AC Monza

Recruitment Analysis
Massimiliano Macaluso

Massimiliano Macaluso


When the first rumors began to circulate about a possible takeover regarding the ownership of the Associazione Calcio Monza and the name of Silvio Berlusconi was made for the first time among the possible new holders, it was inevitable to think that the club from Brianza would have quickly climbed divisions to try to reach the promotion to the Serie A for the first time. It could not be different with such an ambitious and determinate man: it seems like yesterday when the Milanese entrepreneur bought AC Milan, in 1986, and made it to the most successful football club in the world. Over 30 years later, his new toy is the team from the city that borders Milan, which despite being founded in 1912 has never played in the Italian top tier, having failed a sensational play-off against Pescara in 1979. Moreover neither the former president of AC Milan nor his right-hand man, the CEO Adriano Galliani, also historically linked to the Rossoneri team and inevitably chosen as the closest partner in the new management, have ever denied their ambitions and hidden aspirations of the club just purchased, then definitively, in 2019. Since then the new ownership has spared no expense, promising the necessary signings to lead the team to the quick promotion to Serie B. Sometimes even disproportionate purchases for the third league: an example of the voracity of the new Monza (who for many months also dreamed of buying Zlatan Ibrahimovic!) was the purchase of Dany Mota Carvalho, the Luxembourg striker of Portuguese descent bought by Juventus B team for an absolutely insane amount for Lega Pro habits, 4.5 million Euros paid out after an initial loan deal. 

After building a team that is extremely stronger than its competitors, Monza only achieved promotion ex officio, because of the suspension of the championships due to the pandemic issues and the huge gap over the second team in the ranking, +16 points over Carrarese after 27 games. In the meantime, the management has begun to focus almost exclusively on the incoming transfer market, necessary to build a squad ready for the double jump with a declared budget of 30 million euros to invest: it has focused heavily on experienced players willing to descend into a lower series in order to take part in the project (Andrea Barberis from Crotone, Antonino Barillà from Parma, Giulio Donati from Lecce); on young players of certain value that the Serie A teams decided to loan out, already called up in the Italian national U21 and U19 squads (Sassuolo’s Davide Frattesi, Atalanta’s Andrea Colpani, Inter Milan’s Davide Bettella, Lorenzo Pirola and Michele Di Gregorio); but also of players from foreign leagues: a Croatian winger from Dinamo Zagreb, Antonio Marin, a Brazilian left-back from Corinthians, Carlos Augusto, the top scorer of the Polish league Christian Gytkjaer and of the Croatian one Mirko Maric. 

The result was the setting up of an elite team, a maxi roster full of alternatives and continually retouched to be immediately competitive, which day after day became the richest in the league considering the overall value index according to Transfermarkt (approximately 44 million euros, slightly more than Brescia and clearly above Empoli, SPAL and Lecce). The reality is that, net of the economic evaluation of the players, after the arrival of players of the caliber of Kevin Prince Boateng and Mario Balotelli (who scored on his debut against Salernitana, after only 4 minutes), there are players in Monza that have nothing to do with the championship they are playing: not only many footballers have played seasons of Serie A more or less as protagonists (among those we have not mentioned, also Giuseppe Bellusci, Marco Fossati, Mario Sampirisi and Eugenio Lamanna), but four players have scored a goal in the Champions League (in addition to Boateng and Balotelli the other two are Giulio Donati at the time of Bayer Leverkusen and Christian Gytktjaer with the Rosenborg shirt, even if only in the qualifying round) and took part in important tournaments such as the World Cup and the Copa Libertadores (Gabriel Paletta). Making a quick count, last summer’s transfer campaign cost Berlusconi over 15 million euros excluding the wages, considering the 4.5 million spent on Maric and the 8 million spent on Carlos Augusto and Josè Machin respectively. And no proceeds from sales. 

The January market, which initially seemed to be used only to retouch the squad, turned out to be full of news like the previous ones. The first two signings to have been completed concern two players with an important curriculum in Serie A, taken thanks to low cost operations: one is the midfielder Matteo Scozzarella, who’s not only the umpteenth player taken from Parma but is another capable element to give quality to an already extremely rich squad in the midfield, even more than some higher-division teams; the second is Federico Ricci, back from last year’s promotion with the Spezia shirt and already in the top flight with Roma, Sassuolo and Crotone. Both could prove to be strategic to fill small gaps in the team: Scozzarella would become the team’s best ball distributor, a backward playmaker; Ricci, on the other hand, would become a valuable replacement on the attacking wingers, useful for letting teammates catch their breath without lowering the technical rate. Not satisfied with these two operations, in the last days of the transfer market Adriano Galliani decided to buy another attacking winger with a past in Serie A, Marco D’Alessandro from SPAL, and (regardless of expenses, 3,5 million + 1 bonus for a 29-year-old guy) another striker, the current Serie B top scorer Davide Diaw from Pordenone. These two purchases inevitably lead to consequences (the cut of Mattia Finotto and Franco Lepore, the farewell of Nicola Rigoni and Josè Machin, loaned to Pescara, and of Antonio Marin to Dinamo Zagreb, after not even six months) and also to broader considerations: however much the two arrivals can be considered absolutely capable of winning a place in the starting eleven, it is also legitimate to consider them superfluous blows, but useful if only to weaken the opponents or to prevent their strengthening.

Paradoxically, the group that according to the numbers would seem to be working better is the defensive one thanks to the superlative performance of Bettella and the leadership of Bellusci, 135 appearances in Serie A with Ascoli, Catania and Empoli: after a not very positive start, perhaps also due to the difficulties in managing to amalgamate a group full of new arrivals, to date Monza is in second place behind Empoli, on equal points with Chievo Verona and Salernitana, has suffered only three defeats in twenty league games (against Chievo, Reggiana and Pescara), has the best defensive stats and has kept a clean sheet eleven times. In short, Monza is in full battle for a Serie A spot, despite having to challenge with many teams for the category jump, and six points ahead of the ninth place. And the sporting objectives of the team coached by former AC Milan midfielder Christian Brocchi (another former Rossonero in the club), can only remain the same, a parallel issue is that of the growth of the club as a brand: even if within the end of the season it’s unlikely that people will return to the stands of the Brianteo stadium (in the meantime the venue has become U-Power Stadium thanks to a sponsorship agreement with a local workwear company), the virtual community has grown a lot to reach 100k followers on social platforms. 

A great unknown of this team, which with Brocchi on the bench has always lined up with a variable scheme composed of four defenders and three midfielders, is certainly relative to the inclusion of Mario Balotelli and the way in which the former Brescia, AC Milan, Nice, Liverpool, Manchester City and Inter Milan striker will find themselves with the new teammates. Balotelli will meet Kevin Prince Boateng with whom he has already played during the 2015/2016 season and the two guys seem very motivated to play together until the end of the season (in Balotelli’s contract, who will receive about 500,000 euros excluding bonuses related to caps, goals and promotion, a clause has been inserted that obliges him to live together with the Ghanaian midfielder and above all within a radius of 30 kilometers away from the club’s training center, Monzello, to avoid delays or distractions of any kind). After an excellent performance on his debut, Balotelli missed the games with Lecce, Cosenza, Brescia and SPAL due to physical issues. But it is still a possible and relative problem, if the squad will be able to manage their forces and react to the difficulties of a long and pitiful championship like that of Serie B there will be space and time for everyone.

Will there be derbies with AC Milan and Inter Milan next season? Will Silvio Berlusconi achieve his 30th triumph as president of a football team? Monza will be the 68th team to participate in at least one Serie A championship (and the tenth among the teams from Lombardia after AC Milan, Inter Milan, Atalanta, Brescia, Como, Pro Patria, Mantova, Varese and Legnano? What will happen in the destiny of the team? we will know only at the end of the next eighteen games, more interesting than ever. 

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