Six weeks can be an eternity in soccer and in politics. On July 20, AC Milan owner
(Maybe he hasn't seen
• On new coach
• On central defender
(Outstanding at what? Table tennis? Thiago Silva did not play a single minute.)
Milan fans greeted him with insults and urged him to either spend some money to strengthen the squad or sell up and leave. Berlusconi replied that he was the most successful president in the history of world football (which, strictly speaking, isn't true -- legendary Real Madrid president
Berlusconi, who is normally more accustomed to unquestioned adulation, kept a low profile for about six weeks after that appearance. But he resurfaced this week, in the last 48 hours of the transfer window, just in time to sanction the signings of
It was vintage Berlusconi. He sensed the changing mood and seized the moment to pull off two transfers that instantly restore buzz to the red and black half of Milan. And it may not be entirely unrelated to his day job -- that of Prime Minister of Italy -- either. For the past few seasons Berlusconi cited the recession for Milan's understated transfer campaigns: How could he ask the country to tighten its belt if his own club continued to be profligate in its spending? But if you want to be cynical you could conclude that voters (and certainly Milan fans) prefer a powerful owner who delivers superstars and, hopefully, titles to a guy who, in difficult times and in the name of integrity, makes the same tough cuts in his club that he makes in his government.
That, perhaps more than anything, explains Berlusconi's newfound interest in the club: a need to quickly generate buzz and flex his muscle. Because if the idea was to invest with an eye to success in the medium term, perhaps his choices would have been different.
As it stands, there's plenty of eye candy there, though how well it's put together remains to be seen. The vibe coming out of Milanello is that we won't see too much of the fabled front four -- Ibrahmimovic, Robinho,
Instead, Allegri more than likely will implement some kind of rotation and stick to the 4-3-3, with Robinho and Ronaldinho (and to a lesser degree Pato) alternating most of the time. That makes more sense, not least because Milan is chock-full of central midfielders --
There are still concerns, of course.
All told, regardless of why, Milan has improved considerably. It may not have the top-to-bottom depth and quality to win Serie A, but it could make a splash in Europe. Which, if history is anything to go by, is how Berlusconi prefers it anyway.