Bug Alfiim: Will Milan avoid a replay after the surprising championship?
After the surprising championship in 1999 came mediocre seasons for the Rossoneri.
Will something similar happen after the surprising 2022 championship?
With a purchase that has been compared to De Brauna and questions about depth, the Italian champions open a season that promises to be intriguing
Saturday, August 13, 2022, 2:00 p.m
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Summary: Wolfsburger - Milan 5:0 (Sport1)
Quite a few parallels were made between Milan's championship last season and the surprising title it won in 1999.
In both cases she even had sturdy and committed wide receivers with similar first names - Oliver Bierhoff and Olivier Giroud.
Towards the start of the new season, the question is sharpened whether the red-blacks can be seen as favorites for the crown, or perhaps they will follow the previous version of Sensation and not be a party to the fight for the top.
So, ahead of the 1999/00 season, the club made one of the most significant purchases in its history and signed the young Andriy Shevchenko from Dynamo Kyiv.
The Ukrainian scorer acclimated immediately and scored 24 goals in his first season in the land of the boot, but Milan only finished in third place, 11 points behind Lazio, who beat Juventus in a nerve-wracking photo-finish.
In 2001, it had already deteriorated to sixth place, and Alberto Zaccroni - the wizard coach who led the championship - was fired.
Beerhof version 2022. Giroud (Photo: GettyImages, Chris Ricco)
This time there are no acquisitions at the level of Shevchenko, but there is definitely a new star with exceptional potential, who is able - if everything goes well - to become the face of the club and define it for many years.
Belgian Charles De Catellara was signed from Club Brugge for €32 million, which may be a much lower price than his true market value.
This is a 21-year-old young man who has already gained considerable experience in the European frameworks, will function as the leader of the wing in the team that raised him on the way to winning three consecutive championships, and is capable of manning a variety of positions in the front.
Bruges once used him as a central striker, but the preferred role for him is a classic playmaker, and in Belgium they see him as a future successor to Kevin de Brauna - no less.
De Catalara was also in demand in the Premier League, but he preferred to reach a league that is more suited to his elegant style, and to a team where he can blossom immediately, and also participate in the Champions League and fight for titles.
Coach Stefano Pioli's most important task is to integrate him into the lineup, and on paper it shouldn't be particularly difficult.
Milan is used to playing in 1-3-2-4, and the Belgian can enter his favorite position, which was filled last season by players like Rada Kronic and Brahim Dias.
The partnership with Rafael Laao to his left could be fascinating, especially if the Portuguese is able to further develop the momentum he developed last season, during which he was upgraded from an unstable talent to a true star who single-handedly decided games when needed.
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The next De Brauna?
De Catalara (Photo: GettyImages, Giuseppe Cottini)
Another important issue in the center of the pitch lies in the departure of Frank Casilla to Barcelona.
The powerful midfielder from the Ivory Coast chose to move to Catalonia as a free agent, the club knew about it a long time in advance.
In the meantime, no replacement has been signed for him, so Pioli may use the Algerian Ismail Benasser alongside Sandro Tonali - a combination that provides a lot of diversity in the management of the game, but does not necessarily provide the physical protection the defensive quartet deserves.
Tiemoue Bakayoko, on loan from Chelsea for another season, didn't really prove himself at San Siro last year to say the least, and it would be quite a gamble to count on him as a legitimate rotation player.
On the other hand, the hidden is greater than the visible at this point.
Giroud made a phenomenal contribution last season, and the double that gave a 1:2 victory in the derby against Inter and the winning goal in the 0:1 in Napoli should be mentioned, but is the Frenchman who will celebrate his 36th birthday in September able to carry as a team player throughout the season?
Is 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic still a significant rotation option?
Or maybe that's exactly why Dibok Origi was signed?
The Belgian striker has been Liverpool's most important fringe player and brought them many crucial wins along the way, but does he really have to be fringe?
This is a proven 27-year-old scorer, who has extraordinary composure in front of the net.
Maybe if Milan give him the center stage, he can be their real star in attack?
He already has a Belgian friend with whom he can find a common language in the form of de Catalara, and it will be intriguing if Origi can be a serious alternative to Giroud in the rotation.
If the answer is yes, Milan could be more dangerous up front compared to last season, especially if Ante Ravic can find himself.
Will become Milan's leading striker?
Origi (Photo: GettyImages, James Gill - Danehouse)
The defense lost Alessio Romanioli, who was sidelined last season and preferred to move to his beloved Lazio at the end of his contract.
His departure is important mainly in the field of leadership, because Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalolo formed a pair of brakes of surprising quality when Milan raced to the championship.
The role of the veteran stopper will now be filled by Simon Kjaer, the captain of the Denmark national team who missed most of last season due to torn ligaments in his knee.
His fitness is still questionable, but mentally his contribution could be critical - and if he shows a high level of ability at the age of 33 it will be good news for Pioli.
It's a shame for Kiar that he missed winning the championship, but he has a chance to be a much fuller partner in the new season.
Add to the equation the consistent improvement in the ability of captain Davide Calabria in the right back position, and the fact that Theo Hernandez recently extended his contract until 2026 and will continue to gallop from the left, and you get a not bad back at all.
Goaltender Mike Mannion has already proven himself to be one of the best in the league, and that is unlikely to change.
This connection was great last season, so it may continue to improve, but the depth in the squad is insufficient, and this may be felt in all the squads.
The first lineup is strong, is it enough?
Theo Hernandez (Photo: GettyImages, Alessandro Sabattini)
Milan's starting line-up could continue its momentum, if Mannion, Chiar, Tomori, Tonali, De Catellara and Rafael Laao remain fit.
An injury to one of the key players could have significant consequences, and Tonali will probably already miss the meeting against Udinese in the opening round (Saturday, 19:30, Sport4).
This intriguing game may give an indication of the direction Pioli's team will go this season, followed by the big test at Atalanta's stadium.
The derby against Inter, which can see itself as a favorite for the Scudetto this time as well, will be held already in the fifth round at the beginning of September.
After the big celebrations, and the first championship in 11 years, the red-blacks will not be particularly disappointed if they finish in third place like in 2000, but there is room for cautious optimism.
will be fascinating.