By Mark Doyle
While each and every AC Milan player that featured at Euro 2012 experienced disappointment in some shape or form, the tournament yielded nothing but positives from their employers’ perspective.
The Rossoneri sent five players over to Poland and Ukraine; six will return, and the most recent high-profile addition to Massimiliano Allegri’s squad, Riccardo Montolivo, did enough during Italy’s run to the final to convince the Diavolo that the former Fiorentina midfielder could prove one of the summer’s better Bosman signings.
It wasn't always so. After the latest in a long line of ineffective displays in the trequartista role for his country in the warm-up game against Russia, Montolivo was barely utilised in the group stages, featuring only as substitute in the 1-1 draw with Croatia.
However, the 27-year-old was recalled for the last-eight encounter with England and turned in an encouraging performance in Kiev before playing an integral role in the stirring 2-1 semi-final success over Germany, creating Mario Balotelli’s second goal with a sublime ball over the top.
Montolivo barely got a look-in during the final, but then, he was not alone in that regard and besides, Milan have not acquired him to play trequartista. However, that he has shown that he can fill in there if necessary is a major plus in light of the persistent muscular problems which plagued Kevin-Prince Boateng last season.
On the fitness front, though, Antonio Cassano starting each and every game Italy played in Poland and Ukraine is of even greater significance. The forward was, of course, hauled off during all six outings but it is worth remembering that 'Fantantonio' had only returned to action in April, after undergoing a minor heart procedure last November, and had only got through 90 minutes on one occasion, against Siena, before the domestic season’s end.
Cassano was replaced at half-time in the final and was dreadful in the quarter-final clash with England, but he will take enormous encouragement out of his contribution to Italy’s campaign, not least his stirring showing against Germany, with the former Sampdoria attacker terrorising die Mannschaft down the left wing for the duration of the first half.
Of course, there is some doubt over whether he will still be at the Giuseppe Meazza next season, having recently been linked with a return to the Blucerchiati. However, now that the Barese has proved his fitness, Milan are in a win-win here: they can either cash in on a player who cost them nothing; or simply retain the services of an attacker who should be firing on all cylinders again come August, all the better for 393 minutes of international football during a three-week spell.
The Rossoneri are in a similar position with Cassano's fellow forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose future remains the subject of much debate - both inside and outside of the club. Milan would rather hold onto last season’s Capocannoniere but their financial situation is such that they will have to balance the books somehow and with owner Silvio Berlusconi having performed a dramatic U-turn and decided against selling Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain for €46 million, Ibrahimovic, as the club’s second most valuable player, could easily be sacrificed to ease their cash-flow concerns.
Consequently, Adriano Galliani and his cohorts were no doubt delighted to see their talismanic Swedish striker underline the fact that he is currently in the form of his life by scoring arguably the goal of Euro 2012 and earn inclusion in the squad of the tournament even though his country had failed to reach the knockout stages - the only player to do so.
Just like Ibrahimovic, Antonio Nocerino went into the tournament on the back of what was, statistically speaking at the very least, the best season of his career to date. However, the dynamic midfielder was inexplicably restricted to just 41 minutes of game time by Italy boss Cesare Prandelli. Still, that is hardly Milan’s problem; if anything, it is a bonus that one of their internationals was so underused.
By contrast, the Rossoneri might be a tad disappointed that Philippe Mexes did not see more action, given the France defender managed just 14 appearances in Serie A last season after arriving from Roma injured. However, while the centre-half missed his country’s quarter-final defeat by Spain through suspension, having picked up two bookings in the group stages, he played every minute of Les Bleus’ games against England, Ukraine and Sweden.
Indeed, it was Mexes who tried in vain to block Ibrahimovic's stunning scissor kick in Kiev, something that the outspoken Swede will no doubt be keen to remind the Frenchman about when the pair see each other again at Milanello later this month - provided the 30-year-old striker is still a Milan player by that point.
There is an undeniable air of uncertainty around the club at the moment but what is clear that Euro 2012, while by no means a rip-roaring success for the Rossoneri, has given more back to Milan's players than it has taken out of them.
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