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Soccer: Milan vow to react after European debacle

Serie A giants set to end season trophyless

12 March, 16:52
Soccer: Milan vow to react after European debacle (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, March 12 - AC Milan are vowing to react after they were turfed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage with a humbling 4-1 defeat at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

The exit means seven-time European champions Milan are set to end the season trophyless as they are also out of the Italian Cup and the Serie A title race.

Furthermore, they look set to fail to qualify for European competition for the first time since the 1998-99 campaign, as they are 10th in Serie A, 37 points behind leaders Juventus.

The debacle is also bad news for Italian soccer as a whole as Milan were the country's last representative in Europe's premier club competition and for the first time since 2009 there will be no Serie A sides in the quarterfinals.

"No one has died," said Milan coach Clarence Seedorf. "We lost a Champions League game away from home.

"Now we'll get back to work. We have difficult challenges ahead, but we're moving forward, bit by bit, with determination.

"When I fall, I'm used to getting back up". Former Milan midfielder Seedorf is under fire, as he has picked up six defeats in 11 competitive games since replacing Massimiliano Allegri at the helm of his old side in January, despite having no experience in charge of a senior team.

But so is the club's policy in recent years of reducing spending on the transfer market and trying to develop a competitive team based on young players.

The lack of leadership was clear as Milan faded away in the second half in Madrid on Tuesday.

The only flashes of inspiration came from Brazil playmaker Kakà, who briefly gave the visitors hope with an equaliser when they were 1-0 down in the first half.

Italy striker Mario Balotelli failed to make an impact and lived up to his reputation for being a tempestuous character by getting a needless booking for dissent against the referee.

Given the current state of the club, some soccer pundits fear it may be a long time before Milan take part in the Champions League again.

"Even Seedorf will realise that beautiful words don't take you anywhere," read an editorial in Wednesday's edition of sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"You can work on the team's mind, but if the material is not good quality, results are unlikely to arrive.

"It would make no sense to give Seedorf the thumbs down at the moment, but Milan's next game is against Parma, who haven't lost in 15 games. Another big defeat could be costly for him".

Some pundits have said Seedorf should spend the rest of the season deciding which players in the existing squad he can use to build a new future with and which he should offload.

There have even been suggestions that, for all his talent, 23-year-old Balotelli should be sold to generate money to invest in rebuilding the side.

Amid the gloom, Seedorf, 37, won the backing of Italy boss Cesare Prandelli Wednesday.

"What's happening at Milan makes me smile," Prandelli said.

"Ten days ago Seedorf was the saviour and now his situation is in doubt. This is Italian football, but this way of thinking has tired me.

"You can't be judged on one match or result. There are lots of elements to reflect on".