So last year went a bit better than expected – clean sweeps of domestic silverware in your first season are pretty rare, after all – and now we enter that difficult second season as we hope to keep our success going.
It started off inauspiciously, as Ragnar accidentally brought in two non-EU wingers to strengthen the squad but can only register one of them thanks to the Italian registration rules. So, from the get go, things were going well. He decided that the right wing was the weakest, and registered Danny Dean (the first non-EU player following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU) and sent Denis Passos (the other one) out on loan to Napoli to get some playing time. 33 year old Memphis Depay would need to hold down the left for us for one more season until Passos can be registered.
Pre-season, once again, went well despite Dean getting a straight red five minutes into a friendly against Bayern for demonstrating the finer points of a no deal Brexit using their right back’s knee as his canvas. Strong? Certainly. Stable? He clearly isn’t. Should be a fun season.
The first half of the season clearly went well as Ragnar’s side went undefeated in all competitions.
The Champions League group stage saw us drawn in a group with Greuther Fürth once again with the only real difference being that they actually qualified from the group this time, despite Simeone’s best efforts to undo all of Ragnar’s good work.
He later got fired over Christmas and Luis Enrique was brought in to replace him. Ragnar approved of this change.
As you can see, too, our defence was mean at the start of the season, with only twelve goals conceded in all competitions in this period. Honestly not entirely sure how that one happened, but I’m definitely not upset about it.
Our form in the league saw us take top spot from matchday two and then just… stay there right up until the winter break, decimating teams with the most lethal attack and the most determined defence in the league. Which is a pretty good combination, really, when you think about it. We were racking up the yellow cards though.
This form continued into the second half of the season in all competitions, as you can see. We had some moments that were a bit shaky – penalty wins in the Supercoppa and Champions League finals, as well as needing extra time to finish off most of our ties in the Champions League knockout rounds – but well, when you’ve got a hardworking and determined squad that’s not that much of a problem.
We retained all the silverware we picked up last season and added a Champions League to that – on penalties, as mentioned previously – for a clean sweep of all available silverware this season.
As well as this, we set records for number of wins in a Serie A season (29 from 38) and Gianluigi Donnarumma set a new Serie A record for number of clean sheets in a single season (27 from 38), conceding only fifteen times in the league. Came third in the goalkeeper of the year award, though, completely inexplicably.
We also had an invincible season in the league this term, marking the first time that Ragnar has done that so far in his career.
And, despite being one of the most successful managers in the country at this point, he did win manager of the year. I was actually stunned.
I’d be fuming if I was the Juventus boss, though. Imagine having the season they’ve had and still coming second by fifteen points instead of winning the league.
In fact, as you can see from the results that I posted above, we actually only lost one game in all competitions this season, meaning that it was basically a perfect year for Ragnar’s Milan and it’s going to be pretty much impossible to beat this one. Which gives us an interesting problem moving forwards.
One of the rules I set down for myself was that Ragnar would only move if and when he felt there was nothing left to achieve with a club and given how well this season went, I think it’s fair to say that he’s done that. I mean, how do you improve on a season where you only lost one game in total, across multiple fronts? In short, you can’t.
The club also turned a profit this year, thanks to a massive new sponsorship deal brought in by the success we’ve had over the last two seasons and a truly massive amount of prize money brought in too, as well as by slashing the wage budget.
We’ve still got roughly £100mil to come in in TV money, too, as well as whatever player sales we might make, meaning that the financial situation the club is in is now, clearly, exponentially better than when Ragnar first joined.
So what is there that’s left to do?
Winning the Europa League is something that still eludes Ragnar, but dropping down into that competition would be a step backwards for his Milan squad and we’ve won everything else…apart from the Euro Super Cup. It’s not the biggest cup competition in the world, but it is the last one available that isn’t a step down for his side to win.
So! We stay for one more year to see if we can put that in a trophy cabinet that’s already bursting at the seams slightly. After that, I’m not entirely sure what Ragnar will do next. He came to Italy to join an under-performing Milan side, and immediately got them performing well above expectations and then turned around and got even more out of them without too much in the way of effort.
Given that he left Germany to chase down new challenges, this isn’t exactly ideal. It’s great for his reputation – he’s now ranked 20th in the top twenty managers of all time – but it’s not what he was looking for. After two years, it’s safe to say that we’ve already taken Milan about as far as they can possibly go in terms of silverware, and throwing in an invincible league season for good measure is pretty much the cherry on top of achievements for him in Italy. There’s just no challenge left for him there.
All of this means that we’re going to be getting a bit more ‘traditional’ journeyman for a little bit and taking leave of a club at the end of Ragnar’s third season in charge, but with a bulging trophy cabinet in tow. So it’s not all bad.