It was about 2am when the call came through. I don’t normally have my phone on “loud” when I’m asleep but I guess I forgot to switch it when I went down. “Razzo!” “Razzo!” The voice was loud. “Razzo, mi salvatore!” The voice was drunk or high. “Razzo, I need you! Come to me now!” It was Berlusconi.
Six hours later I was on a small private jet heading into the Swiss Alps. Four hours after that, I was being driven up a treacherous and winding road in a beautiful Alfa by a less-than-beautiful “Henri”. One hour after the former President of A.C. Monza 1912, dressed in nought but a silk robe, was hugging me and clapping me on the back at the entrance to a luxurious spa in Switzerland. The sounds of a boisterous party emanated from behind a pair of closed doors to the right; the unmistakable smell of alcohol was difficult to miss.
“You did it, mi stella! Serie A for our poor little Monza! Unfathomable! Only in my dreams! Tonight we shall party. I’ve invited a few special friends over; they are desperate to meet you!” Silvio had more than just a twinkle in his eye. Tonight was going to be heavy…
Welcome to quinta parte of Berlusconi’s Dream, thanks for reading. Well, we did it. It took two attempts in Serie B but Il Razzo has managed to get Monza promoted into Serie A and as champions, no less. This blog will provide a run down from where I last left you, to the present as the club prepares for its first season in the top flight. I’ll also provide a little more depth on the financial situation and our youth development success (or otherwise).
Where we left things last time
I’m sure you’ll recall but we had finished the first half of our first season in Serie B and sat in 9th. We had been playing a 4-2-3-1 to start the season but following inconsistent performances and a concerning lack of goals, we switched to a 5-4-1 which gave us what we needed. We were only 8 points shy of third (and promotion) and were optimistic about the second half…
The 21/22 season wrap-up (Serie B)
We finished 7th. Not a bloody bad effort at all! Particularly given that we were predicted to finish 15th. The change to the 5-4-1 worked well for about two months but then the inconsistency hit us again. Player performances dropped, particularly that of Mattia Finotto, and we only won two games total in April and May, conclusively knocking us out of the running. We ended up 13 points adrift of 3rd place but at one time, we were as close of five points off.
Meanwhile, #ForzBerlusconi himself, even while retired, was still pulling the strings for the club, completly undercutting the new owner, Luca Musto. He negotiated a new kit deal with Puma and followed that with a Main Kit sponsorship from The Emirates Group worth 775k for 1 year. The result was impressive (if I say so myself!):
The season 22/23 wrap-up (Serie B)
With flash new kits, the Monza players took to the field on the 13th of August, against newly-relegated SPAL, with optimism and energy. And got done 1-3. Frosinone, Catania (the Coppa Italia) and Pescara also beat us before our first win of the season, 2-1, home to Juve Stabia. But the prior results were damning. It was the same, if not worse, as the close of the season prior so changes were required. We returned to a 4-2-3-1, this time with an asymmetric twist, and subsequently went on a seven-game unbeaten run, followed by a 13-game unbeaten run (you may have seen something on that on twitter). The asymmetric system was wonderfully attacking and some games were nail-biting stuff; opposition through and over-the-top balls were as commonplace as corners and throw-ins and only marginally reduced when we dropped the defensive line.
Those unbeaten runs sent us to the top of the league and once there, we didn’t fall any further. We were appropriately chosen as the Overachieving Team in the seasonal review, finishing 15 places higher than our predicted 15th.
Our performance was largely on the back of the four players you see above at ML, AMC, AMR and STC:
They’ve been dicey to say the least. Each year we’ve increased our revenue, largely through sponsorship and gate receipts/season tickets both as a result of promotions and improved performances. That being said, we’ve lost, on average, about 550k a month albeit with a largely static wage bill. Our advance into Serie A should make all those problems go away. Our sponsorship for this season topped out at 6.5m which has left us with about 1.5m in the bank account. Gate receipts, season tickets and the delicious TV money should see us comfortably outweigh our debits each month.
Now that we’ve made it into Serie A, the focus really does switch to playing slowly and putting everything into making sure we recruit, train and manage the best youth prospects that we can. The squad rules of Serie B necessitated using young players so the squad is largely full of early-20’s players already but there hasn’t really been a lot coming through from our youth intakes. Casasola came in the very first (when Brocchi was still in charge) and the only other decent player, a GK, was snapped up by Brescia when there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
This dearth of young talent has pushed me into the transfer market. Having read and been inspired by Mikaelinho’s blog on his process at Manchester United, I decided to copy him (it’s flattery, right!?) and look for youngsters who met some conditions based on core attributes and positive personalities. Through the past two seasons I’ve signed the following youngsters:
The season 23/24 outlook
It’s going to be tough. Really tough. There’s a little bit of talent in the squad but it barely competes with what I’m going to face this season. My best player, Longo, doesn’t compare to Inter’s leading scorer, Sebastiano Esposito, who is the same age…:
We just need to stay in the division and bank all the cash we can. At worst, we’ll get 2.5m for finishing 17th and that, coupled with what looks about 34m in TV rights, means we’re going to pull in something like 45m a season. If we only lose about 4m, as we have in previous years, we’ll be in good shape in a few years time.
I’ve signed only one player heading into the season, another ex-Milan type who’ll start at Centreback but there was probably a reason that a Serie A team released him, right?
If Berlusconi’s Dream was to bring Monza to Serie A then what is his fantasy? Perhaps it starts with beating Milan? Wish me luck.