|Unrealistic: Antonio Conte|
More than three years later, after a string of disappointing results, seemingly everyone around Milan is asking the question, "why don't we hire a big coach like Antonio Conte." But they are likely to be disappointed like they were in 2015. The fans who want Conte in place of current Milan coach and former club legend, Gennaro Gattuso, live in a parallel universe in which a) Conte would want to come coach Milan currently and b) UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules don't exist. To land a big name you need to have the ability to pay both for the name and the players he wants, when he wants. Not when you break even or reach the promised land of financial bliss.
The January market will be telling and decisive. In my view, we’ll see Milan's financial restrictions laid bare.
"When we bought Paqueta, UEFA sent us a warning letter," said Milan DS Leonardo today. "It will be a market of opportunities."
The road is still long, in other words. The timing is unfortunate. Juventus resurrected themselves post-Calciopoli when FFP was basically a rumour. PSG/Manchester City when it was yet to be refined.
Milan have filed an appeal to TAS (the Court of Arbitration in Lausanne that also overturned their Europa League ban) against UEFA's verdict for breaching FFP rules. The club's owners Elliott are litigious, bullish, but it depends how much they want to push UEFA. Milan have two options: 1) flout the rules and litigate 2) fall in line and shrewdly move on the market.
In these circumstances, a coach like Conte will never come. He started his career at Arezzo and has subsequently coached Juventus, Chelsea, and Italy; he doesn't need to cut his teeth anymore.
Until a Conte becomes a realistic target, Milan will stick to company men like Gattuso. They don’t ask for much, first of all. They also have the backing of the fans for a decent amount of time. If they manage results all the better. If they don’t, you look around and see alternatives like Roberto Donadoni, and hesitate. Rightly.
Gattuso isn't Milan's best bet; he is practically Milan's only one. It's clear that apart from the coaching names being circulated in fantasy land, any other coach would simply be a lateral move--and in some cases worse.
(As an aside, Gattuso also provokes the worst elements online and elsewhere not only to put their neuroses on display, but also their prejudice. The bad patch had barely started, and people started to take shots at his Calabrianness. Gattuso was offered a long term contract by Massimiliano Mirabelli, the director of sport who left with the former Chinese ownership. He was also Calabrian. This is license, you see. People ridicule Gattuso for his cliche-laden press conferences during which his linguistic shortcomings become plainly evident, for phrases like si tocca con mano (you can feel it), which features almost every time.)
"Gattuso is not under discussion, even if he knows we expect more," Paolo Maldini said today.
If there were viable alternatives, I, too, would replace Gattuso. But not with, with all due respect, Francesco Guidolin or Paulo Sousa.
That failed attempt to land Ancelotti in 2015 is precisely the issue still: Milan needs a big-time coach but can't attract one. Until it can, it is best to support who we have. Forza Milan!