Mon,Nov 11,2013

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Soccer: Barcelona defeat widens Milan rift

By Denis Greenan (ANSA.IT)    17:52, November 11, 2013
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Rome, November 7 - The trouble at the top at Silvio Berlusconi's struggling seven-time European champs AC Milan was glaringly visible in the stands during Wednesday night's 3-1 loss to Barcelona in a Champions League Group H clash at the Nou Camp.

The media magnate and three-time premier's daughter, Barbara, now the most influential board member, never once looked at CEO Adriano Galliani, sitting right beside her, as Milan were sunk by two goals from the supreme Lionel Messi and one from Sergio Busquets.

Barbara Berlusconi recently blamed Galliani's alleged transfer-market bungling for Milan's woes.

The CEO, long the trusted right-hand man of formerly hands-on owner Silvio, has not replied publicly but the more than usually hangdog expression on his face spoke louder than words.

"It was a match within the match", Rome's La Repubblica daily said Thursday.

"Verging on a theatrical piece, the fixed stare of Galliani and the equally stunned look on the scion's face showed their shared discomfort but how far they are separated in terms of strategy", it said. The defeat leaves Milan with a chance of qualifying for the next round of the Champions League but has piled up the pressure on Milan coach Massimilano Allegri amid a dire Serie A stint.

According to the Italian media, he will be given his marching orders if Milan - hovering perilously close to the relegation zone - fail to win at Hellas Verona Sunday.

Adding to the club's troubles is the slump in the form of Mario Balotelli, pictured walking on water by Sports Illustrated in August when he voiced confidence he would overtake Messi as the world's best player.

Allegri dropped Balotelli to the bench against Barcelona and he came on in the second half to show flashes of the skill that have made him Italy's most feared striker.

The coach tried to play down the fuss about the Ghanaian-Italian's seesawing form, telling the press: "Mario was coming off an injury and an indifferent spell, but he's not a problem.

"He just has to get used to playing every three days".

Allegri also denied interference in team selection from Galliani or Silvio Berlusconi.

"I'm the one who picks the team," he said. Milan trail Serie A leaders AS Roma by 19 points and stand just three above the drop zone after Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina.

After 27 years as Silvio Berlusconi's unassailable club No.

2, Galliani's role is being increasingly questioned after Barbara called for a revamp.

The depth of the rift became apparent Sunday when ANSA sources revealed Barbara, a member of Milan's board since 2011, had talked to her father about the need for the club to change direction.

The sources said Barbara Berlusconi commented that Milan had not only invested small amounts on players in the last two transfer windows compared to previous years, but claimed the lower outlay had been spent badly.

As chief executive, Galliani is responsible for Milan's transfer dealings.

Balotelli has become the symbol of Milan's troubles.

The temperamental, talented 23-year-old was instrumental to Milan's strong finish to last season, which enabled them to qualify for the Champions League, after moving from Manchester City in January.

But he has picked up more yellow cards (nine in all competitions) than goals (five) this season and got his second suspension of the season after being booked against Fiorentina following a three-match ban for abusing a referee.

Berlusconi initially ruled out signing Balotelli, describing his as a rotten apple, but Galliani eventually convinced him to take a risk on the maverick.

That now reflects badly on Galliani, who was last week forced to deny speculation the club was considering offloading the striker.

According to La Repubblica, Balotelli is now unhappy at his new home, where he had initially been praised for settling in much better than at his previous clubs.

It reported that he posted Facebook musings about returning to England, and was even nostalgic about the former Inter coach who once described him as "not having even one neuron," Jose' Mourinho, now reviving his former pomp at Chelsea.

Milan's fans, who booed their team at the end of Saturday's loss and last week's 1-1 draw with Lazio, have also blasted the club's transfer dealings.

When Fiorentina scored their second goal at the San Siro Saturday, a banner was uncovered criticising the club for failing to bolster the defence and midfield in the close season.

The team's main coup of the summer campaign was bringing back Brazil playmaker Kaka', who has been in good form after recovering from injury and supplied the sharp cross deflected by Gerard Pique' for Milan's goal in Barcelona.

ANSA's sources said Barbara Berlusconi has grumbled to her father about the lack of long-term planning at the club and the weakness of its network of international talent scouts.

She issued a statement later on Sunday stressing that she had not called for Galliani to be dismissed, but acknowledged she had demanded a "change of company philosophy for Milan".

Galliani has refused to comment directly on the issue.

But he stressed that Allegri was not in danger of being sacked in the immediate future and he defended his record.

"I don't think you can measure a club on the basis of the results of the last few games," he said. "You should take a much longer period of time.

"Milan are much better than their current form suggests and this is shown in the rankings.

"We've taken part in the Champions League 11 times in the last 12 years and we're the only (Italian) team to have played in all the last five".

(Editor:YaoChun、Gao Yinan)

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