Can AC Milan gel the old with the new to create another dynasty?

By SempreMilan -

Milan’s great performances in 2021-22 are down to many factors, but exceptional guidance and cohesion in the dressing must rank highly among them.

After the huge win at Napoli on March 7, The Guardian highlighted an interesting comment by Olivier Giroud, who said that he was there to act as a ‘big brother’ to the younger members of the squad.

With the experience of Giroud, Ibra and Florenzi there to guide the squad, it is little wonder that the likes of Rafael Leao have flourished. The signs are there for something great, but after many false starts over the past decade it’s reasonable for fans to be cautious. Should they be?

Overcoming the malaise

Milan have been blessed with several world-class teams in their time, and some of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch. That was most recently seen between 2003 and 2011, when the last Scudetto was one.

There were world-class players all over the pitch; Shevchenko, Crespo, Pirlo, Nesta, Cafu, Seedorf, Maldini. Even the one-time best player in the world, Kaká, called Milan home, and arguably – according to the BBC – played the best years of his career at the San Siro. 

There has, of course, been a long malaise since then. Players of great talent have come and gone, from Pato to Higuain. Tug-of-wars over the most talented, Donnarumma, perhaps the most notable among them, have become part of long-running jokes that you might find on an AC Milan or Serie A bingo card. Overcoming this has started with the 2017 takeover, and has placed a lot of stock in young talent mixing with wise heads. 

Changing the narrative 

There seemed to be a lack of planning between 2011 and 2018, according to The Drum, prior to when the Elliott Management Corporation took over the club. Signings, coaching staff and strategies were taken with a scattergun approach – without much long-term planning.

Since 2018, a noticeable strategy has come into place. Decent sums have been spent on the likes of Franck Kessié, Rafael Leao and Fikayo Tomori – notably, all young players. At the same time, however, shrewd signings of older players have helped to provide a foundation.

Ibra came for free; Giroud for around €1m. The club has prioritzed signing young, high potential players, and putting experience around them to help them develop – all without breaking the bank. Notably, this is an approach that Liverpool have used to great effect since 2015.

Make or break

The old-and-young method is one that works. When Kaká first signed for Milan, he had the likes of Paolo Maldini to provide guidance. While closer to his age, Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo provided guidance further up the pitch. This helped a young Kaká to develop into a world-beater.

This is being seen in today’s team. Rafael Leao is the standout performer in the team and one of the best players of the season so far, with a rating of 7.27 according to WhoScored – league leader Domenico Berardi sits at 7.53, by way of comparison, and best-in-the-world Robert Lewandowski at 8.03. The influence of older players on young prospects is undeniable.

What does this mean for long-term prospects? Milan are having a strong season, and a weak showing in the Champions League was nevertheless a return to the top-tier competition. The key is patience.

Fans need to realise that building a Scudetto-winning team takes time; there’s a good chance this season, but anything could happen. With time, and patience, from the fans, titles are on the horizon and stronger runs in the Champions league.

Tags AC Milan


  1. Please just take a step back and look at that picture. Maldini, Kaka, Pirlo… all the best in the world at their positions at one time… wow. This used to be Milan, amazing times and I’ve never felt more connected with a team then during that era. Brilliant!

  2. @Savio Calcio, I think the point is they came young and grew with great experienced players like Maldini, Costacurta, Ambrosini and at that point recently joined experienced players like Seedorf, Cafu, Rui Costa, Nesta, etc.
    At the moment, we do have the younger talented players like Tonali, Calabria, Bennaccer, Leao, Tomori, etc.
    But where is the experience ??
    Besides Zlatan and to lesser extent Romagnoli. Even Giroud, he has just joined last summer.

    This is why, whether we liked it or not, all of us were hoping to keep both Donnarumma and Kessie.
    As examples of excellent players growing with experience inside the Milan walls.
    I’m not, by any means, suggesting we couldn’t replace them. But the more players grow here the better.

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