AC Milan went into 2019 hoping they could climb into the top four of Serie A and clinch one of those all-important Champions League spots. They ultimately failed by just one point, finishing fifth, but all this amidst seven very busy, headline-making months for the club.
The year got off to the perfect start, as AC Milan continued their Coppa Italia campaign with an excellent 2-0 success at Sampdoria, thanks to two extra-time goals from Patrick Cutrone, who is at the centre of much transfer speculation.
However, they then had to travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to face Juventus in the Italian Super Cup Final at the King Abdullah Stadium. A second-half Cristiano Ronaldo goal was enough to win it for Juve, with Milan playing out the final 15 minutes with ten men following Franck Kessie’s sending off.
Milan, who had finished 2018 with a 2-1 league win against Spal at the San Siro, then resumed their Serie A campaign with a 2-0 victory at Genoa. That result was the start of a ten-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
This run included seven wins, most notably, a 2-0 defeat of Napoli in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals at the end of January, and a brilliant 3-1 Serie A success at Atalanta in February. Either side of that win at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia were two comfortable 3-0 wins at home against Cagliari and Empoli; the Rossoneri were flying.
Unfortunately, once Milan tasted their first defeat since the Italian Super Cup Final disappointment, a 3-2 loss to arch-rivals Inter, it sparked a real drop in form throughout the end of March and April. They managed just one win in eight games, a 1-0 defeat of Lazio at the San Siro, and suffered defeats to Sampdoria, Juventus and Torino in the league, and were knocked out at the semi-final stage of the Coppa Italia by Lazio, 1-0 on aggregate.
More people than ever are enjoying sports betting in Italy, but at this stage of the season, anyone who had backed AC Milan to finish in the top four was surely going to lose out.
However, the Rossoneri regrouped and won their next three Serie A games to give themselves a chance of Champions League qualification going into the final game of the season. Success at Spal, coupled with Inter or Atalanta failing to win their final games would see AC Milan snatch a top-four place. Milan did their part, winning 3-2 at Stadio Paolo Mazza, but it was all in vain as Inter beat Empoli 2-1, and Atalanta defeated Sassuolo 3-1.
So, AC Milan had finished fifth and secured qualification for next season’s Europa League; or so everyone thought. But due to breaches of the Financial Fair Play rules, Milan had to strike a deal with UEFA to serve a one-year ban from European football. They had broken the rules about overspending, something Milan had successfully appealed against last summer when a two-year ban had been imposed on them.
In June, it was announced that Marco Giampaolo had been appointed as the club’s new head coach, leaving his role at Sampdoria on a two-year contract. Giampaolo replaced Milan legend, Gennaro Gattuso, who left the club by mutual consent after failing to qualify them for the Champions League.
Whilst all of this was going on, it was also announced that the San Siro, or the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium to give it its correct name, the home of AC Milan and Inter, and made famous when Italy hosted the World Cup in 1990, would be demolished. Both clubs have agreed to knock down the iconic stadium and replace it with a new home at the cost of over €1billion.
Milan and Inter will continue to share their current home during the construction of the new arena, with the clubs working together to finalise plans which will be submitted to Milan city council, who must approve the project before it can begin.
So, what does the new season hold for the Rossoneri? Given they finished so well last season, they again will be setting their sights on a top-four finish and have the advantage of not having European football interfering with their campaign. Giampaolo has an excellent squad at his disposal, but he will obviously want to add to that.
Milan have already signed Rade Krunic from Empoli and Theo Hernandez from Real Madrid, while Ismael Bennacer is as good as done, also from Empoli. The club now seem to be tracking Gedson Fernandes from Benfica, Lucas Torreira from Arsenal and Dejan Lovren from Liverpool.
It has certainly been a packed 2019 that can only get better for the Rossoneri.