What went wrong for Allegri at AC Milan?

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With so many big name players, a mammoth stadium often full of adoring fans and a history that dazzles amongst the leading lights of European soccer, surely it’s easy to manage a club like AC Milan.

Think again.

So often the biggest jobs in European soccer become a poisoned chalice and after Massimiliano Allegri was sacked on Monday, following a 4-3 defeat to his former club Sassuolo, the soccer elite have yet another victim.

The dismissal brings an end to his time in charge at Milan, as Allegri was given a fair crack of the whip with four seasons in charge but in the end a lack of investment and not culling some of his aging squad proved to be his downfall. Right now AC sit 11th in Serie A and only six points clear of the relegation zone however they are still in the UEFA Champions League and face Atletico Madrid in the last 16 next month.

(MORE: Latest Serie A Standings)

Allegri had often struggled in the UCL compared to the Italian top-flight, as he won the Scuddeto in his first season in charge but that seems like a distant memory now as the Rossoneri stormed to the title back  in 2010-11 and came second in 2011-12. One other trophy, the Italian Suppercoppa, followed but that has been it for one of European soccer’s most successful clubs.

One other thing that spelled the end for the 46-year-old was the return of long-time AC Milan President and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who once again became the sole club President in 2012. Since 1986 Berlusconi has been juggling his leadership of Milan and the Italian nation and in that time he’s now had 17 managers in charge at the San Siro, with only Carlo Ancelotti lasting longer than five years when he took charge between 2001-2009.

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An aging squad plus a lack of investment means Allegri’s time at AC was riddled with change and turmoil.

In that respect Allegri is the third longest-serving boss under the Berlusconi era, but of late the league form has been atrocious and something needed to be done to rectify that. Stars players such as Kaka, Robinho, Mario Balotelli and Stephen El Shaarway should not have steered Milan into mid-table obscurity in Serie A. But they have. Some of the big names haven’t stood up to be counted with the side struggling and that confounded Allegri’s worst fears, as even the likes of Kaka looks a shade of his former self after Milan brought him back to the San Siro on a free transfer. With only two league wins in their last 11 games since October 27, the writing has been on the wall for Allegri.

This season defending has been the main problem for AC as they’ve let in 30 goals in 19 games, which may not sound like that many but when you’re used to staunch defensive displays and you play in Serie A… that’s a lot of goals being leaked.

However Milan struggling to perform in Serie A isn’t something new as last season they had a terrible start to the campaign and had just eight points form their first seven games. But Allegri turned that around and guided Milan to third place and a Champions League berth after AC had been languishing towards the relegation zone during the first half of the 2012-13 season.

(MORE: Clarence Seedorf to become AC Milan’s new manager)

He wasn’t given time to do that this season, and before Christmas he’d already signified his intent to move on from the San Siro after this campaign and his contract was up, stating “this will be my last Christmas at AC Milan.” Turns out the end came sooner than Allegri thought it would, but it needed to happen after his early promise as head coach declined rapidly. Strange comments in 2012 also marred Allegri’s future as when he signed a new deal in January of that year, as the former Cagliari boss declared that he would only by a manager for another 10 seasons as the stress was too much to handle.

Now Milan have appointed former legend Clarence Seedorf as their new manager, it seems as though Berlusconi will be more involved than ever to help the young coach succeed and turns things around. Allegri got that help last season, but he wasn’t going to get it again this year.

Many weren’t surprised he was shown the door, but will he get another chance to manage on the biggest stage? With a top three finish in every single full season as AC Milan manager, he didn’t do any awful job but progress wasn’t being made as fast as Berlusconi and the other executives would’ve liked. Allegri finishes his time in charge at Milan with 91 wins from 178 games, with a win percentage of 51.12 percent.

Not bad for someone who’s been under pressure since the very start. Even if he didn’t quite live up to expectations, Allegri should get a crack at another top job in Italy relatively soon.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.