Is a Ralf Rangnick-led rebuild the key for Milan to return to Europe?

While the current Serie A season is suspended due to the coronavirus crisis, such is the gap to the top four it seems Milan are destined to miss out on the Champions League again.

When things resume, Milan will sit 12 points adrift of Atalanta in fourth spot with 12 games to be played. At this stage, the Europa League isn’t even a certainty with a resurgent Napoli moving above us after four wins in their last five games.

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Stefano Pioli has undoubtedly had a positive influence since replacing Marco Giampaolo early in the season. He’s given us a sense of identity, direction and a level of transparency and candidness in his assessment of results and his team that has been appreciated.

Despite those positives though, we find ourselves regressing compared to last season having been so close to securing Champions League qualification, and so it could lead to more difficult questions this summer.

While the management set-up needs addressing and clarity, that will filter down and give us a better indication of what follows at coaching level and in terms of the strategy and direction for the squad moving forward.

As per La Gazzetta dello Sport, discussions are ongoing between the Milan ownership and Rangnick with a budget of €75m being touted to allow him to stamp his mark on the squad and bring in reinforcements.

Sky Sport Italia, as noted by MilanNews, have since reported that those talks have continued this week with Rangnick being the top choice while doubts have emerged over Pioli’s ability to stay in the job as the likes of Marcelino and Unai Emery are touted as alternative options.

With all that in mind, what is the best option for Milan?

Rangnick revolution perhaps now needed

Since our last major trophy under Massimiliano Allegri in 2011, Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Vincenzo Montella, Gennaro Gattuso and Giampaolo have all come and gone.

Pioli has done a respectable job, but it certainly won’t be enough if we fail to break back into the top four this season and that could ultimately cost him his job.

So by simply changing coach again this summer, is that going to be the solution? Based on recent history, it’s arguably not enough.

After eight years of disappointment, frustration and falling short, Milan are perhaps now in need of something bigger. A changing of the culture, environment, mentality and deeper aspects from the top down to the bottom.

Not even a bit-part revolution is enough anymore in terms of changing coach and allowing him to impart his philosophies and ideas on the players. Milan need a cohesive, streamlined way of thinking from the management down to the players to offer clarity, stability and a solid foundation to build success on.

Through his roles both on the touchline and in the front office, Rangnick arguably possesses all the characteristics necessary to do both jobs. If it’s just as a director, he needs to be involved in the choice for the coaching position to ensure he has a shared vision and philosophy with that individual.

“If you want to increase the speed of your game, you have to develop quicker minds rather than quicker feet. At RB, we work on increasing the memory space and the processing pace,” he told the Bundesliga website in 2018.

“Tactics, fitness and rules are all hugely important, but they’re only a means to an end. My job – the job – is to improve players. Players follow you as a manager if they feel that you make them better. That’s the greatest, most sincere motivation there is.”

Nicknamed ‘The Professor’ by the German media, he has overseen and been heavily involved in RB Leipzig’s impressive rise, while his principles of capital, concept and competence have been lauded, as per the Bundesliga site.

He has clear fundamentals in his work and a style of play he has looked to adopt. Further, he has been praised for his scouting ability to identify top young talents, while then piecing the puzzle together to result in success.

A complete overhaul in how a club thinks and operates is a big risk, and it could take time for it to work. Nevertheless, Milan have arguably tried everything else at this point and have fallen short time and time again.

Something big needs to change. From the culture at board level to the quality and strategy at playing level, Rangnick could have a positive influence on both. Rather than draft in Marcelino or Emery if we’re not ambitious or appealing enough to attract a name like Mauricio Pochettino, perhaps it’s time to consider a much bigger shift in how we think and approach things.

Give Rangnick a decent budget to do his job effectively and provide him with the capital to go with his concept and competence, let him stamp his mark on the club behind the scenes and in terms of assembling a competitive squad. Milan need competent, footballing people manning the ship, and while it’s a gamble seeing if he can recreate his success abroad, it’s one the club perhaps now needs to take to try a different approach to get back to Europe’s top table.

It would be ideal if there is still room for Maldini in such a scenario if he can work together with Rangnick. However, much depends on the split of responsibility in that situation, but it seems the German’s philosophies and track record could be in sync with Elliott’s mandate in terms spending and a target market, increasing value and how to achieve success on and off the pitch and that gives him another big advantage as we await further news.

Is it ideal? Perhaps not. The model could involve signing young talents, developing them and achieving short-term success before selling them for profit and bringing in new faces and hoping it’s sustainable. It’s worked at Leipzig for Rangnick, it’s hoped it could work at Milan if he arrives.