Time for Berlusconi to allow Milan's next generation to blossom

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It may be difficult to believe but AC Milan recently asked Paolo Maldini if he would like to don his boots again.

After 25 years in the top-flight and countless trophies, the legendary defender of course called it a day at the end of last season and walked away from the game with almost universal praise ringing in his ears.

So, it came as no surprise that the 41-year-old turned down the opportunity to help out his old club when Adriano Galliani and Leonardo apparently put in the emergency call a few weeks ago.

The situation had become critical in the heart of the defence where a spate of injuries has decimated the backline – the most serious has been the absence of Alessandro Nesta who has been missing since mid-March after undergoing knee surgery.

Milan were still very much in the hunt for the title when Maldini was sounded out on whether he would like to return as cover and be part of what could potentially be an historic title triumph, as Galliani no doubt tried to sell it

The former captain did have the good grace discuss the proposal with his father – former Milan defender Cesare – or maybe have a good laugh, but he decided that nearly ten months into his well-earned retirement it was more prudent to leave the playing well in the past.


It is true that he had spent plenty of the intervening period playing five-a-side football and had taken up kick-boxing to stay in shape - but making a return to the world of professional football was a completely different matter.

Having asked for 24 hours to mull it over, Maldini returned with a firm “no” and so ended fevered speculation of a sensational return for the season run-in.

This Raiders of the Lost Ark moment typifies the desperate search for old relics to somehow revive an ailing club where Silvio Berlusconi is looking more mummified every time he appears in public.

With his political opponents plotting to dethrone him from his day job, the aging prime minister has little time or energy to turn his attention to his ‘family’.

And there lies the problem: as long as there is a breath of life in his body, the perma-grinning one will not allow the club to slip from his grasp.

After all, the Berlusconi era which is about to outlast Maldini’s playing career, was for the most part the golden age of enlightenment and how could he allow someone else to build a dynasty to match his unprecedented number of trophies.


Now in his 74th year, the glint has not dimmed in the outsized ego, so even if there will be no money for new signings and no matter that he becomes less of a presence around Milanello and in the stands of the San Siro the iron-grip will not be released in the near future.

It is no wonder that Leonardo wants out, especially if the Brazil job is waiting and the thought of losing his ‘little nephew’ Alexandre Pato whom he incited across the Atlantic and nurtured through his early days at the club hangs heavily over him.

Leo never wanted the daily grind of the tracksuit anyway and must be one of the most reluctant coaches of all time – unlike Mauro Tassotti or Filippo Galli who would jump at the chance to organise five-a-sides every day.

There will be a new man welcoming the likes of Mario Yepes to pre-season training in July and let us hope it is not Marcello ‘Lucky’ Lippi whose arrival would lead to all-out revolt from the veterans (okay just about the whole squad).

Better still to give Massimiliano Allegri the opportunity to start a new era and promote a number of those youth players who only recently lifted the Italian Youth Cup.

That prestigious trophy had last found its way into the club’s trophy cabinet back in 1985 when Fabio Capello was in charge of the likes of Maldini and Billy Costacurta who were making their first steps towards glittering careers.

Yes, it is time for out with the old and in with the new but will dear old Silvio recognise the passing of time?

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