Of course the place looks very different these days. Amidst the heat wave and fears of a winner-takes-all derby in Milan next week, both sides are reportedly playing for silver, according to sources. Regardless of who wins, the overwhelming favorites for the final are the side that faced off against Real Madrid and Manchester City in the other semi-final. As impossible as it seemed in 2003, Italian football is now an underdog.
But Pioli is undaunted. Economically, Serie A teams can no longer compete with the Premier League’s smaller players. Milan found themselves ahead of Italian midfielder Niccolò in January over Bournemouth, who were chasing Zaniolo. Italy’s brilliance faded, its power weakened. This Milan is more of a requiem for them than a re-enactment of the glory days when Serie A dominated the world.
“But if that’s true, it has to be innovative,” said Pioli. “In ideas, in quality of work,” he said, necessity is the mother of invention. “In my opinion, it has become an underrated championship,” he said. “There are a lot of conflicts with teams and coaches with different ideas, different styles, different systems of play and ways of interpreting the game.”
That, in turn, helped Italy’s new breed of teams — whose squad has probably dwindled since the day they acted as the roll call of global superstars — began to make up for the financial shortfall.
They may not have the best players anymore. They may not have the luster they once had. In bright, grim light, a team as epic as AC Milan may look like minnows. said to have
“Calcio has suffered for several years,” he said. “But now I’m ready to be the lead again.”