Arsenal’s terrific comeback over Reading in the League Cup on Tuesday night served as a reminder of some of the great comebacks in football history. One game that has been consistently mentioned is of course ‘that night’ in Istanbul when Liverpool resurrected at half-time to defeat AC Milan on penalties to win the European Cup.
Fast forward two seasons and Liverpool and the Rossoneri faced off in the pinnacle of European football once again. Both had earned their passage. Liverpool had overcome Barcelona and Chelsea on their way to Athens. AC Milan had to conquer formidable opposition in the form of Bayern Munich and Manchester United in their pursuit of a dream.
On that night in Athens AC Milan exacted revenge with a brace from Flippo Inzaghi only answered late on by a consolation goal for Dirk Kuyt.
Fast forward five years and the two are both having poor starts to the season, AC Milan are ninth in Serie A on 11 points from 10 games while Liverpool are sitting on 10 points from nine games in a disappointing twelfth position.
So where has it all gone wrong for both teams?
In fairness to Liverpool their position does not necessarily reflect their performances this season. They were unfortunate with refereeing decisions against Everton and tore Manchester City apart earlier in the campaign while poor management in the transfer window has left them woefully bereft of options up top.
Simply put it has gone wrong off the pitch. While Liverpool fans do occasionally get frustrated at the current owners Fenway Sports Group and the way they run the club the former American duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillet are the main root of this mess.
In short, the two fell-out and placed the club under huge strains when it came to accumulative debt. While Rafa Benitez was challenging for the title on the pitch the American duo were slowly but surely sinking one of the most popular clubs in world sport behind closed doors.
Liverpool have not recaptured the sort of team that featured in that Champions League final. The midfield pairing of Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso with Steven Gerrard operating just in front of them was quite simply the best in Europe at that time.
In Milan’s case they are under the control of an out-dated political and footballing dinosaur, who was recently charged with tax fraud. Silvio Berlusconi and the rest of the Milan hierarchy (puppets) never planned for the future and as they lost Kaka and the legs of Gattuso, Shevchenko, Maldini, Nesta and Seedorf began to wilt with age no effective contingency was in place. This season is a result of such issues and the finances at the club have taking a hit from the global economic crisis and a recent investment from Qatar fell through.
AC Milan were priced out of nearly every deal they pursued this summer and resorted to swapping Antonio Cassano for Giampaolo Pazzini in order to freshen things up in the squad. There financial demise was mirrored by former manager Leonardo and coach Carlo Ancelotti poaching Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva away for mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain.
Is this the beginning of the end for two of Europe’s greatest clubs?
Well of course not. The fact remains that both these teams have impassioned fans and are sure to bounce back. The hope springs from the young players currently getting their chance at the clubs. Suso, Sterling, Wisdom, El Shaarawy, Bojan and De Sciglio are the future for these teams however both clubs have to be run in the right way to avoid becoming forgotten ghosts of European football.
Something nobody should crave.
image: © olaszmelo