Why have all my parts retreated?"
 
I met a Frenchman in the stands
His face was covered by his hands
Wearied by the fight below           
And ignorant of distant fans
"I am Platini: hear me now!"
And he began an explanation           
Of blind and deaf decisions           
Or a new UEFA regulation
Though I couldn’t hear him all too well
Through his forks of red crustacean.
 
Lo! And now the towers fall
Under some words too great
Alas, they had them built too tall
And they could not bear the weight
Crushed by departure, Allegri calls           
"Where are those we once admired?"           
Sounds echo off four empty walls
They’ve left for Paris, or retired.

Filling the void: the Yoann Gourcuff story (pt I)

By Matthew Richards

With the European Championships on the horizon, Matthew Richards profiles the tumultuous career of Yoann Gourcuff, who was somewhat controversially called up to the most recent French squad, in part one of a look at his remarkable journey that has taken him from France to Milan, and back again.

Ever since Zidane chose to so ignominiously end his career in Berlin, French football has been left with a distinct void. Where Kopa and Platini reigned before the talismanic midfielder, there is now a long line of pretenders to the throne. Just as was the situation in Argentina for many years – though Messi appears to only be a strong World Cup away from near surpassing Maradona – there have been those chosen by the media and professed as the next in line; Henry, Ribéry and Vieira all bearing the responsibility at one point in their careers. Nothing yet, and the search continues. Welcome to Le Jeu des Trônes. 

To be compared to Zinedine Zidane is both an honour and a hindrance. The similarities are plain to see: both Gourcuff and Zidane occupy the same area on the field, both burst onto the international scene with Bordeaux, both share the same on-pitch demeanour and style. “Don’t put too much pressure on the guy, and don’t ask him to be the new anybody,” said Zidane. “We can all see he’s very talented.” Here lies the drawback to the comparison. Gourcuff will never be able live up to the potential that others have decided that he has – and this is not to do his career a disservice; not many will ever equal Zidane. The pressure to live up to the mark is immense, and often insurmountable. Time will tell with Gourcuff, and his early appearances for France were promising, as were many of his performances for Bordeaux. If he’s looking to shed the comparison’s he’s often gone about it the wrong way, so good has he been on occasion.

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