THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Barbara Berlusconi critical of Adriano Galliani

icon ishmael6 November ~ Taking on Barcelona is always a challenge, but tonight's visit to the Nou Camp looks particularly daunting for AC Milan given the state they find themselves in. The seven-time European champions are second in Champions League Group H, two points behind Barça, who they held 1-1 at home last month, but their domestic form is dreadful. They were booed off at home after last week's 1-1 draw with Lazio and Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina, which leaves them trailing Serie A leaders Roma by 19 points after 11 games and just three points clear of the relegation zone.

It's their worst start since the 1981-82 season, when they ended up getting relegated. Inevitably, there is talk of coach Massimiliano Allegri's job being on the line and Italy striker Mario Balotelli has been portrayed in the media as the "symbol" of Milan's "crisis" as he has notched more yellow cards than goals so far this season. But the team's current woes also seem to have opened up a rift that goes even higher, between owner Silvio Berlusconi's daughter Barbara, a Milan board member, and CEO Adriano Galliani, who has been the ex-premier's right-hand man in football for 27 years.

Barbara Berlusconi has effectively confirmed reports she's been grumbling to her dad about Galliani's transfer dealings. The 29-year-old who, among other things, is the ex-girlfriend of ex-Milan forward Alexandre Pato, issued a statement Sunday denying having asked for the CEO's departure – a claim the media had not carried – but acknowledging she had asked for modernisation of the club's "philosophy".

Milan fans have also complained about Galliani's handling of Milan's transfer budget, which is not as big as it used to be. The main complaint is that bringing Kaká back from Real Madrid was very well, but the club needed to do more to reinforce the midfield and defence to be competitive. The gripes seem reasonable given the situation, but Galliani – who strikes me as one of the more likeable characters in Italian football, but I might be perverse – can also claim with some justification that Milan have won a trophy or two on his watch and you can't judge his record on a handful of games. The upshot is that Silvio Berlusconi is reportedly having to take time between dealing with his political and legal problems to mediate between his daughter and his long-standing pal.

It's not all woe for Milan though ahead of their eighth clash with Barcelona in three seasons. Keeper Christian Abbiati is expected to return after a calf strain and French defender Philippe Mexès is available again after serving a four-match ban for punching Giorgio Chiellini in a defeat to Juventus last month. Paul Virgo

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