Last season was Ragnar’s last at Greuther Fürth, and it was a very successful one. This season, he embarks on a new adventure and the challenges it’ll bring. Let’s see things go.
Well, the first thing he had to do was find himself a new job. As previously mentioned, going to another club in Germany just didn’t feel… right – for Ragnar, or for me – after all he’d done with Greuther so that meant leaving the country for pastures very new.
There were a few jobs open in Spain, but all of them in the second tier. As much as Ragnar was looking for a challenge, that would be a bit much of a challenge for this stage of his career. What really interested him was that there were three positions available for Serie A teams over in Italy – Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan.
All three of them are prestigious jobs and all three of them, in terms of history at least, would be a step up from where he’s come from. Which meant that he had a choice to make. After looking at who else was in the running for each job, and given my own fondness for the Sacchi era of Milan, he decided to apply for the job in Milan.
The interview went well and he was offered the job, which he accepted.
So he packed up his apartment and hopped on a plane to Italy with his peace lily and his cat. As you do.
When he touched down, he went straight to the club to see what he was going to be working with. Straight away he noticed two things.
Firstly, the club has no left backs. Or right backs. At all. So that wasn’t the best start, but at least it made his transfer priorities fairly easy to sort out. There was a hitch there, too, though. After the allocation of the TV money came in, the club has a bank balance of £90mil. Nice, right? Oh, yeah, the club also has a wage spend of £150mil.
In a completely unrelated event, another spending priority was a new desk for Ragnar’s office.
There were some positives though – the squad that he had at his disposal looked as though it would fit the system he settled on with Greuther very nicely as long as he brought in some wing backs. He promoted a couple from the U20 side and brought in a new right back and had to make do with what he had.
Preseason went well and the team took to his style of play well. In this period, Ragnar met with the press to introduce himself and was asked about the new manager of Greuther, who turned out to be Diego Simeone. He was spending a lot of money to – in his words – upgrade a squad that badly needed reinforcing. You know, the one that just made a clean sweep of silverware. Ragnar was not impressed.
Straight away, the chance to display his displeasure came in the form of the Champions League group stage draw which, because of course it did, saw Ragnar’s new team in the same group as his old team.
Other then putting them to the sword in the home leg, our form until that point had been a bit all over the place with Milan finding it hard to put a run of results together.
Things started looking up as we got closer to the winter break but things still weren’t working out quite as well as he would have liked and our league position would have to agree.
It should also be pointed out that Simeone’s ‘highly reinforced’ and free spending Greuther ended up finishing bottom of the group in the tournament they won the season before and, at the winter break, were sitting 11th in the Bundesliga. Ragnar was close to declaring an eternal blood feud.
Instead, he used the winter break to tweak and reevaluate his playing system to try to get the consistency and stability out of it that his side desperately needed.
As you can see from the image to the right, it definitely worked out and bringing in a Danish wonderkid striker in the form of Mikkel Kjærsgaard from FC Midtylland to replace the aging and seriously declining Alvaro Morata saw us mount a title challenge.
With his fourteen goals in sixteen Serie A appearances, the 19 year old Dane carried us to the final match of the season – we were a point ahead of Napoli in second but if they beat Fiorentina and we did anything but win, we’d lose our grip on the title.
We beat Empoli thanks to a Kjærsgaard hat trick and we take the Scudetto from Juventus’ clingy hands – they’ve won it every season of Ragnar’s career so far – to get their first league win since 2011. Not bad for a first season in Italy, adding that to the Supercoppa TIM and the TIM Cup for a domestic treble.
We were beaten in the Champions League first knockout round by a very good Lyon side, so we’ll have to go again next season for that one, but overall it was a very good first season at his new club for Ragnar.
As you can see from the image on the right, what I was saying about Milan’s form in the first half of the season was, if anything, a bit of an understatement until everything gelled and Ragnar made his tweaks to his system.
They weren’t anything particularly fancy, it was just a case of simplifying what he was already doing and making sure everything was working out exactly as he wanted it to.
Next year, he’s going to be looking at trimming the wage budget even more and looking to unearth some talent to replace his aging defence and midfield. All while trying to retain the silverware he brought to the club this season.
All in all, it should be a fun one.