This time last year, AC Milan had been pipped to the Scudetto by Juventus. A busy summer saw them say Arrivederci to a plethora of veterans, who either moved onto pastures new for one final swansong or walked away into retirement. The double sale of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Paris Saint-Germain left a lot of fans scratching their heads. Inter Milan's Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano literally swapped shirts, while Nigel de Jong was drafted in from Manchester City. Riccardo Montolivo joined from Fiorentina to reinforce central midfield and the Rossoneri also took over the final year of AS Roma's loan deal for Barcelona starlet Bojan Krkic.
Milan endured a less than auspicious start to the season, with the knives seemingly out for Max Allegri each and every week. They stumbled through their Champions League group, but went on a run of four consecutive league victories late last year. The January signing of Mario Balotelli proved to be a masterstroke as it reinvigorated Milan's season. A return of 12 goals in 13 games saw Milan charge up the league table, losing just one of their remaining 20 league games. They almost sprung a Champions League shock on Barcelona, only to surrender a 2-0 first leg lead and crumble 4-0 at the Nou Camp. Their place in next season's Champions League was secured on the final day of the season, thanks to Philippe Mexes' dramatic late winner in the game at Siena.
Most significant match
Siena 1-2 AC Milan (May 19 2013)
All of Milan's work during the second half of the season hinged on this final game against the already relegated Tuscans. Siena took advantage of a defensive lapse to hit the front, before Massimo Ambrosini was sent off for a second booking, making Milan's task that much trickier. The numbers were evened out when Siena's Christian Terlizzi was dismissed, then Milan were gifted a penalty which Balotelli put away. Knowing only a victory would do, Milan poured forward and Mexes followed up a shot to toepoke Milan into Europe's Premier cup competition and relegate Fiorentina to the Europa League.
Mattia De Sciglio
The full-back situation was a conundrum that remained unsolved until this season. The Milan native and academy graduate made the position his own with a series of assured and commanding performances. Right footed, De Sciglio has proved adaptable at being able to play on either side of the defence. Having made a handful of appearances last season, the 20-year-old has even made his international debut in the 2-2 draw with Brazil. Has already been compared to Paolo Maldini and has bags of time on his side to fill those lofty shoes and carve his own niche at the club.
The Barcelona man has had two forgettable seasons in Serie A. Ten goals over two seasons is a poor return for a man touted for world domination just a couple of seasons ago. Balotelli's arrival pushed the Spaniard further down the pecking order as he became lost in the San Siro shuffle. He only registered three goals in a Milan shirt. Injuries didn't help, but Bojan has youth on his side and is still talented enough to make an impact elsewhere.
What needs changing?
The Rossoneri still have a lot of ageing players on the wage bill. Defensive reinforcements should be the club's top priority. Veterans Daniele Bonera and Mario Yepes are merely backup for Mexes and Cristian Zapata at the heart of the backline. For a club that was built on its solid defence in the late 80s/early 90s, a new face or two is definitely required to reinstate Milan's rearguard reputation as one to be reckoned with, both domestically and on the European stage.
Who's off in the summer?
Veterans Massimo Ambrosini and Mathieu Flamini look set to be released. The former is attracting interest from the MLS and West Ham United, while a return to France could be on the cards for the latter. The club have opted not to buy loanee Bojan Krkic and Robinho has re-iterated a desire to return to Brazil after a January return to his homeland failed to materialise. Big spending Monaco have Kevin-Prince Boateng in their sights as they continue to flash the cash for an all-out assault on Ligue 1 next season.
If Milan keep one individual...
Common sense has finally prevailed and the 45-year-old will see out the final year of his contract at the San Siro. Max took unnecessary flak throughout the season and ignored the weekly speculation about losing his job, steering the club away from a relegation fight and delivering Champions League football once again. President Silvio Berlusconi was rumoured to have been courting former player Clarence Seedorf in his place, but during a meeting which also included Vice-President Adriano Galliani, Allegri was given a stay of execution. Berlusconi has insisted that his coach must play with two strikers next season, putting an immediate kibosh on some of the ideas and transfer targets the Milan manager might have had for his team. Allegri is definitely a better choice than the inexperienced Seedorf, but with Berlusconi in the background throwing his weight around, Max will have many more battles to fight in the boardroom before next season is done. It will be an interesting year ahead at the San Siro.