Robinho Lazaró and his AC Milan players celebrated an unprecedented double-treble in the summer of 2060 – defending their Italian Supercup, Serie A and Champions League titles. Lazaró’s personal favourite Juarez was undoubtedly the key to that success and the 76-year-old manager was thrilled to have another season working with the Brazilian in the very prime of his career.
The squad was still really young, with an average age of just 22. Juarez – who retired from international football aged just 32 with 53 goals in 73 caps for Brazil – and captain Lander Michielsen were the only players aged over 26 and they had eight teenagers in the first team.
The youth was added to with two exciting signings in 18-year-old striker Ignacio Galimberti, who arrived for £6.25 million from Vélez, and 19-year-old right-back Arnau Garzón for £23 million from Espanyol. But the most exciting new arrival may be 18-year-old Douglas Alberto, who joined for £6 million from Ponte Preta and is being retrained as a central midfielder.
And here’s how Lazaró’s 4-3-1-2 formation was shaping up for the new season:
Thrilling season opener
The 2060/61 campaign began with a chance to defend the UEFA Super Cup against Spurs. And they did so in thrilling fashion! Anders Lassen opened the scoring before Iliya Kolev doubled the lead. Spurs got back into it after the break but a quickfire Juarez seemed to settle it – only for Spurs to score two late consolations.
Scudetto defence begins
Heading into his 40th season in football management, Lazaró had the outrageous landmark of a 30th league title of his career looming large – including the various “half titles” he won across the Americas. And the media had finally realised Milan were the best team in Italy, making them 11/10 favourites.
The title defence began in fine style led by an inspired Kolev performance. He crossed for centre-back Oscar Rendón to head home the opener then curled home a delicious free-kick, rifled in a 25-yard shot and tucked home a penalty to complete a 12-minute first-half hat-trick. He wasn’t done there, setting up midfielder Thor Gronnesby to score an outrageous 20-yard chip and a second for Rendón in injury-time. So goal and assist hat-tricks plus 15 key passes – outrageous!
Juarez was back in the thick of it next up as he scored both in a 2-0 win at Hellas Verona. But he suffered a lower back stress fracture and, in his place, two young attackers decided a home clash with Fiorentina as a Frederik Sonderby brace and a Radek Krejci strike sealed a 3-0 win. Then his replacement Andrea D’Avino and Kolev scored in a 2-0 win at Venezia and Kolev kept his scintillating start going with the only goals to beat Lazio and Napoli. That teed up an early clash with Juve. The first half was terrible but Milan sparked into life after the break led by lassen, who created goals for Jan Mares, Kolev and Rendón.
The relentless form continued through to Lazaró’s 1,800th match in football. That was at home to Cagliari and another win followed thanks to a first goal for the club for Galimberti – who also suffered a lower back stress fracture! Kolev scored again in a 2-0 win at Udinese, which set a new Serie A record of 11 successive wins, but the injury curse struck again as a torn calf on international duty put him out for three months. Milan just kept on winning, including a 5-0 win over Cagliari in which Lassen ended a ridiculous 18-hour goal drought, and Juarez returned to score in four consecutive games.
And that, ridiculously, saw them win their first 16 games in Serie A, scoring 40 and conceding just seven, to lead Inter by 11 points heading into 2061.
Kolev’s amazing form of 24 goals and 17 assists in 44 games in 2060 saw him win a clean sweep of FIFA Ballon d’Or, Best Men’s Player and FIFPro Player of the Year, with Lazaró’s former midfielder Miguel coming second in all three. That makes the Bulgarian only Lazaró’s second player to win the Ballon d’Or after the legendary Juarez in 2049. Rendón defended his FIFA Best U21 Men’s Player award and Michielsen came second in Best Goalkeeper and World Golden Glove.
Champions League defence
Milan’s second Champions League defence began with an appealing group of Lyon, Galatasaray and Dynamo Kyiv. They began in style by thrashing Galatasaray 6-2 led by a D’Avino hat-trick then won 2-0 in Ukraine, which set a new club record 11 consecutive wins in all competitions. D’Avino scored two more in a 5-0 mauling of Lyon then a 1-1 in France secured qualification. A fully rotated side drew 2-2 with Kyiv then got thumped 4-1 in Turkey to come second in the group.
Lille awaited in the first knockout round. An unlikely brace by midfielder Hubert Dresnowski led a 3-1 home leg win and a Juarez penalty earned a 1-1 in France. A tougher test followed in the quarter-final against Bayern Munich, which was proven by Milan getting absolutely battered 6-0 in Germany and losing 1-0 at home. So the dream of a third-straight Champions League was very much over. Bayern beat Liverpool in the semis to set up an all-German final with Hertha, which Bayern won 2-1 after extra-time.
30th title looms large
Milan began 2061 by jetting out to Michigan for the Supercup. They won it for the third year in a row as Krejci and Vítor Veríssimo strikes downed Roma 2-0 – which saw Lazaró claim his 25th cup trophy.
Their incredible winning league start ended in the first game of 2061 as they drew 0-0 with Atalanta then 2-2 at Inter, who undeservedly equalised with their first shot and again in the last minute. They returned to winning ways with victories at Parma and Frosinone before losing their unbeaten start at Fiorentina, who nicked a 1-0 late on. But they were back to their best to defeat lowly Verona and Venezia, with a rare Lassen double inspiring a 4-2 win in the latter.
Kolev returned at Juventus, who were lingering down in seventh, and typically scored to inspire a 3-0 win that moved Milan 12 points clear at the top. That result got Manuel Locatelli sacked, Juve replaced him with Rayan Cherki, and Locatelli swiftly became England manager. Kolev got injured again as Milan lost at home for the first time in a long time, 1-0 to Roma, then drew with Lazio. But they fired back to form by thrashing Empoli 6-0 away with braces from Juarez, Mares and Lassen.
Napoli and Inter also suffered dips in form, dropping 16 points back with 10 games to play and leaving in-form Fiorentina as Milan’s closest challengers, 9 points behind. But Milan began to seize full control, including a 6-1 thumping of Cagliari led by Kolev, who returned in style bagging two goals and two assists.
A 2-1 win over Bologna virtually confirmed the title, moving Milan 11 clear with five to play. They drew 1-1 at Crotone while a rejuvenated Inter won to reduce the gap to nine points. Milan struggled again to a 1-1 at Torino but, crucially, Inter lost 2-0 at home to Juve to hand the title to their rivals.
AC Milan won their 4th successive Serie A and Robinho Lazaró won his 30th career league title!!
Milan concluded the season in poor form, losing 2-0 at home to Inter and 1-0 at Atalanta either side of thrashing Parma 4-0 led by a Juarez brace. That saw their winning margin cut to just six points, finishing on 88 points ahead of Inter and Fiorentina.
Juarez finished third-top scorer and second-top assister with 19 goals and 11 assists in 30 games and got the most player of the match awards (9). But Kolev got the top average rating of 7.66 and scored 15 and assisted five in just 21 games.
This was another stellar season in Italy for Lazaró, wrapping up his fourth Scudetto at the club and another treble. 33-year-old Juarez was undoubtedly the main man of the season, scoring 22 and assisting 11 in 36 games and winning fans’ player of the season. But Kolev was also impressive with 18 goals and eight assists but tailed off a little after injuries that restricted him to just 28 appearances.
Lassen was also good with 14 goals and 12 assists, but he’s a little inconsistent and regularly suffers long goalscoring droughts. While Gronnesby popped up with six goals and a club-high 13 assists and progressed massively this season. And Antonio set a new club record for worst discipline, racking up 26 bookings and a red card in just 35 games!
Time for a new challenge?
After five years in Milan, Lazaró felt he’d achieved everything he could with the club so, with his contract expiring in the summer and turning 77 in May, he was open to a new challenge. And when a big one arrived in February, he couldn’t say no – despite having a very heavy heart at the thought of leaving behind the likes of Kolev, Mares, Juarez and co. This new opportunity could arguably be the Colombian’s biggest challenge yet – taking over a club that has plenty of potential and possibly lots of money to work with but has yet to achieve it.
Lazaró departed Milan with seven cup wins and four league titles, taking him to 25 cups and 30 leagues throughout his now 40-year career in Football Manager. They won 179 and lost 41 of his 259 games in charge, scoring 500 and conceding 184, with a 69% winning record.
Who will Lazaró be joining in the summer of 2061? Join us next Monday to find out!