Milan (AFP) – Angry fans of seven-time European champions AC Milan have turned on club president Silvio Berlusconi for sacking Sinisa Mihajlovic and appointing yet another coach with no top level experience.
“Mihajlovic is just the latest innocent (coach) to pay for the mismanagement of the club, all with the complicit approval of President Berlusconi,” a prominent supporters group said on Wednesday.
Mihajlovic, Milan’s fourth handler in two seasons, was sacked on Tuesday and replaced by youth team coach Cristian Brocchi after admitting he had failed in his mission to secure qualification to Europe’s premier club competition.
The Champions League continues Wednesday — but with no Italian teams in the competition, the pubs and cafes of the football-mad peninsula are conspicuously empty.
Milan, once the toast of Europe, last appeared in the competition in 2014 but are now battling to even qualify for the Europa League.
To do so directly, they need to finish fifth in Serie A or clinch their ticket by beating Juventus in the final of the Italian Cup on May 21.
If Brocchi fails in either quest, Milan will have to secure sixth place in Serie A — which will award the final Europa League spot because Juventus have already qualified for next season’s Champions League.
Meanwhile, Berlusconi’s shock decision to install Brocchi two days after a credible 2-1 home defeat to Juventus has blown up a storm.
A snap poll on the website of Gazzetta dello Sport revealed 92 % of the 13,000 fans who voted were against Berlusconi’s decision. The hashtag #IoStoConMiha (I’m with Mihajlovic) has been launched on the micro-blogging site Twitter.
Controversial right-wing politician Matteo Salvini, a fervent Milan supporter and the leader of the Lega Nord party, has also stuck the boot in.
He offered Berlusconi his gratitude for “making the dreams of Milan’s fans come true”.
But he was referring to the past, and hit out Wednesday: “The problem isn’t the coach. With all the respect I have for president Berlusconi… we can’t go on like this.
“ENOUGH, give the real Milan back to the fans.”
In retrospect, Milan are paying the price for the decision to sack Massimiliano Allegri in January 2014, days after league minnows Sassuolo overcame a three-goal deficit to stun the Serie A giants 4-3.
Milan brazenly appointed former Milan favourite Clarence Seedorf as his successor, despite him having no top level coaching experience. When the dapper Dutchman failed to make the grade, he was replaced by former Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi six months later.
With no top level experience either, the enthusiasm shown by Inzaghi — the club’s former youth team coach — proved insufficient. When Milan failed to qualify for the Champions League in June 2015, he was shown the door.
Mihajlovic was appointed on the back of a solid campaign as coach of Sampdoria. But for the man whose sublime free kick skills were the bane of rivals across Europe, failure to secure Champions League football for next season proved decisive.
Milan’s loss, ultimately, has been Juventus’s gain.
Allegri, in his first season in charge of the Turin giants following his sacking, won the club’s fourth consecutive scudetto, secured their first league and Cup double in 20 years and steered them to the Champions League final, and a subsequent 3-1 defeat to Barcelona.
Brocchi, a former defensive midfielder with Milan who made his most appearances with league rivals Lazio, also has no top level experience.
He will take charge ahead of this weekend’s trip to Sampdoria with Milan in sixth place, seven points behind fifth-placed Fiorentina and just one ahead of Sassuolo.