The Croatian is on his way from San Siro and is very likely to be followed by Paolo Maldini, as Arsenal’s former chief executive makes his power play.
In a particularly heated Questions & Answers session with then-Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis at June 2017, an older supporter who claimed to have missed five matches in the previous 50 years confessed that the air at his beloved club had been”the worst I’ve ever known”.
“Something isn’t right,” he lamented. “We seem to be in the mire and unless we get busy, I can only see things getting worse.”
He had been right, too. And Gazidis must have understood it. Since he left the Emirates the next year, after Arsenal had finished sixth in the Premier League — their worst putting since 1995.
Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to locate a Gunners fan with fine things to say about Gazidis.
Really, legendary striker Ian Wright talked for several last year when he called the former chief executive as”a fool” who’d “a lot to answer for” in regard to the club’s remarkable decline throughout his nine years in north London.
It’s curious, then, that Gordon Singer is a big Arsenal fan as it was he who picked Gazidis to become AC Milan CEO in September 2018 (though he would not take his role before December of the same year).
After all, Gazidis was walking away from a wreck of his own making in the Emirates — he had been entrusted with the duty of cleaning up one at San Siro.
After his appointment was confirmed, Milan’s official site proudly informed fans they had obtained the services of”a world-class soccer executive with a history of sporting and business success throughout the globe”.
Many Gunners fans would have strongly disagreed and possibly even laughed in the claim, “Under Mr. Gazidis’s leadership, London-based Arsenal Football Club appreciated both on-field victory and off-field prosperity.”
The truth is that Arsenal regressed horribly during his tenure, both in sporting and business sense, as underlined by the fact that over the past decade they’ve dropped from fifth to 11th — their lowest position since 2001 — from the Deloitte Football Money League.
When Gazidis took over, Arsenal was at the Champions League final only two-and-a-half decades previously; today, they have not played in Europe’s premier cup competition since 2016-17.
The loss of earnings has had a devastating knock-on influence on the club’s position within the English game, not least since it had been exacerbated by the tying down of Mesut Ozil to a ludicrously significant wage, and the loss of valuable assets like Alexis Sanchez, as part of a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Aaron Ramsey, on a free transfer, since they were not sold or persuaded to sign extensions until their contracts entered their last years.
This was Gazidis’ true legacy at Arsenal and they’re still paying the price.
And yet Singer felt that this was the man to revive Milan, who had fallen into the hands of Singer’s father Paul, the founder of the Elliott Management Corporation, the American hedge fund that assumed control of AC Milan in July 2018 following Chinese businessman Li Younghong proved unable to settle his debts.
Elliott and Gazidis initially put their faith in three former Milan players to get the club back to the Champions League: Leonardo (sporting manager ), Paolo Maldini (sporting plan & development manager ), and Gennaro Gattuso (head trainer ).
But, both Leonardo and Gattuso parted company with the club after Milan completed the 2018-19 Serie A season in fifth place.
Despite doubts over Maldini’s future, he was actually promoted to technical director last summer before being connected at San Siro by another former team-mate, Zvonimir Boban, who’d been operating for FIFA.
Maldini and Boban were basically charged with looking after the sporting side of things and their most critical act ahead of the present season was hiring Marco Giampaolo as a trainer.
Embarrassingly, the pair decided to sack the prior Sampdoria trainer after only seven games — and they’ve been on borrowed time ever since.
Giampaolo’s successor Stefano Pioli has done an adequate job steadying the boat — they’re now up to seventh at the Serie A standings, three points behind sixth-placed Napoli with a match in hand — while the January return of prior audience favored Zlatan Ibrahimovic lifted the entire atmosphere around the club.
But, Pioli’s reign was always likely to finish at the end of the season and picking out the ideal replacement was the main call to be made at Milan this season.
Boban, then, was angry when he discovered that Gazidis had already made the choice to turn to Ralf Rangnick without consulting him. Or Maldini.
Never one to hide his feelings, the prior Croatia global went public with his frustration in an interview with the Gazzetta Dello Sport last Friday.
“Until a couple of days ago, I did not believe it was true that there were two spirits within Milan, albeit taking into consideration each of the million initial difficulties, cultural differences and quite different passions for the Rossoneri trigger,” Boban lamented.
“The fact we are having to talk about this isn’t great for anybody. The worst part is that this destabilizing event is occurring during a moment once the team is improving and you can see Stefano Pioli’s difficult work.
“Not even warning us was disrespectful and inelegant. It wasn’t the Milan style. At least not what we remembered the Milan fashion as being.
“We have already talked to Gazidis. For the good of Milan, it’s definitely necessary that a meeting with the possession happens when possible.”
There’ll not be any conciliatory talks, however, just negotiations over severance packages.
Boban is outside, and Maldini will be shortly. All that is left is your official confirmation.
Given their popularity with the fans, there’ll obviously be a backlash from the stands, but there may also be dissent from the dressing room.
Boban played a pivotal role in Ibrahimovic’s decision to re-sign for Milan, while it had been Maldini who persuaded Theo Hernandez — one of the major success stories of a stressful season at San Siro — to take a pay cut to join the Rossoneri past summer.
Both supervisors could, therefore, assert that while Giampaolo was a disaster, they’ve done well in the transport market, and with hardly any money to work with given the financial problems which prompted Milan to take a ban from competing at the Europa League this year in the hope of balancing the books in time for the next Champions League campaign, whenever that might be.
Since Boban pointed out in the Gazzetta, “At this moment, regardless of the efforts we made in the January transfer window, making many cuts and earnings to decrease the wage bill, we don’t understand what margins we are going to be working together for the summer.
“We had been asked to reduce the average age of the group and we did this, but always keeping the demand for the ideal mix between experience and youth. The January transfer window shows we were right, it is possible to see how fast the younger players enhanced with more senior figures by their side.
“But owners have to be clear both in terms of the budget and their aims. In essence, we have to respect the requirements of the team to balance the books, while the owners should honor leaving the athletic results to people who represent the values and history of a terrific club.”
Certainly, it had been Gazidis’ perceived interference in the sporting side of the business that most vexed Boban, that hasn’t lacked support for going public with his indignation.
“Gazidis went to speak to this other trainer when it was not his job,” former Italy international Christian Vieri told Tiki Taka on Monday night. “Who is Gazidis? What does he do in Milan? Boban and Maldini are intended to have that function.
“Boban could not just shut up and take it. You need courage in life, to be a true person, and Boban is that. I would not say that he was fired.
“What happened is that [Gazidis] was cowardly and moved behind his back, and [Boban] isn’t a puppet. He’s personality and say items to your face.”
The Curva Sud ultras, however, are disgusted that all this is playing out in public, releasing a statement on Wednesday saying all the sniping — even former manager Massimiliano Mirabelli has involved by assaulting Maldini — has underlined the significance of”washing your dirty linen in private”, asserting that the entire affair has just further afield fans who were”already on the border”.
The ultras also pointed out that while Boban and Maldini have made errors, beginning over and efficiently using a”year zero” each summer isn’t performing their beloved club any good.
The bottom line, however, is that Gazidis has always had the complete support of Elliott and was imagining such a radical shake-up since last summer.
Indeed, he considers that the club will be best served by focusing only on young players, which explains why he believed hiring Lille sporting manager Luis Campos before Boban’s arrival.
Now, he’s decided not to gamble on Rangnick, but go all-in, with the most recent reports indicating that the German will be given an unprecedented degree of control over the sporting side of the club, basically serving as a trainer, technical manager and chief scout.
It is an interesting move from Gazidis, given he sought — successfully — to take away that degree of control from Arsene Wenger near the end of their time together at Arsenal.
Now he is set to give Rangnick — that has an admittedly excellent history at developing young talent — free rein at San Siro.
Milan has a proud history, but he’s decided to cut all ties with the past to be able to concentrate on the future.
Given that he had the backing of Singer, this was a civil war that he was always going to win.
What he needs now, however, is to make sure that the Rangnick revolution is a success.
Otherwise, he will be fielding more embarrassing questions from long-suffering supporters in almost no time whatsoever.