While walking down the long stairway from the press box to the mixed zone at the San Siro – the elevator is too crowded just after the final whistle – I ponder whether any AC Milan players will stop and comment on the 0-0 draw against RCD Anderlecht. For the third consecutive home game the Rossoneri have failed to score and the fans did not hide their disappointment at the end.
I imagine players passing through the mixed zone with glum faces, some wearing headphones, others pretending to make a phone call; all in the name of avoiding the microphones and cameras waiting for them. It looked like one of those matches. And this season there is no Clarence Seedorf any more, our 'insurance' in the mixed zone, as the Dutch midfielder always used to talk, even after the most painful defeats.
A few minutes later and I am speaking to Philippe Mexès, Mathieu Flamini and Kevin-Prince Boateng. I only missed Stephan El Shaarawy because he passed while I was interviewing Silvio Proto, the Anderlecht goalkeeper who kept Milan at bay. I don't see any frowns and the Milan players focus on the positives: we did not concede; we created good chances. But the result was not great, nor the performance. Why so much optimism?
The imminent return of Riccardo Montolivo from injury will surely add quality – that's why he was signed this summer – to a midfield lacking ideas right now. Then there's Pato. The Brazilian has suffered 12 muscle injuries in the last 32 months. The gallows humour among the Milan supporters is instructive: "Pato fractured his wrist high-fiving a team-mate" or "Pato out for a month with fever after taking his shirt off following a goal".
However, the 23-year-old is ready to return to action and should he have an injury-free season he would solve many problems for coach Massimiliano Allegri, if not all. We are talking about a player who has scored 51 goals in only 113 Serie A games for Milan. Robinho, too, is set to play after missing the start of the campaign with a thigh complaint. Another arrow to Allegri's bow; his quiver suddenly appears well stocked.
Allegri's teams always begin seasons slowly: in five years in Serie A his sides have won just two out of 15 over the first three rounds. Milan came second last term despite picking up only two points in their first 270 minutes of action.
In my previous entry I suggested the group stage could be difficult for this transitional Milan outfit. But writing them off after a single draw would be a huge mistake – their loquacious players certainly remain optimistic.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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