If you ask any football fan to name the ten biggest ten clubs in Europe, the name of AC Milan will usually be somewhere near the top of the list.
The second most decorated club in European football, behind Real Madrid, has made six appearances in the Champions League final, winning the trophy on three occasions, to add to their four European Cup wins, two UEFA Cup Winners Cups, and five UEFA Super Cups.
Their last victory came in 2007 when they met their conquerors of the previous year, Liverpool, and secured a 2-1 victory, but they had been a major force in European football since the late 1980s. Under Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello, they were able to attract some of the best players in the world and dominated in Europe and in Italy.
The name of AC Milan will always be a powerful one in European football, and there are still some fine players in their ranks, such as Portuguese forward André Silva and Italian defensive midfielder Manuel Locatelli – young players who could form the basis for a resurgent team. The presence of such talent, along with their reputation, will ensure that Milan continue to be popular with football punters who bet on bet on stakers.
However, there is no doubt that the last decade has seen a dramatic decline in AC Milan’s fortunes. At the time of the international break in March, they were sixth in Serie A. The 2017/18 season was their fifth consecutive campaign without Champions League football, and they were knocked out of the Europa League in the round of 16 by Arsenal.
The decline can be traced back to a number of factors. To begin with, there was an exodus of talent to the newly wealthy Paris Saint-Germain. First, key players Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimović left for Paris. Other players to depart included Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Mark van Bommel, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluca Zambrotta, Massimo Oddo, and Gennaro Gattuso.
At the same time, financial problems at the club’s owners, Fininvest, prevented the kind of investment needed to rebuild. An operating loss of €485.9 million in 2013 stifled the possibility of significant funds going to the team, and former owner Silvio Berlusconi had been reluctant to pour his personal money into the club at a time when ordinary Italians were struggling financially.
Other European teams have also overtaken the Italian clubs. The merchandising and other money-raising activities of Italian teams are far less intensive than in England or Spain, and as the team has declined, so the popularity of its merchandise has also fallen.
A rapid turnover of managers has also not helped. Since the departure of Massimiliano Allegri in 2014, the club have had seven managers, and even AC Milan heroes such as Seedorf and Inzaghi have been unable to return the team to the top.
There is, however, some hope for the future. Although they had a slow start to the season, and suffered that disappointing Europa League exit, under new manager Gattuso, the team are showing a lot more fight and determination.
They have won eight out of nine Serie A games in 2018 and have a squad with more than a sprinkling of young talent. If they can continue to improve things behind the scenes and generate a little more revenue, there is a good chance that under their current coach, AC Milan could once again be on the up.