The AC Milan coaching future of the club’s former iconic striker Filippo Inzaghi is hanging in the balance after the struggling Italian A giants sunk to a historic low in Serie A at the weekend.
Stung by a 1-0 home defeat to lowly Atalanta last week, Milan’s 3-1 humbling by Lazio in a bad-tempered Stadio Olimpico clash saw the Rossoneri drop to 10th place at 23 points behind leaders and champions Juventus.
Milan’s sixth league defeat meant the Serie A giants have failed to win a single league game in January for the first time since 1941.
To make matters worse, it was capped by the late expulsion of French defender Philippe Mexes, who after a fit of madness had to be pulled off Stefano Mauri after grabbing the Lazio captain around the throat.
Mexes’s violent reaction to what he later claimed was “constant provocation” by Mauri arguably reflects the frustration Milan and the club’s fans are feeling amid another underwhelming season.
Inzaghi, the club’s former youth team coach who took over from Dutchman Clarence Seedorf last summer, admits his future could now hinge on Tuesday’s Italian Cup quarter-final tie with Lazio at the San Siro.
“On Tuesday we have a chance to make amends: at this point, it’s decisive,” said the weary-looking Italian after Saturday’s defeat further dented his side’s hopes of qualifying for Europe next season.
If Napoli beat Genoa to move up to third later on Monday, Milan, and city rivals Inter, will sit 10 points behind the third and last Champions League qualifying spot.
– Failure to invest –
The seven-time European champions missed out on the Champions League last season and club owner and president Silvio Berlusconi warned last week they could not afford to miss out on Europe’s premier club competition for a second consecutive season.
If Inzaghi has garnered any support, it is from the pundits who have questioned the club’s insistence on appointing rookie coaches and Milan’s failure to invest in world class players capable of dragging the club out of the mire.
Inzaghi, the club’s most prolific scorer during a memorable 11-year spell with the club, spent most of last season insisting he was the right man to take over from Massimiliano Allegri after he was sacked in January 2013.
But the 41-year-old is finding life on the touchlines harder than it was patrolling opposition goal areas.
Former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi, who in 1988 steered Milan to their first scudetto in nine years with the help of Dutch trio Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, has shown little sympathy.
“The team has to improve on how they are playing while not in possession. Their positioning is all wrong and they don’t know what to do. That is the most worrying thing,” Sacchi told Mediaset.
For Sacchi, the coach has not been helped by Milan’s failure to attract top players since a summer exodus in 2012 which notably saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Motta move to Paris Saint Germain.
“Recruiting players who are not worthy of wearing the shirt is a big mistake by the club management,” added Sacchi.
Critics have also pointed the finger at Berlusconi and club CEO Adriano Galliani for gambling on rookie coaches in the past two seasons.
When Allegri was sacked following a defeat to Sassuolo in January 2014, the reins were handed to former Milan midfielder Seedorf despite the Dutchman having no top flight experience.
When Seedorf was sacked in the wake of an eighth-place finish, Inzaghi was handed what he thought would be his dream job.
After his 20th league game in charge, Inzaghi was left wondering how to wake his players out of their slumber.
“I believe we can can get back to playing better. For the past three or four games we’ve been under par, but we have to try and get these players giving their best,” he said.
Reports on Monday, meanwhile, claimed former Italy coach Marcello Lippi could be appointed as Milan’s technical director to advise and oversee Inzaghi, or whoever replaces the former Milan hero in the event of his sacking.