Hey guys, welcome back to my Ultimate European Challenge and what is turning in to a journey across Europe. During the last post you saw me guide Hamburg SV to the Bundesliga title, German Cup and therefore completing the required competitions in Germany. This challenge requires me to win the title and domestic Cup in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. An additional target is to win the Champions League twice with any club from the five countries. To read the full rules and targets of this challenge visit the ‘Ultimate European Challenge rules’. After achieving so much, my reward was a just 15% of the bank balance for next season transfer budget. I was so annoyed with the £3 million budget and the boards stubborn ways that I resigned immediately.
– Hamburg SV, Germany (January 2010- April 2012)
Bundesliga title : 2012
German Cup : 2012
As I began the search for a new job, I had to wait for any action until November. It seemed like club owners were preparing a manager hunt before the winter fixtures. Tottenham, AC Milan and one other club I can’t remember all looked very promising. I also applied for the Manchester City job but was laughed off by their rich owners. In the end I was offered the AC Milan job and snapped their hands off. This was a perfect offer and one I eagerly anticipated.
Milan Contract offer : AC Milan have some terrible debt and therefore couldn’t offer me a transfer budget. They did however offer me a huge wage budget.
Smith bites back in press conference : During my first press conference I answered each question as normal but couldn’t help putting my two cent in about the HSV board. When asked if I can bring success back to Milan, my usual response was I hope so and the club deserves it. However, I did add ‘Plus I want to shove my success up the tight arses of the HSV board.’ :)
Transfers : After tweaking my wage budget, I managed to bump my transfer budget up to £12 million. I needed to bring in another striker, right winger and goalkeeper. I knew that AC Milan had the capacity to win Serie A, but needed more strength in depth. Below are my 4 signings during January.
Alberto Paloschi (ST)
You may be familiar with Paloschi from his heroics in my Newcastle story. Lecce and Parma both co-owned the Italian forward and seemed happy to let him leave. After my overall offer of just £650K was accepted, I swiftly confirmed the contract. Paloschi will be used in the Europa League and Cup matches.
Vaclav Kadlec (ST)
The 21 year old had previously moved to Real Madrid, but after a lack of Football demanded a move away. I am a huge admirer of the striker and you can see this in my post, ‘Best cheap striker – Kadlec’. When I saw the 21 year old on the transfer list for just £2.8 million, my mouth started to water. He can also be used as an inside forward from the left wing, which is perfect for a side lacking in depth.
Maarten Stekelenburg (GK)
With my main goalkeepers ageing and really not good enough for AC, I decided to bring in Stekelenburg. The Dutchman was on a free transfer and will be my main keeper.
Mariano Vella (AMR)
I have saved the best to last. This regen is simply brilliant, his attributes are ridiculous and make him the best winger in Italy. Fiorentina signed Vella a few years ago but will regret the release clause of £7.75 million. I took advantage and know Vella will be vital to any success I gain this season.
Serie A table before my appointment
The previous manager left me with a lot of work to do, Milan were 10th after 13 games and ten points behind the league leaders. Despite the ten point gap, I am fairly confident I can at least reach the top three. Clubs are bound to drop points and a lot of tough fixtures are already out of the way.
The mission begins – Serie A, December-January results
The first two months were almost perfect. We could only draw at home to Inter but won the next three games in December. The new signings were firmly in place for a tough January. They had a huge impact and helped me win all four games during January. These included some wonderful victories against Fiorentina, Palermo and Roma.
Serie A : February-March results
Despite a shock away defeat at the hands of Genoa, my side recovered well. Pato found his scoring boots and the strikers 8 goals were vital as Milan won the next 8 games!! The best of them came away to reigning champions Napoli as we won 3-1 thanks to the Brazilian wizard. My side seemed to be playing well in my 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 formations. The only adjustment from my Newcastle game was to use a very deep defensive line, very slow tempo and very narrow width. You can see these tactics and also download them here. Just remember the defensive line, tempo and width need changing when in Italy and with a similar side to AC Milan.
Serie A : April-May results
Another brilliant set of performances from Pato extended my unbeaten run. Whenever the Brazilian gets the ball you just know he can take on three or four players before smashing the ball home. His form helped Milan win 6 games and draw 2 from the eight remaining fixtures.
Serie A final table
My sides incredible run mixed with a lackluster effort from other clubs won us the Serie A title. My squads domination is shown by the 12 point gap to second placed Roma. Do you remember what I said in the opening press conference ‘I want to shove my success up the tight arses of the HSV board’. Well not only did I win the league, but HSV finished 4th in the Bundesliga and failed to qualify for the Champions League. Talk about karma! :)
The fans and pundits seemed very impressed with my first season and I must admit such a fast start was really good.
Italian Cup results
The Italian Cup seems much easier to succeed in than other countries domestic competitions. There was only three rounds to progress past in order to reach the final. I had an easy draw apart from a sticky away tie to Atlanta. The only game that involved my key players was the semi-final against Catania, we waltzed past all opponents and set ourselves up for an interesting final against Napoli. Previous form would suggest an AC Milan win but I wasn’t taking the Italian champions for granted.
Italian Cup final – AC Milan vs Napoli
After beating Napoli in the league I already knew which tactic would work best. My 4-5-1 was to be used with a standard strategy, very deep defensive line, very narrow width and very slow tempo. This worked a treat as my wonderkid regen, Vella, scored one and assisted the second from a corner. Napoli’s late goal was no more than a consolation, they seemed to struggle getting past my deep defensive line and had to rely on long range efforts.
The fact that this went in to extra time is very deceiving as I felt no threat from the champions. The first half flew by without any drama and hardly any highlights. The second half saw Napoli try to attack, but constantly get caught out by Milan’s quick attacks down the wing. It took until extra time to break the deadlock, but it was coming for most of the second half.
The board seemed very cool and laid back, while the fans were ecstatic as always to see more silverware. After winning the Serie A title this Italian Cup win is much appreciated as I could move if a great offer came in, the Italian job is now complete. I still have the desire to stay in Italy, but would consider the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona. :)
Europa League results
AC Milan started the season in the Champions League, but had been knocked out by the time I took over. A real shame, but at least I could now use the fringe players in this competition. The first two rounds saw an extremely easy draw and I waltzed through to the quarter-finals. Then Lyon gave me a little shock in the second leg, but a dogged performance saw us claw back two vital goals. On to the semi-final and a very easy 6-2 aggregate victory over Benfica saw my side reach the Europa League final. An in form Porto awaited us and I was rattling the old brain to find a way of taming Hulk.
Europa League final – AC Milan vs Porto
After a major lack of help form my assistant, I opted to try my 4-4-2. After all Milan have the better side and we should try playing on the front foot. I think my biggest mistake was using the deep defensive line, narrow width and slow tempo. These work a treat in Italy, but seemed to offer Porto far too much time on the ball. I also told my players to never mark Willian tightly, that was an error in judgement as the defence just kept backing off him before the goal. A very rare tactical disaster from myself, but the best team won.
I was extremely happy with the domestic double and that helped calm the pain of a shock Europa League defeat. Porto were very tough to break down and I hardly had a shot on goal until the last 10 minutes. From experience I know that when a side plays so out of character its because the manager has made a royal hash of the tactics. Oops, sorry guys.
Squad season stats
First of all, check out my 20 year regen Vella, his 16 assists were just brilliant. On the other end of the age scale, Ronaldinho was simply showing off with his 16 assists and 5 goals. The Brazilians physical attributes are horrendous but everything else is simply amazing. The biggest shock of the season was N’Zogbia managing 14 assist and 9 goals, while Pato met all expectations with 24 goals and most of those came after my appointment as manager. Well a great season is over and I now face the challenge of strengthening for a Champions League campaign. The likes of Ronaldinho and Pirlo took a huge wage cut to stay at the club an extra year. This will ease the financial strain, but Milan are still in some debt. Hopefully this will be sorted out sometime soon.
Thanks for reading folks, I’ll be reverting back to more frequent updates in this story. Probably every two to three months per post as my Newcastle story is on hold for a bit. I hope you enjoyed the read and I look forward to your comments. If you want to join us all in the Ultimate European Challenge, please follow the link and read the rules. Its very simple and should get us all into different cultures and styles of Football.