AC Milan announced the signing of former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien on Monday, but it is a move that should signal the end of the club humouring supporters with their youth policy strategy.
Since Barbara Berlusconi became a more prominent figure in the club’s hierarchy, she has consistently spoken about the requirement of building for the future on the pitch, whilst implementing the right strategies off of it.
Her ideology includes utilising the youth sector, and supporting the push to promote young talents through the various levels of the clubs until they ultimately grow into a significant part of the senior squad.
Initially, there appeared to be a solid foundation to that plan, as Mattia De Sciglio, Bryan Cristante and Stephan El Shaarawy were just three of the names to make an impression in the first team.
However, despite Massimiliano Allegri’s sacking and the appointment of Clarence Seedorf, it appears as though the club continues to move away from their youth strategy as Essien joins the likes of Kaka and Adil Rami in the squad.
The short-term benefits of the move are not in doubt, as Essien will help cover for injuries and suspensions, particularly in Europe where Milan are looking to progress as far as possible as the only Italian team left in the Champions League, which will in turn see them take a larger slice of the TV revenue.
However, for a club that is supposedly set to build a new squad capable of leading them into a new cycle of success, the acquisition of players in their late 20s and early 30s appears to be baffling for most supporters.
Seedorf has consistently insisted since his arrival that the Rossoneri were at the end of a cycle when he left in 2012, and he now returns as the coach who is tasked with leading them towards a brighter future.
Considering he has the club’s best interests at heart, there is no need to argue with that sentiment. However, there is little point in frustrating supporters by insisting that youth is important if they continue to pack the squad with players who won’t allow room for development for the younger stars.
Essien brings experience and a fighting spirit into the heart of the midfield, although there are evident signs that he is no longer the player he was once was prior to his knee injuries.
He will likely be motivated to perform well ahead of the World Cup, but then to offer him a €3m salary next season is not logical considering his age and the current financial state of the club.
It almost appears as though the initial good work by the club is being undone as they move away from a youth-based plan, and at this point in time they appear to be taking a short-termism approach when they really need to be looking further ahead.