The three big challenges Paulo Fonseca faces as AC Milan’s new coach

By Oliver Fisher -

Paulo Fonseca will lead AC Milan during the 2024-25 season after being announced as Stefano Pioli’s replacement during a press conference earlier this week.

The Rossoneri finished second in Serie A this season but the former Lille manager arrives at a club whose fans are growing increasingly restless.

Questions about the board’s ambition are growing louder as supporters wonder if everything is being done to sit at the summit of Serie A. Of course, this feeling of inertia hasn’t been helped by the fact that bitter rivals Inter finished 19 points ahead of Milan this season.

In short, the Milan faithful will demand instant results in the upcoming campaign. This means that Fonseca’s margin for error is incredibly slim as he steps into the San Siro dugout.

Here are three challenges that the 51-year-old will immediately face.

Imposter syndrome

Fonseca faces the first hurdle of Milan’s historical preference for Italian coaches; over the last 30 years, only five coaches born outside Italy have led the team.

Furthermore, Serie A as a whole has not been particularly conducive to success for managers from outside Italy. Since 1945, only 13 overseas managers have won the Scudetto, and since 2000, the title has been lifted by only two: Jose Mourinho and Sven-Göran Eriksson.

While the last stat does not affect Milan directly, it does shine a light on the battle that Fonseca will face in the press; he has to get off to a fast start to avoid becoming a casualty of the narrative that says managers from abroad are not tactically good enough to succeed in Italy.

If that might come across as conceited then consider that this is a country that has produced the manager who has won the most Champions League titles in Carlo Ancelotti with four. Additionally, no other nationality has produced more Premier League-winning managers than Italy with four.

Internationally, the last manager to win the European Championships was Italian after Roberto Mancini guided the Azzurri to glory at EURO 2020.

Given this long history of success, you wouldn’t then bet against Luciano Spalletti overseeing back-to-back titles for Italy this summer during EURO 2024 in Germany. Fans who think that Spalletti can outfox his adversaries in Germany can access these Euro 2024 betting offers to use on Italy at 16/1 in the outright market. Bookmakers such as William Hill, bet365, and Kwiff are offering as much as £30 in free bets to be used on EURO 2024.

While an under-the-radar Italian team might make it consecutive titles at the European Championships, the broader point is that Italian managers have earned the right to be called the best in the world. In short, Fonseca has much to prove to a local audience who has carefully studied the greatest tactical minds in the game.

And yes, while Fonseca’s time at Roma and his ability to speak Italian fluently will afford him some credit in the media, early defeats will see him burn through it.

Away form

Fonseca’s progressive approach that focuses on intricate build-up play, having the ball, and deploying a high defensive line makes his team incredibly difficult to beat at home. However, a poor away record has followed Fonseca around in his career.

Last season, Lille managed to win 11 of their 17 home matches at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy while only recording five away victories on the road in 17 fixtures.

A similar trend was evident during Fonseca’s time at the Stadio Olimpico during the 2020/2021 campaign when Roma only won five times on the road in 19 matches. Meanwhile, the I Giallorossi had the third-best home record in Serie A during the same season.

For whatever reason, Fonseca’s pass and move football from the back is not as effective when his teams play away.

This type of record will have to change given that deposing Inter will rely on a formidable record away from the San Siro.

Beating Inter

The last time Milan beat Inter was on the 3rd of September 2022. Since then, Inter have won all six Derby della Madonnina. The quickest way for Fonseca to earn the goodwill of the club’s ultras is to put an end to Inter’s recent dominance against Milan.

To this end, it would help if the 2024/2025 fixture list allowed Fonseca the chance to play Inter sooner rather than later.

Indeed, allowing Fonseca to march toward the guns and win a famous battle would give Milan the sense of belief they need to challenge for the Scudetto.

Sink or swim

Fonseca’s time in Milan will be immensely challenging but not impossible as he battles stereotypes, his own shortcomings, and a noisy neighbour. Failure is a real possibility – that’s the nature of professional football with patience in short supply.

However, overcoming these obstacles will change Fonseca’s life forever. It’s now over to Milan’s new manager to rise to the challenges.

Tags AC Milan Paulo Fonseca
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