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Italian Serie A

Vincenzo Montella becomes a victim of higher expectations at AC Milan since Chinese takeover

The club spent more than 200 million on new recruits ahead of the new season, but currently sit seventh in the Serie A standings

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 12:00pm

In the end, Vincenzo Montella became a victim of the heightened expectations at AC Milan.

When a club spends more than 200 million (HK$1.86 billion) on new players in the preseason, six wins in 14 matches and seventh place in the Serie A standings are simply not enough.

Unable to produce inspiring results with a completely revamped squad, Montella was fired as coach of AC Milan on Monday and replaced by Gennaro Gattuso.

“We all raised expectations a little too much in the summer but the fault lies only with the coach,” Montella said. “These players deserve much more and I’m sure that they’ll be able to emerge from this difficult period.”

Milan have won only two of their past nine matches and have as many losses – six – as wins. The Rossoneri have been beaten by Lazio, Roma, Inter, Juventus and Napoli – the top five teams in the standings.

“Coaching Milan was an honour, and working with this team was even better,” Montella wrote on Twitter. “I hope Rino can restore Milan to where they belong.”

The move came a day after a dispiriting 0-0 draw at home with Torino.

Milan announced in a statement that it had “parted ways” with Montella.

“We are very grateful to Mr Montella and his staff for all the work done up to today, their commitment and professionalism,” the club said. “Management of the first team is entrusted to Gennaro Gattuso.”

Seven-time European champions, Milan are also facing financial fair play inquiries from Uefa after a preseason spending spree brought in an entire squad’s worth of new players.

There have been questions over the financial stability of the Chinese-led consortium that bought Milan from Silvio Berlusconi for US$800 million in April.

The club needs a top-four finish and a place in the Champions League to acquire more cash flow.

Gattuso, a gritty midfielder who had been in charge of the club’s youth squad, won the 2003 and 2007 Champions League titles with Milan as a player. The 39-year-old Gattuso also previously coached Sion, Palermo, OFI Crete and Pisa.

Gattuso, who also helped Italy win the 2006 World Cup title, was known for his intensity and relentlessness on the field – qualities the current Milan squad has lacked.

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After the appointment, Berlusconi tweeted that he had a “long and affectionate and cordial phone call with my old warrior Rino Gattuso.”

Gattuso becomes Milan’s seventh coach (including caretakers) since now-Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was fired in January 2014.

Montella was hired in June 2016 and led Milan to a sixth-place finish and a Europa League spot last season – ending a drought of three years without playing in continental competition.

Milan opened the season by winning all four of their Europa League qualifying matches and their first two Serie A games. Then a 4-1 loss at Lazio showed how vulnerable the squad was.

Leonardo Bonucci, Italy’s top defender who was brought in from Juventus during preseason, has had a difficult start with his new club and the big group of new players has failed to gel.

The other new players brought in were forwards Andre Silva (FC Porto) and Nikola Kalinic (Fiorentina); midfielders Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti (both Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defenders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg) and Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

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Milan’s few highlights this season have come in the Europa League, including a 5-1 rout of Austria Vienna last week that ensured a spot in the knockout stage.

Montella’s biggest achievement with Milan was winning the Italian Super Cup over Juventus in a penalty shoot-out in December 2016.

Gattuso’s debut will come at last-place Benevento on Sunday. He will be presented on Tuesday.