It's all change at the San Siro.AC Milan have had their biggest personnel shake-up in years as they bid to wrestle the Serie A crown back from Juventus. Big names have departed and are yet to be replaced. All of a sudden, one of world football's most prestigious clubs looks quite ordinary.
Winning last season's Supercoppa should have been a precursor to more glory for the Rossoneri. However, after being pipped at the post for the Scudetto by Juventus, the Bianconeri popped up again to knock the San Siro outfit out of the Coppa Italia at the semi-final stage. In Europe, the club were in Barcelona's shadow throughout. Finishing a distant second to the Catalans in the Champions League Group stages, Milan sneaked past plucky Arsenal, before being bounced out by Barca in the Quarter Finals.
The phrase ‘out with the old' has been taken all too literally thus far, with the Milan hierarchy saying Arrivederci to several veterans.
Midfield hardmen Mark van Bommel and Gennaro Gattuso have taken their tough tackling to PSV Eindhoven and FC Sion respectively. Meanwhile, in the defensive department, full-backs Gianluca Zambrotta and Massimo Oddo have been released.
Up front, Filippo Inzaghi retired in order to take up a position coaching Milan's Allievi Nazionali (under 17s.) No doubt, Super Pippo will be teaching the stars of tomorrow the offside rule that he managed to (not) master during his playing days.
The biggest and most shocking departures came in the form of Thiago Silva and Capocannoniere Zlatan Ibrahimovic to mega rich PSG. The ink was still drying on Silva's new contract at the San Siro, but as the Million Dollar Man used to say, "everyone has a price," and the two have been lured to Ligue 1.
Fans are still scratching their heads at the club's latest bit of business, which has seen Antonio Cassano and Inter's Giampaolo Pazzini switch clubs. The fact Milan handed over Cassano and a fistful of cash to their city rivals for the out-of-sorts Pazzini even prompted a "stunned" Thiago Silva to stop counting his signing on fee in a Paris hotel room.
With plenty of players going out of the revolving door of the San Siro, the same can't be said for the check-in desk.
It's no exaggeration that the club have been linked with every man and his dog during the off season. While supposed bids for Andy Carroll and Nicklas Bendtner were dismissed as fantasy (unless you ask Bendtner himself), negotiations to bring Kaka back to the San Siro have thus far been slow or wishful thinking, depending on who you talk to.
Massimiliano Allegri has managed to bring in a few players, namely midfielders. Riccardo Montolivo joins on a free from Fiorentina to reinforce the middle of the park. He's been joined by Sulley Muntari (Inter) and Kevin Constant, who's arrived on loan from Genoa.
In defence, former Udinese man Cristian Zapata is the only notable arrival, returning to Serie A after a year in Spain with Villarreal.
The mass exodus of talent seems to have paved the way for Alexandre Pato to finally take centre stage. Despite no longer being in Ibrahimovic's shadow, the question remains whether the 22-year-old can stay healthy? Coming into his fifth season as a Rossoneri player, the ‘Duck' is currently nursing a minor muscle tear in his left leg, which will keep him sidelined for the first few weeks. The timing couldn't be worse, but will give young prodigy Stephan El-Shaarawy a chance to stake a regular claim and catch the eye.
Milan have definitely lost some of their intimidation factor and the opposition will certainly see them there for the taking. Ibra's brilliance in front of goal and Nesta's leadership at the back will both be sorely missed. However, Milan shouldn't be taken lightly. A wounded animal will always retaliate when backed against a corner and I expect no different from the current roster. Full back Ignazio Abate and midfield workhorse Antonio Nocerino both bring a quickness and mobility to the side which could prove dangerous. Plus, if Robinho and Kevin Prince-Boateng can fire on all cylinders, Montolivo can settle in quickly and Philippe Mexes can take over Nesta's mantle, the Rossoneri should find a winning formula.
Prediction: Top Four