Italian giants Milan have been expelled from all European competition in the 2018-19 campaign following a breach of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules and its licensing regulations. UEFA confirmed that Milan would be “excluded from participating in the next UEFA club competition for which it would otherwise qualify in the next two seasons”. The Rossoneri could look to appeal the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with new boss and former playing ace Gennaro Gattuso overseeing a change of fortune on the pitch in the second half of last season. Milan eventually finished in sixth place and would have qualified for a spot in the Europa League were it not for UEFA’s ruling.
As a consequence of UEFA’s decision, Atalanta will now qualify directly to the Europa League group stage, while Fiorentina will gain an unexpected spot in the preliminary qualifying stage. In 2017-18, AC Milan returned to European action following a three-year absence, making the last 16 of the Europa League before being dumped out unceremoniously by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. To football traditionalists, the thought of AC Milan not being a major power in European football is somewhat hard to fathom. The Champions League used to be part of the Rossoneri’s make-up, but Milan have been forced to sit in the shadows of their city rivals Inter, and Juventus. They’ve even been forced to watch the likes of Napoli cement themselves as genuine title contenders over Milan.
The writing has been on the wall for some time at Milan, with former owner Silvio Berlusconi and his right-hand man, Adriano Galliani, struggling to keep the club on an even keel since UEFA’s Financial Fair Play was introduced in 2009. Star players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato were sold, along with several other crown jewels. The tide looked to be turning when Berlusconi eventually agreed a deal with a Chinese consortium to buy out the club in 2015 headed by Li Yonghong. Little did the Rossoneri and Berlusconi know but the deal hinged on the consortium securing a €300 million loan from an American hedge fund. Currently, according to Serie A betting odds, Milan are already well out of the race for the Scudetto at 16/1. The owners are struggling to service the interest on the loan, let alone pay anything back to the hedge fund.
The club is likely to be in limbo again this season unless Yonghong swallows his pride and admits the need to sell the club on. Otherwise, the 2018-19 Serie A season could be a long and arduous one for Gattuso and his men. Star keeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma has been linked with various moves to other top European clubs and the 19-year-old could have to be sacrificed simply to keep the club afloat. Donnarumma has reportedly been made a number-one target for Chelsea, who could soon have Maurizio Sarri as their new head coach. Being a selling club is not the Milan that many have come to expect over the years.
The lack of European football means that the club’s star players won’t hang around looking to fight for a Europa League qualifying place, leaving them more likely to slip into the mid-table abyss or, worse still, a possible relegation battle.