Continuing the series we look at a very important factor along with the changes Rangnick (if appointed) can bring…
The youth sector
A very important part in the modern game today as a football club is the nurturing of young talents. They provide a cost effective method of raising potential champions with values of the club embedded in the player from his early playing days.
Top teams have made the academy their priority and have invested millions into it as a result. Recently, Bayern Munich invested €70million into re-structuring their youth sector and state of the art facilities.
The Milan Primavera is one of the most famous academies in Italy if not in Europa. Credited with producing some of the greatest players of all time, the academy has pumped out such players like Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Demetrio Albertini, Billy Costacurta and Filippo Galli.
But since the turn of the 21st century, the production line has thinned and the current situation is best described as bleak at best. The quality of the players produced has not scaled up to the previous generations, though admittedly finding another Baresi is hard.
The few notable recent graduates are Gianluigi Donnarumma, Patrick Cutrone, Manuel Locatelli, Mattia De Sciglio, Ignazio Abate, Davide Calabria and Luca Antonelli. While Donnarumma has been Milan Primavera’s highlight, the others haven’t shown enough consistency and are now mostly elsewhere.
Milan under previous ownerships never put enough emphasis on youth or invested enough. The youth sector has always been overlooked and a revolving door of managers has led to different trickle-down philosophies.
The culmination of all this was when the Primavera side were relegated from the top flight in 2018-19, which was the nadir of a pretty poor run of games and not replacing those called up to the senior squad. Here is the catalogue of errors:
– Until recently Milan never laid emphasis on the youth academy, it was completely overlooked and therefore all the promising talents made their way to other academies.
– UEFA, in 2013, introduced the UEFA youth league. It is a youth level champions league for the Primavera members. Playing in these competition helps the younger players to gain experience and settle nerves of playing on the big stage.
-There is no common philosophy for the main team and consequently the Primavera. In short, the playing style employed in the first team is different from the Primavera which leads to a discord and lack of cohesion.
Ralf Rangnick – when interviewed by the Bundesliga website – spoke the importance of youth.
“Nowadays at the age of 15 or 16 the young players are trained at a high level of performance, both physically and mentally. As a result they have three advantages over older players,” the German said.
“Firstly they recover a lot faster from their exertions between games. Secondly their capacity to learn is higher, one of the privileges of youth. Several of today’s on-the-pitch styles of play are learned through mental exercises.
“Older players can also take steps forward in their development as part of a youthful side, the progress is simply more extreme in the case of younger talents.
“The third point is an unwavering team ethic. The ability to counterattack, the aggression in trying to win the ball and moving as a unit only works when done collectively. The performance both with and against the ball effects the entire team and requires an absolute altruism.
“Younger players often have a greater predisposition to invest in the team spirit because they’re aware that they need it for their personal style of play. Those are the three main advantages of utilising young players, always under the assumption that alongside their talent and education, they are surrounded by a healthy environment.”
Salzburg sends all their new recruits to their sister club FC Liefering which plays in 2.Bundesliga in Austria to get familiar with the the high intensity of European football. Liefering also play with the same style that is used by Leipizg and Salzburg which helps the players to settle into the club quickly.
How Rangnick can help Milan
Finances and FFP
Althrough Rangnick is not involved in the economic side of the club directly, he and his team can use their scouting prowess to get in top-class players at low costs and wages which will ease the burden of the wage bill of the club and does not affect the style or quality of play.
While the club buys these players for a low cost, profit can be easily gained when these players move on to bigger clubs for tidy sums of money. RB Salzburg have reportedly made a profit of over €200m from player sales, for example.
With capital gains from player sales and less wages spent on existing players, it will mean less expense and more income which will in turn improve the club’s financial health. This will automatically ease the shackles that UEFA has imposed on Milan via Financial Fair Play as the club turns a corner into the green.
Ever since Max Allegri left Milan in 2013, Milan have employed a total of eight permanent coaches until the present day with Stefano Pioli being the latest. None of these coaches have been able to impose a tactical identity or a clear style of play on the team due to poor recruitment and insufficient versatility in the team.
#ACMilan have had ten different managers since 2013 (including interim): Allegri, Tassotti, Seedorf, Inzaghi, Mihajlovic, Brocchi, Montella, Gattuso, Giampaolo and Pioli.
Out of the current Serie A teams only Genoa (11), Udinese (12) and Brescia (20) have had more.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) March 16, 2020
With Rangnick acting in the dual role of director and head coach he is able to direct his scouts to get players that suit his high intensity Gegenpress. Rangnick – known as the “father of Gegenpress” – has no lack of tactical identity and will be eager to transcend his style to the players.
And as we saw in the previous edition, Rangnick is famous for identifying players early and integrating them into his team. His scouting team is one of the best in the world and it would surely result in a major upturn if they were to join him on a new Italian adventure.
Rangnick also carries a strong message regarding his youth-oriented philosophy. Often players consider the project a team pursues and whether it matches with their goals. Leipizg has been an attractive landing site for young talents around the world – as seen with Dani Olmo who snubbed Milan for the Bundesliga side.
Milan too could be a centre of attraction if the club presents a working plan of its rise to the top to prospective new signings.
With Rangnick bringing a unified philosophy to the whole club it would apply to every sporting area, including the Primavera. A manager who uses the same tactics as Rangnick would be identified and the Primavera would be drilled and conditioned with the same playing style the senior team plays. This would help players to easily make the jump from the junior levels upwards.
With scout Geoffrey Moncada already working at the club, with Rangnick and his scouting team they will collectively work towards bringing major talents in and around Europe to the Primavera. Not only does this save Milan from spending money on finding replacements, it also gives major competition to existing players.
Players bought for the Primavera and money spent on the the youth system is exempt from UEFA Financial Fair Play laws.
While there are always risks that come along with a long term project and with Rangnick’s view of Football, the good seems to outweigh the bad unless a catastrophe takes place.
Unlike the previous few managers, Rangnick would be given complete control of the club and this would help him to make decision easier without the bottlenecks faced by earlier managers, where a difference of opinion always occurred between the directors and the coach.
With Rangnick seemingly Elliot’s choice, it appears they are planning to stick with him in the long run and bring much needed stabily
With the kind of peril Milan seems to be in and with its past glories seemingly too long ago, Milan needs a ‘factory reset’ of sorts. To do this, they must start making changes to catch up with the modern vision of football that has ceased to exist at Milan due to the various aforementioned factors – and frankly there is no better man to do it than Ralf Rangnick.