Aventuras Américas | Part 69 | Milan #4: Chasing The Scudetto

AC Milan’s strong start to the 2057/58 campaign saw the club’s board dish out a new one-year contract that nearly doubled 73-year-old manager Robinho Lazaró’s wages to £95,000-per-week. Ordinarily, he’d leave his options until the summer, but the offer was far too good to ignore and he was excited to keep working with Milan’s promising young squad.

That young side was performing wonders in Serie A, sitting miles ahead of traditional rivals Inter and Juve and locked in a battle with Roma for the title.

The club’s finances meant there was no money available for January deals, largely because Lazaró had already completed deals for seven 16 and 17-year-olds to arrive at the start of the window. The pick of those were two exciting strikers in Romanian Stefan Buhus and Czech Radek Krejci.

Title bid resumes

2058 began very nicely with a 3-1 win at Torino as centre-back Vítor Veríssimo scored from two Iliya Kolev corners inside seven minutes followed by a second-half strike by homegrown wonderkid striker Andrea D’Avino. The first game of the year at San Siro marked goalkeeper Lander Michielsen’s 450th league game for Milan (putting him 197 behind Paolo Maldini’s ridiculous record). His teammates celebrated by beating Genoa with ease as Anders Lassen scored early on, young centre-back Mislav Grubisic headed home a free-kick and superstar midfielder Jan Mares made it three. Roma finally lost their first game of the season, taking Milan’s lead to six points.

That was followed by a demolition of 10-man Lazio with a Lassen hat-trick leading a 6-0 hammering. Elsewhere, Roma beat Inter 4-1 to leave Nerazzuri down in 10th and they unsurprisingly sacked their newgen manager. Milan welcomed managerless Inter at the end of January and dominated them with 20 shots to none in the first half, with Kolev making one count. And they somehow only won 1-0 despite have 28 shots to one! That moved Milan 11 points clear at the top, 17 points clear of third, 23 points ahead of Juve and 28 ahead of Inter! Surely Scudetto was in the bag already?

The win over Inter saw Milan equal the Serie A record of 10 consecutive wins, but they couldn’t set a new record as a striker injury crisis saw them struggle to a 0-0 at Sassuolo followed by another at Fiorentina. The goals soon flowed as striker Wilson Salazar bagged a brace in a 5-0 thumping of local rivals Atalanta, with Kolev again running the show with two assists.

Champions League knockouts

The knockout stage first round paired Milan with Tottenham and began well with Salazar’s brace earning a 3-2 home win. And despite a mass of defensive injuries a late Kolev goal earned a 2-2 draw in England.

The quarter-final was also favourable on paper, as Milan took on French champions and Kolev’s former club Lyon. They had Veríssimo to thank in the first leg as his brace sealed a 2-1 win at San Siro. However, they took a hammering from France, only for Michielsen to make 13 saves to limit Lyon to a 1-0 victory. Milan then took an undeserved lead in extra-time but Lyon nicked a 108th-minute equaliser. And the French side won the shootout 7-6, with young midfielder Thor Gronnesby missing the vital penalty.

Potential title decider

Milan’s defence was absolutely air-tight as they went eight games without conceding, which ended with a 4-1 win over Udinese in early March. That sent them nine points clear with 10 games remaining, before the top two went head to head at San Siro.

Milan got off to a flyer as attacking midfielder Jon Azparren sent Salazar to score after 12 minutes. The same happened five minutes after the break but Salazar somehow hit the post after rounding the keeper. And Roma made him pay with a totally undeserved injury-time equaliser. But not to worry, as two minutes later Mares intercepted a Roma attack, sent Salazar through and this time he delivered! That moved Milan 12 points clear with nine remaining, all but deciding the title already.

Milan snuck past struggling Salernitana 2-1 before another rival clash in a trip to the Juventus Stadium, which they lost 2-1 despite taking an early lead. But they bounced back with Gronnesby and Salazar leading an easy 2-0 win over Bologna then Salazar and Lassen scoring in a 2-0 win at SPAL.

That moved Milan potentially one point from the title, leading Roma by 12 points with five games remaining. And they got one point in a feisty game at Parma, in which they picked up six bookings and full-back Miroslav Petrous and Veríssimo got sent off. Roma also drew to make the title virtually done and dusted.

A big chance to confirm it came as relegated Spezia visited San Siro. They made a flying start, with six shots in the first 15 minutes before Lassen stepped up with two identical tap-ins on 21 and 42 minutes. Then, out of nowhere, Spezia scored from their first and second attacks of the match within 10 minutes of the break. Lazaró laid into his team and Lassen regained control, curling in a 20-yard free-kick. And that was enough for a far too narrow victory, considering Milan had 23 shots to three!

AC Milan were Champions of Italy!

Lazaró’s side celebrated their success with a 4-0 thumping of Cagliari, in which exciting 17-year-old midfielder Hubert Drewnowski was player of the match with two assists on his full debut. Lazaró threw more youngsters in and they wrapped up the campaign with a defeat at Venezia and a draw at Genoa, in which 16-year-old Moris Lombardi, who’s been dubbed the new Gianluigi Buffon, made his league debut.

They still won Serie A by 12 points from Roma, winning 28, drawing seven and losing just three, scoring a league-high 72 and conceding a league-low 20. Hilariously, Juve and Inter both missed out on Europe, with Juve in 6th and Inter way off the pace in 10th.

Kolev got a league-high 15 assists and seven player of the match awards and he and Lassen came second and third on average ratings. That saw the young Bulgarian win Serie A Player of the Year, Best Midfielder of the Year and Best Young Player of the Year, while Lassen won Signing of the Season, Michielsen won Goalkeeper of the Year and Lazaró was Manager of the Year.

Season Review

Milan’s goal count has been surprisingly low this season. Lassen led the way with 19 goals in 43 games, winning him fans’ player and young player of the season, followed by Azparren (13), Salazar (12) and Mares (10). Kolev got 16 assists followed by Azparren (10), D’Avino (8), Lassen (7) and Mares (5).

Milan’s under 18s won a league and cup double, showing the exciting youth coming through the club’s ranks. They also had a good youth intake led by another strong goalkeeper in 6ft 4in Enzo Falciani and centre-back Mattia Marchisio.

The latest title win marked Lazaró’s 27th league success with 17 club sides. It was also one of his favourite successes, restoring AC Milan as the best team in Italy by some margin. But would the now 74-year-old still be in Italy at the end of the summer?

It seemed highly likely, as he had a huge contract at Milan and he was excited to develop some of the great talent at the club. But join us next time to discover what becomes of Robinho Lazaró in the summer of 2058.

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