It was confirmed on Friday that Milan will not participate in the Europa League next season, as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) noted an agreement was reached between the club and UEFA.
That agreement will see the Rossoneri sit out the competition next season despite qualifying through our fifth-placed finish in Serie A last year.
Naturally, there are negative implications that come with such a decision too, namely the hit to the club’s reputation with those who perhaps aren’t aware of the finer details, while it’s undoubtedly an undesirable situation to not feature in Europe at all.
Despite that though, there are significant positives from this outcome that outweigh those negatives, and it’s now hoped the first big obstacle has been overcome to move towards a more sustainable and successful model.
Draws a line under previous financial mismanagement
Whether it was the poor financial situation which had evolved over the final years of the Berlusconi era to Yonghong Li’s disastrous stint at the club, there have been major issues ongoing in the background at Milan in terms of trying to be FFP compliant.
The agreement reached with UEFA is a settlement on breaches between 2014-2017 and 2015-2018, and so we can now finally draw a line under previous mismanagement and it gives Elliott, Ivan Gazidis and all those within the current hierarchy the chance to now really start their work and show results off the pitch.
Gives us time to now finally get books balanced/break-even by June 2021
Spending a year out of European competition now gives us time to get things in order as we won’t be under the FFP microscope in the more immediate future but must get the finances in line by 2021.
For a club the size of Milan with its history, prestige, fanbase and reputation in European football, the business side of things is hugely important too and we must have a club that is sustainable and perhaps even profitable off the pitch as well as being competitive and successful on it.
While the latter will matter more to fans and rightly so, it could be argued that at this stage they’re equally as important as each other.
Future exclusion ruled out
Ultimately, Milan have taken the exclusion from Europe now rather than appealing again and potentially having to withdraw from the Champions League further down the line.
While the Europa League still struggles to gain the same level of respect and prestige as the Champions League, it’s arguably the ideal result to spend a year out of it and based on what we saw last season and with question marks over what reinforcements will arrive this summer, it’s debatable as to whether we had a chance of winning it next season anyway.
Naturally, this positive relies on the club using this opportunity to ensure we don’t get ourselves in trouble in the future.
Focus on top-four finish in Serie A next season
The main objective for the club in the more immediate future remains breaking back into the top four in Serie A and qualifying for the Champions League.
By removing Thursday night fixtures from our schedule, it gives us a brilliant opportunity to now really focus on our league games and prepare diligently for each opponent with fresh legs.
While winning the Coppa Italia is always welcome as it’s another potential trophy, that could be an opportunity for Marco Giampaolo to rotate, while ensuring that he starts his strongest XI in Serie A week in and week out with a bit of fortune with regards to injuries along the way.
Could alter transfer plans this summer
Without the pressure of FFP breathing down our necks, could that mean we have a more relaxed stance on potential exits and signings?
That’s the suggestion from La Gazzetta dello Sport, who report that while we still have significant losses to deal with, we’re now in a stronger position at the negotiation table to get more preferable deals rather than be forced into poor ones.
While sales are still likely to balance the books, GdS also note that it could lead to increased spending too, but Milan will have to remain astute in the market and always have the Settlement Agreement next year in mind to ensure that we can show tangible evidence to UEFA that we’re working towards being in line with the regulations.
For financial and sporting reasons, Milan have made the right call to withdraw from the Europa League next season, but it’s just the first important step of many to get to where we need to be on and off the pitch.