As one of Europe's most historic football clubs, AC Milan need no introduction. The North Italian club have won Serie A on 19 occasions, and have seen more continental success than any other Italian team, having won the European Cup seven times.
However, Milan's recent history has been less than sparkling. After winning the league in the 2010-11 season, fans of the Rossoneri will have been disappointed that the team could only finish second the following campaign. What came next was even harder to predict.
Milan spent much of the following decade looking up the table at the Champions League positions, and without any European football at all. The club finished 8th at the climax of the 2013-14 season, and 10th the year after. Years of finishing 7th, 6th, and 5th followed.
Meanwhile, Juventus hoovered up Serie A titles. They did this first under Antonio Conte and then, when he left, they took Milan's manager. Massimiliano Allegri was seen by many to be underperforming at Milan, which only made his continued success at Juventus stick in the craw even more for Milanisti. The club drifted aimlessly for most of the decade, before Stefano Pioli took over.
Finally, Milan had an identity again. After the break in football enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic, the side managed a 10-game unbeaten streak. The club hierarchy were planning on appointing Ralf Rangnick as manager, but decided to stick with Pioli. The Italian rewarded them. He finished second the following season, behind rivals Inter.
The club were back in the Champions League, and they weren't done yet. Pioli went a step further. As Inter failed to keep hold of Antonio Conte, and several of their players, ahead of the 2021-22 season, it was advantage Milan. Pioli's team were well backed by those who bet on football with SkyBet, and a strong league campaign saw them finish as champions of Serie A.
Now back at the top of Italian football, and having returned to the Champions League, onlookers are wondering what will follow for Pioli's side. The squad is a mix of experience and youth. Rafael Leão is already a star attacker at only 22, and Fikayo Tomori looks set to anchor the Milan backline for the best part of a decade. The likes of Ismaël Bennacer and Sandro Tonali have performed well in midfield, while Mike Maignan's performances between the sticks have seen the Rossoneri move on from Gianluigi Donnarumma without too much trouble.
That being said, the Italian giants have work to do. Franck Kessié has been a key performer in midfield, but isn't expected to be at club for next season. Meanwhile, the main centre forward options are Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimović. The pair have a combined age of 75, meaning that Milan will likely need investment in both the centre of the pitch and their frontline, if they're to retain the title next season.
Furthermore, for a club with Milan's European heritage, they have work to do in the Champions League. Pioli's side finished bottom of their group last season, below Liverpool, Atlético Madrid, and Porto, with four points from six games. This will unquestionably be an area where both the club hierarchy and the fanbase will be expecting more from the side, and Milan will need to improve their squad depth if they hope to challenge on multiple fronts next season.
All that being said, Pioli's side have put themselves in prime position to become the new peninsular power. After a near decade of dominance, Juventus are in the middle of a tricky rebuilding process, and we may be set for another era of Milan rivalry, as Pioli's side look set to battle Simone Inazghi's Inter for domestic success, while both sides are likely to feature prominently in European competitions in the coming years.