Massimiliano Allegri has followed in the footsteps of Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello and Alberto Zaccheroni by winning the Scudetto with AC Milan at the first attempt. The former Cagliari coach did not have it easy at the San Siro though, especially at the beginning of his reign when, during his first press conference at Milanello, owner Silvio Berlusconi took control of the event, dominating throughout and not allowing Allegri to explain his plans for the team to the assembled journalists.

In the meantime, Berlusconi had also begun to make his presence felt on the playing side, explaining that Brazilian star Ronaldinho was “the best player in the history of football”, and wishing to see the former Barcelona man at the centre of an exciting Milan. Berlusconi has long loved speaking about the game and has his own clear ideas on the tactical and technical aspect of Milan; for these reasons Allegri’s had to tread carefully. At first the ex-Cagliari boss was obliged to play with a 4-3-3 system, using Ronaldinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato as the front three, supported by attacking midfielders such as Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo – it was clearly a set-up which offered the Rossoneri little balance.

It took an early season defeat to lowly Cesena to convince Allegri that changes needed to be made. Little by little, the Milan boss edged Ronaldinho, the president’s favourite, out of the starting eleven and strengthened the midfield by bringing in more defensive minded players like Mathieu Flamini, Gennaro Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini. Early in November, Milan won at Bari with this new tactical system, after losing at home to Juventus the previous weekend with Ronaldinho in the team. The case for excluding the Brazilian looked open and shut.


On the 3rd December, when Milan faced Brescia at the San Siro, Allegri introduced still more tactical changes, putting Kevin-Prince Boateng in a “trequartista” role, just behind Ibrahimovic and Brazilian striker Robinho. With Pato out through injury, this was the new trio of attacking players who helped the Rossoneri to beat Brescia and Bologna that month and continue a period of dominance into 2011.

In the winter transfer window, Berlusconi and his right hand man Adriano Galliani decided to bring in new players, to boost the club’s Serie A campaign, but not necessarily their Champions League chances with Milan through to the Round of 16. This in itself was a clear message to Milan’s fans that the club preferred the Scudetto to the Champions League – an unusual step for a side traditionally more interested in continental competition.

After a breakdown in the relationship between Sampdoria’s president Riccardo Garrone and Antonio Cassano, the former Roma striker was forced to leave the Blucerchiati and arrived in Milan. Cassano could not compete in the Champions League clash against Tottenham Hotspur by virtue of appearing in the competition’s playoff round back in the summer. Also cup-tied were two Dutchmen who landed at the San Siro in the same month; Mark van Bommel (from Bayern Munich) and Urby Emanuelson (from Ajax), with the former especially going on to play a decisive role for the Rossoneri.

Allegri soon deployed Van Bommel in front of his defensive line, in a position known throughout Italy as “centromediano metodista” and the Dutchman acted as a barrier against Milan’s opponents. Milan have only conceded 24 goals throughout the season, in a championship where it is often more important not to concede than to score.

The Rossoneri had a little crisis in March, drawing at home to relegation-fodder Bari and losing in Palermo. But after the international break, Allegri’s side destroyed rivals Inter in the derby, despite the fact that a suspended Ibrahimovic missed the meeting with his old club. Pato, Robinho and Boateng turned in stellar performances, with Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva dominating from the back; goalkeeper Christian Abbiati even produced a wonder save reminiscent of England number 1 Gordon Banks from a Pele header in the 1970 World Cup.

In the following weeks the Rossoneri won in Florence (with Ibrahimovic sent off again and suspended for three games), at home to Sampdoria and in Brescia, thanks to a late goal from Robinho – Allegri had found a role on the pitch that the Brazilian had never covered during his time at both Real Madrid and Manchester City.

The coach from Livorno was also able to improve right back Ignazio Abate throughout the campaign and the player is now ready for the Azzurri.

After winning the Scudetto, ending six seasons of Inter dominance, Milan do have issues to resolve, with Galliani set to make decisions over a number of players’ contracts. Pirlo, Seedorf, Ambrosini and Filippo Inzaghi all have deals coming to an end, but Pirlo and Seedorf especially look set to head for the exit door.

And the Rossoneri are already planning for next season, having added Nigerian left back Taye Taiwo from Marseille and French international Philippe Mexes – injured until September – from Roma. There will be more arrivals at Milan before the start of the 2011/12 campaign – and the main target for next season is already clear: the Champions League.