Here lies Massimiliano Allegri's AC Milan career. He has dearly departed the San Siro after almost four years in charge. He leaves behind a scudetto, Milan's second-highest win percentage since Silvio Berlusconi became president, a flirt with relegation and a set of supporters divided over his sacking.
Allegri left mid-table side Cagliari for AC Milan back in the summer of 2010, with the brief of breaking Inter Milan's domination at the top of Serie A and giving the fast-fading rossoneri squad one final hurrah before their aging legends limped off the field for the final time. Winning the scudetto in his very first season, he succeeded. Despite an underwhelming performance in the Champions League, the smiley 42-year-old looked right at home.
Unfortunately, the immediate success wasn't built on stable foundations. In overtaking Inter to win the scudetto, Milan had gleefully sneered at the start of their intra-city rival's long decline. Little did they know that in failing to adequately replace their retiring veterans and prized jewels, they were about to commit the same grave errors.
Second place the following season was a far from disastrous for Milan, but then the real rot kicked in. That summer Gennaro Gattuso, Gianluca Zambrotta, Filippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf and Mark van Bommel all left the club, a year after Allegri committed one of his most notorious errors in deeming Andrea Pirlo surplus to requirements. Milan's star players Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimović both departed for Paris, completing the devastation of the side that had won the scudetto just a couple of seasons before.
An average squad was left behind, and -- SHOCK! HORROR! -- an average squad meant an average start to the season. Allegri's job was called into question after the rossoneri won just four of their opening 13 games, leaving them down in 12th place in the table. The breakthrough brilliance of Stephan El Shaarawy out on the left flank may well have single-handedly kept the Tuscan tactician in a job.
Fortunately Mario Balotelli arrived from Manchester City in January, with the side still struggling in mid-table. Super Mario's arrival sparked an extraordinary revival, which saw the rossoneri roar back to finish third place and qualify for the Champions League once again. If Allegri had struggled to cope with the upheaval early in the season, he'd certainly worked things out by the time the new year came around. Grinning on the touchline, it looked like he'd been trolling us all along.
Despite a summer of endless meetings with CEO Adriano Galliani and strong rumours he'd be replaced, Allegri was given another season -- which brings us up to the current campaign. Suffice to say, things haven't gone well. In fact, Milan have fared even worse than last season, despite the signings of Andrea Poli and Kaká -- albeit alongside the arrivals of a whole host of terribly average players.
Milan's 2-1 defeat to newly promoted Hellas Verona set the tone for a horrible start. By Christmas, the rossoneri had picked up just four league wins, with Allegri's job hanging in the balance. Unfortunately this time, there was no sign of another dramatic revival. On Sunday, they threw away a two-goal lead away at Serie A first timers Sassuolo, and were left sitting just six points above the relegation zone. It was the final straw. After several near-misses, Allegri was finally fired.
Seriously reflecting on his time in charge of Milan is difficult, as it necessitates apportioning blame when there was quite clearly more than one party at fault. Allegri oversaw the club's first league title since 2004, as well as the blossoming of youth products El Shaarawy, Mattia De Sciglio and latterly Bryan Cristante. His achievements may not be spectacular, though aren't so unimpressive when considering he was constantly battling a declining squad and poor replacements.
However, in recent months Allegri's departure has seemed increasingly inevitable and necessary. The rossoneri should've fared better this season than last, but they've declined yet further. Lacking a cohesive style or urgency, they've too often found themselves undone by inferior opponents. Their squad may be significantly worse than the one which won the scudetto four years ago, though it's significantly better than their 11th-place standing suggests.
History will likely be kinder to Mad Max than many have been over the past few seasons, as there's no doubt he did a respectable job in unenviable and tough conditions. But ultimately, while Milan's ever-poorer squad wasn't his fault, their ever-more consistent underperformance was. He had to go.