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Champions League draw, round of 16: What time is it and who can the English clubs face?

What is it? This is the draw for the last-16 stage of the Champions League. When is it? The draw will take place on Monday, December 11, 2017. What time is kick-off? The balls will be drawn at 11pm (GMT) in Nyon, Switzerland. You can follow all the action right here when this page turns into our live blog. Which English teams are involved? All five Premier League sides that entered European football's elite competition advanced through the group stage. That means Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham will all take place in the last-16 draw. Chelsea were the only English team to make it through as runners-up, with the other four sides all topping their group. Chelsea drew their final group match against Atletico Madrid Credit: getty images Here is the full list of the 32 teams who will go into the pot: Group winners: Barcelona, Besiktas, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Roma, Tottenham Hotspur. Runners-up: Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Basel, Porto, Juventus, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk. How does the draw work? Two seeding pots will be formed: one consisting of group winners and the other of runners-up. No team can play a club from their initial Champions League group or any side from their own country. Seeded group winners will be away in the round of 16 first legs on 13/14 and 20/21 February and at home in the return matches on 6/7 and 13/14 March. Who can the Premier League sides face? Chelsea: Barcelona, Besiktas, Paris Saint-Germain. Liverpool: Bayern Munich, Basel, Porto, Juventus, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk. Manchester City: Bayern Munich, Basel, Porto, Juventus, Real Madrid, Sevilla. Manchester United: Bayern Munich, Porto, Juventus, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk. Tottenham : Bayern Munich, Basel, Porto, Juventus, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk.

Champions League draw, round of 16: What time is it and who can the English clubs face?

What is it? This is the draw for the last-16 stage of the Champions League. When is it? The draw will take place on Monday, December 11, 2017. What time is kick-off? The balls will be drawn at 11pm (GMT) in Nyon, Switzerland. You can follow all the action right here when this page turns into our live blog. Which English teams are involved? All five Premier League sides that entered European football's elite competition advanced through the group stage. That means Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham will all take place in the last-16 draw. Chelsea were the only English team to make it through as runners-up, with the other four sides all topping their group. Chelsea drew their final group match against Atletico Madrid Credit: getty images Here is the full list of the 32 teams who will go into the pot: Group winners: Barcelona, Besiktas, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Roma, Tottenham Hotspur. Runners-up: Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Basel, Porto, Juventus, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk. How does the draw work? Two seeding pots will be formed: one consisting of group winners and the other of runners-up. No team can play a club from their initial Champions League group or any side from their own country. Seeded group winners will be away in the round of 16 first legs on 13/14 and 20/21 February and at home in the return matches on 6/7 and 13/14 March. Who can the Premier League sides face? Chelsea: Barcelona, Besiktas, Paris Saint-Germain. Liverpool: Bayern Munich, Basel, Porto, Juventus, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk. Manchester City: Bayern Munich, Basel, Porto, Juventus, Real Madrid, Sevilla. Manchester United: Bayern Munich, Porto, Juventus, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk. Tottenham : Bayern Munich, Basel, Porto, Juventus, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk.

Napoli draws 0-0 against Fiorentina, fails to go back top

Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco looks down during the Serie A soccer match between Cheivo Verona and AS Roma at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. (Simone Venezia/ANSA via AP)

Napoli draws 0-0 against Fiorentina, fails to go back top

Roma's Radja Nainggolan, left, and teammates react at the end of the Serie A soccer match between Cheivo Verona and AS Roma at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. The match ended 0-0. (Simone Venezia/ANSA via AP)

Napoli draws 0-0 against Fiorentina, fails to go back top

Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino grabs the ball during the Serie A soccer match between Cheivo Verona and AS Roma at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. The match ended 0-0. (Simone Venezia/ANSA via AP)

Napoli draws 0-0 against Fiorentina, fails to go back top

Chievo Verona players applaud fans at the end of the Serie A soccer match between Cheivo Verona and AS Roma at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. The match ended 0-0. (Simone Venezia/ANSA via AP)

NVR001. Manchester (United Kingdom), 10/12/2017.- Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku (R) challenges Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi during the English premier league soccer match between Manchester united and Manchester City at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, Britain, 10 December 2017. (Roma) EFE/EPA/Nigel Roddis EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications

NVR001. Manchester (United Kingdom), 10/12/2017.- Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku (R) challenges Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi during the English premier league soccer match between Manchester united and Manchester City at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, Britain, 10 December 2017. (Roma) EFE/EPA/Nigel Roddis EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications

Roma's Bruno da Silva Peres (left) in action during the Serie A match against Chievo in Verona, on December 10, 2017

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Chievo's goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino (L) applauds fans after the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Chievo Verona and AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Players of Chievo react after the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Chievo Verona and AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Players of Chievo (yellow) and Roma react after the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Chievo Verona and AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Roma's Edin Dzeko (2-L) in action against Chievo's Dario Dainelli (C) during the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Chievo Verona and AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Roma's Maxime Gonalons (R) in action during the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Chievo Verona and AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Roma's Federico Fazio reacts during the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Chievo Verona and AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Roma's Edin Dzeko reacts during the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Chievo Verona and AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Roma's Stephan El Shaarawy and Chievo's Ivan Radovanovic in action during the Italian Serie A soccer match AC Chievo vs AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Chievo's Riccardo Meggiorini and Roma's Aleksandar Kolarov in action during the Italian Serie A soccer match AC Chievo vs AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy 10 December 2017. (Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Verona (Italy), 10/12/2017.- Roma's head coach Eusebio Di Francesco reacts during the Italian Serie A soccer match AC Chievo vs AS Roma at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy 10 December 2017. (Francia, Italia) EFE/EPA/SIMONE VENEZIA

Gennaro Gattuso puts the bite back into AC Milan's dugout but has a battle to turn toiling team's fortunes 

Rino Gattuso has never been bashful about his belligerence. The AC Milan manager had clocked only 10 days in the job before his side’s dead rubber Europa League defeat by Rijeka last Thursday compelled Ringhio, 'the Growl’, to betray his disgruntlement with his charges. “We have got to change direction,” he said. “Because we are going nowhere like this. When you wear the Milan jersey, you need to respect it. When we get a punch in the teeth, I get the feeling we never recover.” The World Cup-winning midfielder, a consummate scuffler who won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles in 13 years at the club, once butted the Tottenham coach Joe Jordan, a venture most who knew anything about the abrasive former Leeds United, Manchester United, Scotland and, yes, Milan centre-forward would happily swap with a kamikaze commission. In 2003 he was sent off for slapping the 6ft 5in Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the face and though the two ended up as team-mates during Milan’s last scudetto-winning campaign in 2010-11, the incorrigible Ibrahimovic had his revenge for that episode and a few salty training ground words, by picking Gattuso up and depositing him head first into a dressing room bin. One wonders if that is the kind of response Gattuso would welcome now. At least it shows some spirit. “When I lost a match I broke down in frustration,” he said. “Today players lose, take a selfie and put it on the internet. They make me sick.” It’s an attitude - a kind of disgust - that aligns a manager with supporters whose exasperation during six years of decline has curdled into revulsion and open revolt. It is also dangerous in two senses - firstly in a volatile football culture where fans are not unafraid of physical confrontation with players it could be misinterpreted. Secondly, although owners think they want a hardline approach, a disciplinarian to kick backsides and focus minds on a common purpose, they rarely have the stomach to see it through should the merest whiff of player alienation and resistance emanate from the training ground. Think of the clubs who appoint an insurgent to transform the atmosphere and practices - Real Madrid with John Toshack’s second appointment, say, or Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland - and before too long points of principle are sacrificed, along with the taskmaster, in pursuit of peace. And the trigger point usually follows public criticism of a player, a line Gattuso flirted with when addressing the travails of his £34m centre-forward in Croatia. “We all know his qualities, he's a player of international level,” he said. "He struggled today, he looked like a foreign object in the team. When you have the opportunity to play for 90 minutes wearing AC Milan's shirt you have to do more.” Gattuso confront Joe Jordan in 2011 Credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini He has been in charge for only two games - a 2-2 draw with Benevento whose goalkeeper scored a 95th-minute equaliser to claim their first point of the season after 14 lost league matches - and the defeat by Rijeka that did not affect Milan’s place at the top of Europa League Group D in their first continental campaign for four seasons. Both set-backs were palpably the players’ fault but managers are always dispensable no matter their service and loyalty, especially at Milan. Mauro Tassotti and Cristian Brocchi, like Gattuso, have moved up from the youth department to run the first team in caretaker roles but left the club after not getting the full-time job while Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi, team-mates of Gattuso, have also endured stints in charge since the club sacked Max Allegri in 2014. Twice during the past 3½ years they have looked outside and appointed Sinisa Mihajlovic and Vincenzo Montella but neither, despite winning one in two league games, have convinced an impatient club that they have solved the long-standing problems of brittleness and inconsistency. Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix – give the manager’s job to a favoured son and demand a miracle. Where Silvio Berlusconi had the drive 20 years before to rebuild an institution, the club was in the business of providing instant gratification on the cheap for the six years since their 2011 title until he finally completed the sale to Rossoneri Sport Investment last spring. It was a convoluted deal involving the stipulated payment of instalments, one of which was rescheduled, to Li Yonghong’s Luxembourg-based holding company. The €740m deal, it later emerged, was partly financed by a €303m bridging loan from Elliott Management, the New York hedge fund firm, repayable next November at an interest rate of 11.5 per cent for the first €180m and 7.7% on the remainder. Small wonder Li’s investment vehicle is looking to refinance before then because the conditions attached to the loan, as well as the eye-watering rate, means any default hands ownership of the club to the ‘vulture fund’. 'A knife wound would have been less painful than that goal,' Gattuso said of the Benevento equaliser Credit: CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images In addition to the mechanics of the serpentine takeover process and timetable, the specifics of Li’s business interests in China have been queried and his disputes with regulators there detailed by the New York Times last month. Like other things in Europe, the takeover has hardly led to the broad, sunlit uplands of institutional rejuvenation. Back in the summer of 2015, Berlusconi splurged €80m on five players but without a proper structure in place succeeded only in moving up from 10th to 7th in the league in spite of Carlos Bacca’s 18 goals. Before this season they spent €230m, bringing in Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, Lucas Biglia, Franck Kessie, Nikola Kalinic and Fabio Borini. Bonucci, a terrific centre-back at Juventus and designed to be a talismanic signing, has been woeful, even though Montella switched to a back three after the 4-1 defeat by Lazio in September. His effort is conspicuous but the concentration lapses that persuaded Inter to let him go 10 years ago have returned as he tries to inspire a skittish team spooked by the crowd’s irritation. All the positives of his game at Juventus, the way he galloped forward or started attacks with diagonal, chipped passes are of little use to an anxious, dysfunctional team and the change of system has unnerved the excellent Alessio Romagnoli. Moreover the multiplicity of unsatsfactory options has fostered indecisive selection: Montella selected 20 different starters in 14 league games. Leonardo Bonucci has been out of sorts for club and country since moving to Milan from Juventus last summer Credit: Daniel Dal Zennaro/ANSA via AP More than anything, the incontinent spree exposes a fundamental flaw with their recruitment process. Hardly any of Milan’s recent big money signings have prospered and the majority of them have been bombed out within a couple of years. Alessandro Matri, Luiz Adriano, Andrea Bertolacci, Gianluca Lapadula and Bacca were all brought in for significant fees over the past three season and each has already left for a loss apart from Bacca who is out on loan at Sevilla but has no desire to come back. So far they  have been beaten by Empoli, Lazio, Sampdoria, Roma, Inter and Napoli and have not scored at home in the league since Sept 20. A club that has spent heavily and is in the midst of complex, crucial refinancing negotiations said at the start of the season that Champions League qualification was an imperative. As it has to be for those who do not own their own stadiums and are trying to break into the top end of the Far East merchandising market. It’s where the money that would allow them to compete with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and the petrodollar giants has to come from. They are currently 13 points off fourth place which makes winning the Europa Cup an attractive alternative. Such a disjointed performance against Rijeka, therefore, has rattled even more cages. Andre Silva, who cost £35m, was singled out for criticism by Gattuso after his inept performance against Rijeka Credit: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic In some circumstances Gattuso is the ideal hair shirt manager. The Pisa side he led to promotion to Serie B in 2016 were extraordinarily hard working and though they were relegated in 21st place at the end of their their first season back up after being unable to strengthen the squad significantly, they managed to draw 21 of 42 games and conceded only 36 goals, the second lowest in the division. That they managed to score a mere 23, however, illustrates that the virtues of diligence, discipline, coherent organisation, unyielding passion and commitment can only do so much to compensate for a lack of talent and invention. But even in those reduced circumstances, Gattuso managed to impose a coherent structure on the team, if not the club. At Milan that will not be enough. The problems with the team are a symptom of what is wrong with the club and introducing some bite in the dug-out because they have no bite on the pitch can only be a short-term solution. Gattuso can preach as much as he likes about the Milan way and the duty the players owe to the shirt but when you have new owners, new executives and new players the transfusion takes a lot longer. He may sort the defence out because that has been his forte but the success of ‘management by hand grenade’, as the former Swindon CEO, Nick Watkins, described Paolo Di Canio’s approach, is typically fleeting. The best young players in world football After five topsy-turvy seasons of decline, it is preposterous to think a turnaround could be achieved by Montella, a manager who has never qualified for the Champions League, and seemingly scattergun recruitment. It’s a long road back for the second most successful club in European history and establishing firm foundations with the investment would have seemed more logical than a dash for glory but perhaps with the loan the takeover vehicle required and its terms, it had to be that way. Prudence is rarely the seductive option but onfield it is likely to be Gattuso’s most effective approach and the 15,000 increase on average attendances from last season in the seven games so far is a positive sign amid the muddle. A goal against Bologna at San Siro on Sunday night would be an overdue step forward.

Gennaro Gattuso puts the bite back into AC Milan's dugout but has a battle to turn toiling team's fortunes 

Rino Gattuso has never been bashful about his belligerence. The AC Milan manager had clocked only 10 days in the job before his side’s dead rubber Europa League defeat by Rijeka last Thursday compelled Ringhio, 'the Growl’, to betray his disgruntlement with his charges. “We have got to change direction,” he said. “Because we are going nowhere like this. When you wear the Milan jersey, you need to respect it. When we get a punch in the teeth, I get the feeling we never recover.” The World Cup-winning midfielder, a consummate scuffler who won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles in 13 years at the club, once butted the Tottenham coach Joe Jordan, a venture most who knew anything about the abrasive former Leeds United, Manchester United, Scotland and, yes, Milan centre-forward would happily swap with a kamikaze commission. In 2003 he was sent off for slapping the 6ft 5in Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the face and though the two ended up as team-mates during Milan’s last scudetto-winning campaign in 2010-11, the incorrigible Ibrahimovic had his revenge for that episode and a few salty training ground words, by picking Gattuso up and depositing him head first into a dressing room bin. One wonders if that is the kind of response Gattuso would welcome now. At least it shows some spirit. “When I lost a match I broke down in frustration,” he said. “Today players lose, take a selfie and put it on the internet. They make me sick.” It’s an attitude - a kind of disgust - that aligns a manager with supporters whose exasperation during six years of decline has curdled into revulsion and open revolt. It is also dangerous in two senses - firstly in a volatile football culture where fans are not unafraid of physical confrontation with players it could be misinterpreted. Secondly, although owners think they want a hardline approach, a disciplinarian to kick backsides and focus minds on a common purpose, they rarely have the stomach to see it through should the merest whiff of player alienation and resistance emanate from the training ground. Think of the clubs who appoint an insurgent to transform the atmosphere and practices - Real Madrid with John Toshack’s second appointment, say, or Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland - and before too long points of principle are sacrificed, along with the taskmaster, in pursuit of peace. And the trigger point usually follows public criticism of a player, a line Gattuso flirted with when addressing the travails of his £34m centre-forward in Croatia. “We all know his qualities, he's a player of international level,” he said. "He struggled today, he looked like a foreign object in the team. When you have the opportunity to play for 90 minutes wearing AC Milan's shirt you have to do more.” Gattuso confront Joe Jordan in 2011 Credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini He has been in charge for only two games - a 2-2 draw with Benevento whose goalkeeper scored a 95th-minute equaliser to claim their first point of the season after 14 lost league matches - and the defeat by Rijeka that did not affect Milan’s place at the top of Europa League Group D in their first continental campaign for four seasons. Both set-backs were palpably the players’ fault but managers are always dispensable no matter their service and loyalty, especially at Milan. Mauro Tassotti and Cristian Brocchi, like Gattuso, have moved up from the youth department to run the first team in caretaker roles but left the club after not getting the full-time job while Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi, team-mates of Gattuso, have also endured stints in charge since the club sacked Max Allegri in 2014. Twice during the past 3½ years they have looked outside and appointed Sinisa Mihajlovic and Vincenzo Montella but neither, despite winning one in two league games, have convinced an impatient club that they have solved the long-standing problems of brittleness and inconsistency. Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix – give the manager’s job to a favoured son and demand a miracle. Where Silvio Berlusconi had the drive 20 years before to rebuild an institution, the club was in the business of providing instant gratification on the cheap for the six years since their 2011 title until he finally completed the sale to Rossoneri Sport Investment last spring. It was a convoluted deal involving the stipulated payment of instalments, one of which was rescheduled, to Li Yonghong’s Luxembourg-based holding company. The €740m deal, it later emerged, was partly financed by a €303m bridging loan from Elliott Management, the New York hedge fund firm, repayable next November at an interest rate of 11.5 per cent for the first €180m and 7.7% on the remainder. Small wonder Li’s investment vehicle is looking to refinance before then because the conditions attached to the loan, as well as the eye-watering rate, means any default hands ownership of the club to the ‘vulture fund’. 'A knife wound would have been less painful than that goal,' Gattuso said of the Benevento equaliser Credit: CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images In addition to the mechanics of the serpentine takeover process and timetable, the specifics of Li’s business interests in China have been queried and his disputes with regulators there detailed by the New York Times last month. Like other things in Europe, the takeover has hardly led to the broad, sunlit uplands of institutional rejuvenation. Back in the summer of 2015, Berlusconi splurged €80m on five players but without a proper structure in place succeeded only in moving up from 10th to 7th in the league in spite of Carlos Bacca’s 18 goals. Before this season they spent €230m, bringing in Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, Lucas Biglia, Franck Kessie, Nikola Kalinic and Fabio Borini. Bonucci, a terrific centre-back at Juventus and designed to be a talismanic signing, has been woeful, even though Montella switched to a back three after the 4-1 defeat by Lazio in September. His effort is conspicuous but the concentration lapses that persuaded Inter to let him go 10 years ago have returned as he tries to inspire a skittish team spooked by the crowd’s irritation. All the positives of his game at Juventus, the way he galloped forward or started attacks with diagonal, chipped passes are of little use to an anxious, dysfunctional team and the change of system has unnerved the excellent Alessio Romagnoli. Moreover the multiplicity of unsatsfactory options has fostered indecisive selection: Montella selected 20 different starters in 14 league games. Leonardo Bonucci has been out of sorts for club and country since moving to Milan from Juventus last summer Credit: Daniel Dal Zennaro/ANSA via AP More than anything, the incontinent spree exposes a fundamental flaw with their recruitment process. Hardly any of Milan’s recent big money signings have prospered and the majority of them have been bombed out within a couple of years. Alessandro Matri, Luiz Adriano, Andrea Bertolacci, Gianluca Lapadula and Bacca were all brought in for significant fees over the past three season and each has already left for a loss apart from Bacca who is out on loan at Sevilla but has no desire to come back. So far they  have been beaten by Empoli, Lazio, Sampdoria, Roma, Inter and Napoli and have not scored at home in the league since Sept 20. A club that has spent heavily and is in the midst of complex, crucial refinancing negotiations said at the start of the season that Champions League qualification was an imperative. As it has to be for those who do not own their own stadiums and are trying to break into the top end of the Far East merchandising market. It’s where the money that would allow them to compete with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and the petrodollar giants has to come from. They are currently 13 points off fourth place which makes winning the Europa Cup an attractive alternative. Such a disjointed performance against Rijeka, therefore, has rattled even more cages. Andre Silva, who cost £35m, was singled out for criticism by Gattuso after his inept performance against Rijeka Credit: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic In some circumstances Gattuso is the ideal hair shirt manager. The Pisa side he led to promotion to Serie B in 2016 were extraordinarily hard working and though they were relegated in 21st place at the end of their their first season back up after being unable to strengthen the squad significantly, they managed to draw 21 of 42 games and conceded only 36 goals, the second lowest in the division. That they managed to score a mere 23, however, illustrates that the virtues of diligence, discipline, coherent organisation, unyielding passion and commitment can only do so much to compensate for a lack of talent and invention. But even in those reduced circumstances, Gattuso managed to impose a coherent structure on the team, if not the club. At Milan that will not be enough. The problems with the team are a symptom of what is wrong with the club and introducing some bite in the dug-out because they have no bite on the pitch can only be a short-term solution. Gattuso can preach as much as he likes about the Milan way and the duty the players owe to the shirt but when you have new owners, new executives and new players the transfusion takes a lot longer. He may sort the defence out because that has been his forte but the success of ‘management by hand grenade’, as the former Swindon CEO, Nick Watkins, described Paolo Di Canio’s approach, is typically fleeting. The best young players in world football After five topsy-turvy seasons of decline, it is preposterous to think a turnaround could be achieved by Montella, a manager who has never qualified for the Champions League, and seemingly scattergun recruitment. It’s a long road back for the second most successful club in European history and establishing firm foundations with the investment would have seemed more logical than a dash for glory but perhaps with the loan the takeover vehicle required and its terms, it had to be that way. Prudence is rarely the seductive option but onfield it is likely to be Gattuso’s most effective approach and the 15,000 increase on average attendances from last season in the seven games so far is a positive sign amid the muddle. A goal against Bologna at San Siro on Sunday night would be an overdue step forward.

Gennaro Gattuso puts the bite back into AC Milan's dugout but has a battle to turn toiling team's fortunes 

Rino Gattuso has never been bashful about his belligerence. The AC Milan manager had clocked only 10 days in the job before his side’s dead rubber Europa League defeat by Rijeka last Thursday compelled Ringhio, 'the Growl’, to betray his disgruntlement with his charges. “We have got to change direction,” he said. “Because we are going nowhere like this. When you wear the Milan jersey, you need to respect it. When we get a punch in the teeth, I get the feeling we never recover.” The World Cup-winning midfielder, a consummate scuffler who won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles in 13 years at the club, once butted the Tottenham coach Joe Jordan, a venture most who knew anything about the abrasive former Leeds United, Manchester United, Scotland and, yes, Milan centre-forward would happily swap with a kamikaze commission. In 2003 he was sent off for slapping the 6ft 5in Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the face and though the two ended up as team-mates during Milan’s last scudetto-winning campaign in 2010-11, the incorrigible Ibrahimovic had his revenge for that episode and a few salty training ground words, by picking Gattuso up and depositing him head first into a dressing room bin. One wonders if that is the kind of response Gattuso would welcome now. At least it shows some spirit. “When I lost a match I broke down in frustration,” he said. “Today players lose, take a selfie and put it on the internet. They make me sick.” It’s an attitude - a kind of disgust - that aligns a manager with supporters whose exasperation during six years of decline has curdled into revulsion and open revolt. It is also dangerous in two senses - firstly in a volatile football culture where fans are not unafraid of physical confrontation with players it could be misinterpreted. Secondly, although owners think they want a hardline approach, a disciplinarian to kick backsides and focus minds on a common purpose, they rarely have the stomach to see it through should the merest whiff of player alienation and resistance emanate from the training ground. Think of the clubs who appoint an insurgent to transform the atmosphere and practices - Real Madrid with John Toshack’s second appointment, say, or Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland - and before too long points of principle are sacrificed, along with the taskmaster, in pursuit of peace. And the trigger point usually follows public criticism of a player, a line Gattuso flirted with when addressing the travails of his £34m centre-forward in Croatia. “We all know his qualities, he's a player of international level,” he said. "He struggled today, he looked like a foreign object in the team. When you have the opportunity to play for 90 minutes wearing AC Milan's shirt you have to do more.” Gattuso confront Joe Jordan in 2011 Credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini He has been in charge for only two games - a 2-2 draw with Benevento whose goalkeeper scored a 95th-minute equaliser to claim their first point of the season after 14 lost league matches - and the defeat by Rijeka that did not affect Milan’s place at the top of Europa League Group D in their first continental campaign for four seasons. Both set-backs were palpably the players’ fault but managers are always dispensable no matter their service and loyalty, especially at Milan. Mauro Tassotti and Cristian Brocchi, like Gattuso, have moved up from the youth department to run the first team in caretaker roles but left the club after not getting the full-time job while Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi, team-mates of Gattuso, have also endured stints in charge since the club sacked Max Allegri in 2014. Twice during the past 3½ years they have looked outside and appointed Sinisa Mihajlovic and Vincenzo Montella but neither, despite winning one in two league games, have convinced an impatient club that they have solved the long-standing problems of brittleness and inconsistency. Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix – give the manager’s job to a favoured son and demand a miracle. Where Silvio Berlusconi had the drive 20 years before to rebuild an institution, the club was in the business of providing instant gratification on the cheap for the six years since their 2011 title until he finally completed the sale to Rossoneri Sport Investment last spring. It was a convoluted deal involving the stipulated payment of instalments, one of which was rescheduled, to Li Yonghong’s Luxembourg-based holding company. The €740m deal, it later emerged, was partly financed by a €303m bridging loan from Elliott Management, the New York hedge fund firm, repayable next November at an interest rate of 11.5 per cent for the first €180m and 7.7% on the remainder. Small wonder Li’s investment vehicle is looking to refinance before then because the conditions attached to the loan, as well as the eye-watering rate, means any default hands ownership of the club to the ‘vulture fund’. 'A knife wound would have been less painful than that goal,' Gattuso said of the Benevento equaliser Credit: CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images In addition to the mechanics of the serpentine takeover process and timetable, the specifics of Li’s business interests in China have been queried and his disputes with regulators there detailed by the New York Times last month. Like other things in Europe, the takeover has hardly led to the broad, sunlit uplands of institutional rejuvenation. Back in the summer of 2015, Berlusconi splurged €80m on five players but without a proper structure in place succeeded only in moving up from 10th to 7th in the league in spite of Carlos Bacca’s 18 goals. Before this season they spent €230m, bringing in Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, Lucas Biglia, Franck Kessie, Nikola Kalinic and Fabio Borini. Bonucci, a terrific centre-back at Juventus and designed to be a talismanic signing, has been woeful, even though Montella switched to a back three after the 4-1 defeat by Lazio in September. His effort is conspicuous but the concentration lapses that persuaded Inter to let him go 10 years ago have returned as he tries to inspire a skittish team spooked by the crowd’s irritation. All the positives of his game at Juventus, the way he galloped forward or started attacks with diagonal, chipped passes are of little use to an anxious, dysfunctional team and the change of system has unnerved the excellent Alessio Romagnoli. Moreover the multiplicity of unsatsfactory options has fostered indecisive selection: Montella selected 20 different starters in 14 league games. Leonardo Bonucci has been out of sorts for club and country since moving to Milan from Juventus last summer Credit: Daniel Dal Zennaro/ANSA via AP More than anything, the incontinent spree exposes a fundamental flaw with their recruitment process. Hardly any of Milan’s recent big money signings have prospered and the majority of them have been bombed out within a couple of years. Alessandro Matri, Luiz Adriano, Andrea Bertolacci, Gianluca Lapadula and Bacca were all brought in for significant fees over the past three season and each has already left for a loss apart from Bacca who is out on loan at Sevilla but has no desire to come back. So far they  have been beaten by Empoli, Lazio, Sampdoria, Roma, Inter and Napoli and have not scored at home in the league since Sept 20. A club that has spent heavily and is in the midst of complex, crucial refinancing negotiations said at the start of the season that Champions League qualification was an imperative. As it has to be for those who do not own their own stadiums and are trying to break into the top end of the Far East merchandising market. It’s where the money that would allow them to compete with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and the petrodollar giants has to come from. They are currently 13 points off fourth place which makes winning the Europa Cup an attractive alternative. Such a disjointed performance against Rijeka, therefore, has rattled even more cages. Andre Silva, who cost £35m, was singled out for criticism by Gattuso after his inept performance against Rijeka Credit: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic In some circumstances Gattuso is the ideal hair shirt manager. The Pisa side he led to promotion to Serie B in 2016 were extraordinarily hard working and though they were relegated in 21st place at the end of their their first season back up after being unable to strengthen the squad significantly, they managed to draw 21 of 42 games and conceded only 36 goals, the second lowest in the division. That they managed to score a mere 23, however, illustrates that the virtues of diligence, discipline, coherent organisation, unyielding passion and commitment can only do so much to compensate for a lack of talent and invention. But even in those reduced circumstances, Gattuso managed to impose a coherent structure on the team, if not the club. At Milan that will not be enough. The problems with the team are a symptom of what is wrong with the club and introducing some bite in the dug-out because they have no bite on the pitch can only be a short-term solution. Gattuso can preach as much as he likes about the Milan way and the duty the players owe to the shirt but when you have new owners, new executives and new players the transfusion takes a lot longer. He may sort the defence out because that has been his forte but the success of ‘management by hand grenade’, as the former Swindon CEO, Nick Watkins, described Paolo Di Canio’s approach, is typically fleeting. The best young players in world football After five topsy-turvy seasons of decline, it is preposterous to think a turnaround could be achieved by Montella, a manager who has never qualified for the Champions League, and seemingly scattergun recruitment. It’s a long road back for the second most successful club in European history and establishing firm foundations with the investment would have seemed more logical than a dash for glory but perhaps with the loan the takeover vehicle required and its terms, it had to be that way. Prudence is rarely the seductive option but onfield it is likely to be Gattuso’s most effective approach and the 15,000 increase on average attendances from last season in the seven games so far is a positive sign amid the muddle. A goal against Bologna at San Siro on Sunday night would be an overdue step forward.

Gennaro Gattuso puts the bite back into AC Milan's dugout but has a battle to turn toiling team's fortunes 

Rino Gattuso has never been bashful about his belligerence. The AC Milan manager had clocked only 10 days in the job before his side’s dead rubber Europa League defeat by Rijeka last Thursday compelled Ringhio, 'the Growl’, to betray his disgruntlement with his charges. “We have got to change direction,” he said. “Because we are going nowhere like this. When you wear the Milan jersey, you need to respect it. When we get a punch in the teeth, I get the feeling we never recover.” The World Cup-winning midfielder, a consummate scuffler who won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles in 13 years at the club, once butted the Tottenham coach Joe Jordan, a venture most who knew anything about the abrasive former Leeds United, Manchester United, Scotland and, yes, Milan centre-forward would happily swap with a kamikaze commission. In 2003 he was sent off for slapping the 6ft 5in Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the face and though the two ended up as team-mates during Milan’s last scudetto-winning campaign in 2010-11, the incorrigible Ibrahimovic had his revenge for that episode and a few salty training ground words, by picking Gattuso up and depositing him head first into a dressing room bin. One wonders if that is the kind of response Gattuso would welcome now. At least it shows some spirit. “When I lost a match I broke down in frustration,” he said. “Today players lose, take a selfie and put it on the internet. They make me sick.” It’s an attitude - a kind of disgust - that aligns a manager with supporters whose exasperation during six years of decline has curdled into revulsion and open revolt. It is also dangerous in two senses - firstly in a volatile football culture where fans are not unafraid of physical confrontation with players it could be misinterpreted. Secondly, although owners think they want a hardline approach, a disciplinarian to kick backsides and focus minds on a common purpose, they rarely have the stomach to see it through should the merest whiff of player alienation and resistance emanate from the training ground. Think of the clubs who appoint an insurgent to transform the atmosphere and practices - Real Madrid with John Toshack’s second appointment, say, or Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland - and before too long points of principle are sacrificed, along with the taskmaster, in pursuit of peace. And the trigger point usually follows public criticism of a player, a line Gattuso flirted with when addressing the travails of his £34m centre-forward in Croatia. “We all know his qualities, he's a player of international level,” he said. "He struggled today, he looked like a foreign object in the team. When you have the opportunity to play for 90 minutes wearing AC Milan's shirt you have to do more.” Gattuso confront Joe Jordan in 2011 Credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini He has been in charge for only two games - a 2-2 draw with Benevento whose goalkeeper scored a 95th-minute equaliser to claim their first point of the season after 14 lost league matches - and the defeat by Rijeka that did not affect Milan’s place at the top of Europa League Group D in their first continental campaign for four seasons. Both set-backs were palpably the players’ fault but managers are always dispensable no matter their service and loyalty, especially at Milan. Mauro Tassotti and Cristian Brocchi, like Gattuso, have moved up from the youth department to run the first team in caretaker roles but left the club after not getting the full-time job while Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi, team-mates of Gattuso, have also endured stints in charge since the club sacked Max Allegri in 2014. Twice during the past 3½ years they have looked outside and appointed Sinisa Mihajlovic and Vincenzo Montella but neither, despite winning one in two league games, have convinced an impatient club that they have solved the long-standing problems of brittleness and inconsistency. Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix – give the manager’s job to a favoured son and demand a miracle. Where Silvio Berlusconi had the drive 20 years before to rebuild an institution, the club was in the business of providing instant gratification on the cheap for the six years since their 2011 title until he finally completed the sale to Rossoneri Sport Investment last spring. It was a convoluted deal involving the stipulated payment of instalments, one of which was rescheduled, to Li Yonghong’s Luxembourg-based holding company. The €740m deal, it later emerged, was partly financed by a €303m bridging loan from Elliott Management, the New York hedge fund firm, repayable next November at an interest rate of 11.5 per cent for the first €180m and 7.7% on the remainder. Small wonder Li’s investment vehicle is looking to refinance before then because the conditions attached to the loan, as well as the eye-watering rate, means any default hands ownership of the club to the ‘vulture fund’. 'A knife wound would have been less painful than that goal,' Gattuso said of the Benevento equaliser Credit: CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images In addition to the mechanics of the serpentine takeover process and timetable, the specifics of Li’s business interests in China have been queried and his disputes with regulators there detailed by the New York Times last month. Like other things in Europe, the takeover has hardly led to the broad, sunlit uplands of institutional rejuvenation. Back in the summer of 2015, Berlusconi splurged €80m on five players but without a proper structure in place succeeded only in moving up from 10th to 7th in the league in spite of Carlos Bacca’s 18 goals. Before this season they spent €230m, bringing in Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, Lucas Biglia, Franck Kessie, Nikola Kalinic and Fabio Borini. Bonucci, a terrific centre-back at Juventus and designed to be a talismanic signing, has been woeful, even though Montella switched to a back three after the 4-1 defeat by Lazio in September. His effort is conspicuous but the concentration lapses that persuaded Inter to let him go 10 years ago have returned as he tries to inspire a skittish team spooked by the crowd’s irritation. All the positives of his game at Juventus, the way he galloped forward or started attacks with diagonal, chipped passes are of little use to an anxious, dysfunctional team and the change of system has unnerved the excellent Alessio Romagnoli. Moreover the multiplicity of unsatsfactory options has fostered indecisive selection: Montella selected 20 different starters in 14 league games. Leonardo Bonucci has been out of sorts for club and country since moving to Milan from Juventus last summer Credit: Daniel Dal Zennaro/ANSA via AP More than anything, the incontinent spree exposes a fundamental flaw with their recruitment process. Hardly any of Milan’s recent big money signings have prospered and the majority of them have been bombed out within a couple of years. Alessandro Matri, Luiz Adriano, Andrea Bertolacci, Gianluca Lapadula and Bacca were all brought in for significant fees over the past three season and each has already left for a loss apart from Bacca who is out on loan at Sevilla but has no desire to come back. So far they  have been beaten by Empoli, Lazio, Sampdoria, Roma, Inter and Napoli and have not scored at home in the league since Sept 20. A club that has spent heavily and is in the midst of complex, crucial refinancing negotiations said at the start of the season that Champions League qualification was an imperative. As it has to be for those who do not own their own stadiums and are trying to break into the top end of the Far East merchandising market. It’s where the money that would allow them to compete with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and the petrodollar giants has to come from. They are currently 13 points off fourth place which makes winning the Europa Cup an attractive alternative. Such a disjointed performance against Rijeka, therefore, has rattled even more cages. Andre Silva, who cost £35m, was singled out for criticism by Gattuso after his inept performance against Rijeka Credit: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic In some circumstances Gattuso is the ideal hair shirt manager. The Pisa side he led to promotion to Serie B in 2016 were extraordinarily hard working and though they were relegated in 21st place at the end of their their first season back up after being unable to strengthen the squad significantly, they managed to draw 21 of 42 games and conceded only 36 goals, the second lowest in the division. That they managed to score a mere 23, however, illustrates that the virtues of diligence, discipline, coherent organisation, unyielding passion and commitment can only do so much to compensate for a lack of talent and invention. But even in those reduced circumstances, Gattuso managed to impose a coherent structure on the team, if not the club. At Milan that will not be enough. The problems with the team are a symptom of what is wrong with the club and introducing some bite in the dug-out because they have no bite on the pitch can only be a short-term solution. Gattuso can preach as much as he likes about the Milan way and the duty the players owe to the shirt but when you have new owners, new executives and new players the transfusion takes a lot longer. He may sort the defence out because that has been his forte but the success of ‘management by hand grenade’, as the former Swindon CEO, Nick Watkins, described Paolo Di Canio’s approach, is typically fleeting. The best young players in world football After five topsy-turvy seasons of decline, it is preposterous to think a turnaround could be achieved by Montella, a manager who has never qualified for the Champions League, and seemingly scattergun recruitment. It’s a long road back for the second most successful club in European history and establishing firm foundations with the investment would have seemed more logical than a dash for glory but perhaps with the loan the takeover vehicle required and its terms, it had to be that way. Prudence is rarely the seductive option but onfield it is likely to be Gattuso’s most effective approach and the 15,000 increase on average attendances from last season in the seven games so far is a positive sign amid the muddle. A goal against Bologna at San Siro on Sunday night would be an overdue step forward.

Gennaro Gattuso puts the bite back into AC Milan's dugout but has a battle to turn toiling team's fortunes 

Rino Gattuso has never been bashful about his belligerence. The AC Milan manager had clocked only 10 days in the job before his side’s dead rubber Europa League defeat by Rijeka last Thursday compelled Ringhio, 'the Growl’, to betray his disgruntlement with his charges. “We have got to change direction,” he said. “Because we are going nowhere like this. When you wear the Milan jersey, you need to respect it. When we get a punch in the teeth, I get the feeling we never recover.” The World Cup-winning midfielder, a consummate scuffler who won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles in 13 years at the club, once butted the Tottenham coach Joe Jordan, a venture most who knew anything about the abrasive former Leeds United, Manchester United, Scotland and, yes, Milan centre-forward would happily swap with a kamikaze commission. In 2003 he was sent off for slapping the 6ft 5in Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the face and though the two ended up as team-mates during Milan’s last scudetto-winning campaign in 2010-11, the incorrigible Ibrahimovic had his revenge for that episode and a few salty training ground words, by picking Gattuso up and depositing him head first into a dressing room bin. One wonders if that is the kind of response Gattuso would welcome now. At least it shows some spirit. “When I lost a match I broke down in frustration,” he said. “Today players lose, take a selfie and put it on the internet. They make me sick.” It’s an attitude - a kind of disgust - that aligns a manager with supporters whose exasperation during six years of decline has curdled into revulsion and open revolt. It is also dangerous in two senses - firstly in a volatile football culture where fans are not unafraid of physical confrontation with players it could be misinterpreted. Secondly, although owners think they want a hardline approach, a disciplinarian to kick backsides and focus minds on a common purpose, they rarely have the stomach to see it through should the merest whiff of player alienation and resistance emanate from the training ground. Think of the clubs who appoint an insurgent to transform the atmosphere and practices - Real Madrid with John Toshack’s second appointment, say, or Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland - and before too long points of principle are sacrificed, along with the taskmaster, in pursuit of peace. And the trigger point usually follows public criticism of a player, a line Gattuso flirted with when addressing the travails of his £34m centre-forward in Croatia. “We all know his qualities, he's a player of international level,” he said. "He struggled today, he looked like a foreign object in the team. When you have the opportunity to play for 90 minutes wearing AC Milan's shirt you have to do more.” Gattuso confront Joe Jordan in 2011 Credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini He has been in charge for only two games - a 2-2 draw with Benevento whose goalkeeper scored a 95th-minute equaliser to claim their first point of the season after 14 lost league matches - and the defeat by Rijeka that did not affect Milan’s place at the top of Europa League Group D in their first continental campaign for four seasons. Both set-backs were palpably the players’ fault but managers are always dispensable no matter their service and loyalty, especially at Milan. Mauro Tassotti and Cristian Brocchi, like Gattuso, have moved up from the youth department to run the first team in caretaker roles but left the club after not getting the full-time job while Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi, team-mates of Gattuso, have also endured stints in charge since the club sacked Max Allegri in 2014. Twice during the past 3½ years they have looked outside and appointed Sinisa Mihajlovic and Vincenzo Montella but neither, despite winning one in two league games, have convinced an impatient club that they have solved the long-standing problems of brittleness and inconsistency. Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix – give the manager’s job to a favoured son and demand a miracle. Where Silvio Berlusconi had the drive 20 years before to rebuild an institution, the club was in the business of providing instant gratification on the cheap for the six years since their 2011 title until he finally completed the sale to Rossoneri Sport Investment last spring. It was a convoluted deal involving the stipulated payment of instalments, one of which was rescheduled, to Li Yonghong’s Luxembourg-based holding company. The €740m deal, it later emerged, was partly financed by a €303m bridging loan from Elliott Management, the New York hedge fund firm, repayable next November at an interest rate of 11.5 per cent for the first €180m and 7.7% on the remainder. Small wonder Li’s investment vehicle is looking to refinance before then because the conditions attached to the loan, as well as the eye-watering rate, means any default hands ownership of the club to the ‘vulture fund’. 'A knife wound would have been less painful than that goal,' Gattuso said of the Benevento equaliser Credit: CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images In addition to the mechanics of the serpentine takeover process and timetable, the specifics of Li’s business interests in China have been queried and his disputes with regulators there detailed by the New York Times last month. Like other things in Europe, the takeover has hardly led to the broad, sunlit uplands of institutional rejuvenation. Back in the summer of 2015, Berlusconi splurged €80m on five players but without a proper structure in place succeeded only in moving up from 10th to 7th in the league in spite of Carlos Bacca’s 18 goals. Before this season they spent €230m, bringing in Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, Lucas Biglia, Franck Kessie, Nikola Kalinic and Fabio Borini. Bonucci, a terrific centre-back at Juventus and designed to be a talismanic signing, has been woeful, even though Montella switched to a back three after the 4-1 defeat by Lazio in September. His effort is conspicuous but the concentration lapses that persuaded Inter to let him go 10 years ago have returned as he tries to inspire a skittish team spooked by the crowd’s irritation. All the positives of his game at Juventus, the way he galloped forward or started attacks with diagonal, chipped passes are of little use to an anxious, dysfunctional team and the change of system has unnerved the excellent Alessio Romagnoli. Moreover the multiplicity of unsatsfactory options has fostered indecisive selection: Montella selected 20 different starters in 14 league games. Leonardo Bonucci has been out of sorts for club and country since moving to Milan from Juventus last summer Credit: Daniel Dal Zennaro/ANSA via AP More than anything, the incontinent spree exposes a fundamental flaw with their recruitment process. Hardly any of Milan’s recent big money signings have prospered and the majority of them have been bombed out within a couple of years. Alessandro Matri, Luiz Adriano, Andrea Bertolacci, Gianluca Lapadula and Bacca were all brought in for significant fees over the past three season and each has already left for a loss apart from Bacca who is out on loan at Sevilla but has no desire to come back. So far they  have been beaten by Empoli, Lazio, Sampdoria, Roma, Inter and Napoli and have not scored at home in the league since Sept 20. A club that has spent heavily and is in the midst of complex, crucial refinancing negotiations said at the start of the season that Champions League qualification was an imperative. As it has to be for those who do not own their own stadiums and are trying to break into the top end of the Far East merchandising market. It’s where the money that would allow them to compete with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and the petrodollar giants has to come from. They are currently 13 points off fourth place which makes winning the Europa Cup an attractive alternative. Such a disjointed performance against Rijeka, therefore, has rattled even more cages. Andre Silva, who cost £35m, was singled out for criticism by Gattuso after his inept performance against Rijeka Credit: REUTERS/Antonio Bronic In some circumstances Gattuso is the ideal hair shirt manager. The Pisa side he led to promotion to Serie B in 2016 were extraordinarily hard working and though they were relegated in 21st place at the end of their their first season back up after being unable to strengthen the squad significantly, they managed to draw 21 of 42 games and conceded only 36 goals, the second lowest in the division. That they managed to score a mere 23, however, illustrates that the virtues of diligence, discipline, coherent organisation, unyielding passion and commitment can only do so much to compensate for a lack of talent and invention. But even in those reduced circumstances, Gattuso managed to impose a coherent structure on the team, if not the club. At Milan that will not be enough. The problems with the team are a symptom of what is wrong with the club and introducing some bite in the dug-out because they have no bite on the pitch can only be a short-term solution. Gattuso can preach as much as he likes about the Milan way and the duty the players owe to the shirt but when you have new owners, new executives and new players the transfusion takes a lot longer. He may sort the defence out because that has been his forte but the success of ‘management by hand grenade’, as the former Swindon CEO, Nick Watkins, described Paolo Di Canio’s approach, is typically fleeting. The best young players in world football After five topsy-turvy seasons of decline, it is preposterous to think a turnaround could be achieved by Montella, a manager who has never qualified for the Champions League, and seemingly scattergun recruitment. It’s a long road back for the second most successful club in European history and establishing firm foundations with the investment would have seemed more logical than a dash for glory but perhaps with the loan the takeover vehicle required and its terms, it had to be that way. Prudence is rarely the seductive option but onfield it is likely to be Gattuso’s most effective approach and the 15,000 increase on average attendances from last season in the seven games so far is a positive sign amid the muddle. A goal against Bologna at San Siro on Sunday night would be an overdue step forward.

Toronto FC's MLS Cup Win Was a Year in the Making, Earned It a Championship Unlike Any Other

TORONTO—Championships are binary—either you win or you don’t—but they come in assorted sizes, textures and orders of magnitude. The nature of the ending depends on the story. In its 22 seasons, MLS has crowned different kinds of champions, and none should have to apologize for their story or feel less like a titlist because they sneaked into the playoffs on the final day, got a lucky bounce or, in the case of last season’s conquerors, won the final without taking a shot on goal. Rules are rules, and champions are champions.

But there has never been an MLS champion like 2017’s Toronto FC, which turned the tables on last year’s victor, the Seattle Sounders, with a resounding and cathartic 2-0 win in Saturday’s MLS Cup final. This title was about more than what transpired at TFC’s BMO Field. It was a culmination of an historic pursuit for glory and redemption that began with the agonizing memory of your choosing, whether it was the eight seasons of ineptitude that preceded the club’s first playoff berth in 2015, or the penalty-kick shootout loss to Seattle last year. And it capped off the most glittering campaign in league history, as the trophy that captain Michael Bradley lifted Saturday was TFC’s third of 2017. They are the first to win the Supporters’ Shield, their domestic cup and MLS Cup in a single season. Twelve predecessors managed two-thirds of that triple crown. None completed it.

There’s a large red placard standing around six feet tall hanging just inside the entrance to TFC’s locker room. It lists the club’s goals for 2017 and includes more granular aims like the number of shutouts or road points that coach Greg Vanney wanted his team to achieve. Then at the bottom, there’s the foundation—the mission propping up the whole season: the treble.

“I’m the first to say, I think this is the greatest team ever,” Vanney proclaimed in his postgame press conference. “Nobody has accomplished what this team has accomplished. … We still have things in front of us that we want to continue to achieve. We’re still writing this story. But in terms of seasons, I think we had the greatest season in the history of the league and I don’t think that’s debatable.”

If TFC continues to conquer, it’s hard to imagine it doing so in more of a storybook fashion. Because, as stated, titles take on different meanings depending on the journey and context. The Reds will move forward as a juggernaut—a North American soccer Goliath with even more money to spend and designs on winning the CONCACAF Champions League. That contrasts with Saturday’s game, which they entered on a more personal, compelling kind of mission.

The toll, intensity and meaning of that odyssey were evident in Bradley’s words as he spoke following Saturday’s win. He came to TFC in 2014, feeling like he’d been treated as surplus by AS Roma and hoping, after eight years in Europe and in the prime of his career, to put a club on his shoulders and change a culture. He found that opportunity in Toronto, was determined to make the most of it and was the best player on the field in last season’s MLS Cup final. Then he missed his penalty in the tiebreaker

In an emotional Instagram post a couple days later, Bradley wrote, “Dreams shattered. Tears shed. But its not finished. It doesn't end like this. … The pain and heartbreak of the last two days have made one thing very clear. I've never been more proud to call TFC my club and Toronto my home. Together our time will come.”

He’s said several times this season that TFC’s mission began the following morning as they gathered at the club’s training facility just north of the city. They would commit to everyday excellence. They would dominate the competition, redeem themselves and pay back the fans who initially stood with a bad team, then stood behind a beaten one.

“We had to lift this trophy. It has been an obsession for the last 364 days,” Bradley said Saturday night. “There’s no other word for it than ‘obsession’. It’s hard to describe to people on the outside what it’s been like to live that every day—to live that in the beginning of preseason when it feels like years away from a game, let alone a playoff game, let alone a final. … To cap it off tonight, in the way that we did, to play the way that we did with everything on the line—with all the supposed pressure on our shoulders—I’m so f***ing proud.”

In last year’s final, Toronto was frustrated and unfortunate. On Saturday, they played the sort of soccer you draw on a pregame whiteboard. TFC was at its best in the biggest moment, overwhelming the Sounders with precision (controlling 57% of possession) and power (winning more than 70% of its duels). Seattle made the Reds work for the goal—particularly goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the 2016 MLS Cup MVP who was just as spectacular in the rematch. And maybe a more fragile team lets Frei worm his way into its collective head. But TFC had spent an entire season fixated, and wasn’t going to lose the plot at the very end.

“After a year … like that, you just have to say, ‘Keep your foot on the gas and keep trying to create chances, and don’t be afraid you’re going to give something up in your endeavor to try and go win the game,” Vanney said, adding that one of the club’s preseason mantras was “Be Bold.”

Vanney said, “Nobody wins anything by being afraid.”

His 4-4-2, which evolved seamlessly into a 3-5-2 with Bradley as the withdrawn conductor when TFC had possession, moved the ball with ease and left Seattle chasing shadows across the BMO pitch. Bradley was the game’s architect—“His bald head was everywhere,” TFC’s Jozy Altidore said—and Altidore was named its MVP thanks to his well-taken winning goal in the 67th minute. The striker said that when he watches games, even for study purposes, he always takes notice of the celebrations. He looks into the crowd. And he admitted that he still recalls the faces of the TFC faithful after Seattle’s Román Torres buried the clinching penalty last year.

On Saturday, Altidore said, what he saw was “just euphoria.”

Players keep track of this kind of thing. Or at least they do in Toronto.

“These people, they suffered a long time. They came to watch games where their team was being dominated,” Altidore said. “Even in those years, they’re still averaging 20,000-22,000 fans per game. ... This night was for them. They’ve been the driving force for all this, even before we came here.”

Said Bradley, “The response of our fans and the response of this city last year after we lost was like nothing I’ve ever seen. They could’ve pointed fingers. They could’ve said, ‘You guys blew it. You had [the final] at home and you couldn’t take care of business.’ But the response in the days, and weeks and months after was so unique and so different than what you would typically expect. People were so proud.

“To see the way they treated us and the way they wrapped their arms around us after last year—we wanted to win regardless, but we wanted it so much more after that," he concluded. "To give them their night. Their moment.”

There were tense times on Saturday, to be sure. You could hear it in certain subdued moments. But BMO Field erupted when Altidore scored. Bradley said he knew TFC had it at that point. And the packed stadium on the shores of Lake Ontario shook again when Spanish midfielder Víctor Vázquez—a massive, season-altering winter addition—doubled the lead during stoppage time. That was the sound of catharsis, and it made the story even sweeter.

"Last year we said you made us believe. This year fulfill all of our dreams,” the pregame tifo hanging in the stadium’s south end read. Those dreams deferred made this particular championship feel a bit different than others.

This TFC project began in earnest in 2014. GM Tim Bezbatchenko had joined the club the previous fall and together with former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, he helped bring Bradley to Toronto. Vanney took over in August 2014 and the following year, Altidore and future MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco signed on (he assisted on the game-winner). A championship core was in place, and then Bezbatchenko and Vanney rebuilt the back line in ’16 with the additions of Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour.

It’s been a steady rise, from missing the playoffs (2014), to making them ('15), to losing a gut-wrenching final ('16) and then winning it all on Saturday—and then some. This was a road to redemption paved with silver, the likes of which MLS hasn’t seen.

“You could tell that was a motivated franchise, a motivated coach, a motivated team,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Their success throughout the year, I believe was fueled by the loss last year.”

Said Vanney, who also lost the MLS Cup final three times as a player, “Congratulations to [Seattle], and thanks. They served as motivation for our group.”

Bradley has a preternatural ability to recall details. He remembers the route his driver took from the airport toward the stadium the day he arrived in Toronto after agreeing to join the club, in part because he never again used it on his own. On Friday, he said he called an Uber and didn’t offer any suggestions on how best to get from his house to the stadium. So the driver, naturally, took Highway 427 to the Gardiner Expressway—the same route Bradley took that first day in Toronto and not a single time since.

“I’m not necessarily a huge believer in fate and things like that,” Bradley said, “[But] to have it come full circle, to kind of finish things off this year in this way. ... It’s surreal. [Winning MLS Cup] is why I came. It’s why we came. It’s been the dream for the last four years. After the way things went last year, you can say for the last year it was an obsession.”

And it’s done now, without doubt or any possible detraction. This championship narrative was a perfect union of the technical and intangible. And it may be just the beginning of a longer story.

What You Should Know About the Prospects Cup, a New Youth Soccer Tournament Featuring Top Clubs

This month, soccer's future stars will descend upon Kissimmee, Fla., for the Prospects Cup, a new tournament featuring U-12 sides from some of the world's best clubs.

Among the clubs represented in this year's field include European giants like Real Madrid, Manchester City, AS Roma and Borussia Dortmund, in addition to the likes of Club America, Boca Juniors, LA Galaxy and Orlando City SC. A total of 16 teams will compete for the title. It's kind of like the Little League World Series, except for soccer.

The tournament will take place Dec. 18–22, and will be broadcast by Univision.

The best part is that the field features big-name clubs and local outfits. The draw is divided between domestic and international sides. All of the European teams happened to be drawn into the same group, so youth squads from all four European sides will face each other. (I, for one, am looking forward to 12-year-olds from Manchester City and Real Madrid facing each other.) The other international group features Club America, Boca Juniors, Fluminense FC and Chivas Guadalajara.

The other side of the bracket features all U.S.–based teams, including youth sides from MLS clubs Orlando City SC, FC Dallas and LA Galaxy. But how can you not root for a Real Madrid vs. Real New Jersey final?

Dortmund star Christian Pulisic is the Prospects Cup Global Ambassador.

SI.com will also stream select matches from the tournament.

What You Should Know About the Prospects Cup, a New Youth Soccer Tournament Featuring Top Clubs

This month, soccer's future stars will descend upon Kissimmee, Fla., for the Prospects Cup, a new tournament featuring U-12 sides from some of the world's best clubs.

Among the clubs represented in this year's field include European giants like Real Madrid, Manchester City, AS Roma and Borussia Dortmund, in addition to the likes of Club America, Boca Juniors, LA Galaxy and Orlando City SC. A total of 16 teams will compete for the title. It's kind of like the Little League World Series, except for soccer.

The tournament will take place Dec. 18–22, and will be broadcast by Univision.

The best part is that the field features big-name clubs and local outfits. The draw is divided between domestic and international sides. All of the European teams happened to be drawn into the same group, so youth squads from all four European sides will face each other. (I, for one, am looking forward to 12-year-olds from Manchester City and Real Madrid facing each other.) The other international group features Club America, Boca Juniors, Fluminense FC and Chivas Guadalajara.

The other side of the bracket features all U.S.–based teams, including youth sides from MLS clubs Orlando City SC, FC Dallas and LA Galaxy. But how can you not root for a Real Madrid vs. Real New Jersey final?

Dortmund star Christian Pulisic is the Prospects Cup Global Ambassador.

SI.com will also stream select matches from the tournament.

Champions League - Chelsea vs AS Roma

Soccer Football - Champions League - Chelsea vs AS Roma - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - October 18, 2017 Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta applauds fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Cristiano Ronaldo Wins Record-Tying Fifth Ballon D'Or Award

Cristiano Ronaldo has won the 2017 Ballon d'Or, taking home the award for the fourth time in the last five years and matching Lionel Messi's record of winning the prestigious honor for a fifth time.

The Ballon d'Or award, presented by France Football, is given to the world's best soccer player, and either Messi or Ronaldo has won it every year dating back to 2007, when Kaka earned the honors.

The 32-year-old Ronaldo has finished in first or second place in Ballon d'Or voting in each of the last seven years, and excluding 2010 has finished in the top two every year dating back to 2007.

Even as he gets older, Ronaldo has continued to rack up the awards. In October, he was named FIFA's Best Men's Player. In August, he was named UEFA's 2016-17 Best Player in Europe for a third time (the award was instituted in 2010-11). There's still new ground for him to find, evidenced by his latest accomplishment on Wednesday, when he became the first player to score in each of the six group games in the UEFA Champions League.

In 2016, Ronaldo was helped by exploits on both the club and country levels, leading Real Madrid to a Champions League title and helping Portugal to the Euro 2016 championship. In 2017, Ronaldo's campaign was largely boost by his efforts with Real Madrid, as the club won La Liga's title in May and then followed that up with a second straight Champions League title–and 11th overall. Ronaldo was a menace in the knockout stage of the competition, scoring 10 goals in four multi-goal games. He netted twice in the final triumph over Juventus and added hat tricks against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. He also scored 25 goals in La Liga, helping Real Madrid to a record 33rd title, but its first since 2012.

Ronaldo was still impactful for Portugal, helping the side qualify for the 2018 World Cup by scoring 15 goals in the qualifying round, second only to Poland and Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, who scored 16.

Before crowning Ronaldo, France Football unveiled its 30 finalists in reverse order of how they finished in the voting:

29 (tied). Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool/Brazil) and Dries Mertens (Napoli/Belgium)

28. Edin Dzeko (Roma/Bosnia & Herzegovina)

27. Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich/Germany)

26. Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid/Slovenia)

25. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/France)

24. Radamel Falcao (Monaco/Colombia)

23. Sadio Mane (Liverpool/Senegal)

21 (tied). Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus-AC Milan/Italy) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund/Gabon)

20. David De Gea (Manchester United/Spain)

19. Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Belgium)

18. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/France)

17. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid/Germany)

16. Marcelo (Real Madrid/Brazil)

15. Paulo Dybala (Juventus/Argentina)

14. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City/Belgium)

13. Luis Suarez (Barcelona/Uruguay)

12. Isco (Real Madrid/Spain)

11. Edinson Cavani (PSG/Uruguay)

10. Harry Kane (Tottenham/England)

9. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)

8. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea/France)

7. Kylian Mbappe (Monaco-PSG/France)

6. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid/Spain)

5. Luka Modric (Real Madrid/Croatia)

4. Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus/Italy)

3. Neymar (Barcelona-PSG/Brazil)

2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina)

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Portugal)

Referee Gianluca Rocchi checks the Video assistant referee during the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma and Lazio on November 18, 2017 at the Olympic stadium in Rome

Referee Gianluca Rocchi checks the Video assistant referee during the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma and Lazio on November 18, 2017 at the Olympic stadium in Rome

Referee Gianluca Rocchi checks the Video assistant referee during the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma and Lazio on November 18, 2017 at the Olympic stadium in Rome (AFP Photo/Vincenzo PINTO)

Ballon d'Or 2017: What time is the award announced, who is on the shortlist and will it be Ronaldo or Messi?

What is it? It's the 2017 Ballon d'Or, France Football's annual award for world footballer of the year - the 62nd  When is it? The publication will be unveiling this year's winner on Thursday December 7. What time will it happen? The winner will be announced at 18:45 GMT.  What TV channel is it on? Sadly, it won't be in the UK. But you can follow all the build-up and reaction right here with Telegraph Sport. What happened last year? Cristiano Ronaldo crowned a memorable year by being named the world's best player for a fourth time when he won the 2016 Ballon d'Or on Monday night. The 31-year-old Portugal and Real Madrid foward topped the poll of 173 journalists worldwide. Ronaldo played a crucial role as Real beat city rivals Atletico Madrid in May to become European champions for a record-extending 11th time. The pair have won the last nine Ballon d'Or awards Credit: AFP/Getty Images Then two months later, Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016 in France to claim a major trophy for the first time - despite losing their talisman to injury early on in the final. Ronaldo, who has so far scored 48 goals in 52 games for club and country during 2016, was not able to accept the award in person with the forward currently away in Japan as Real Madrid prepare for the FIFA Club World Cup. Who is on the shortlist? The 30-strong list is below, including England's Harry Kane: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund) Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) Leonardo Bonucci (Milan) Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) Edinson Cavani (PSG) Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) Kevin de Bruyne (Man City) David de Gea (Man Utd) Paulo Dybala (Juventus) Edin Dzeko (Roma) Radamel Falcao (Monaco) Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid) Eden Hazard (Chelsea) Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich) Isco (Real Madrid) Harry Kane (Tottenham) N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) Sadio Mané (Liverpool) Marcelo (Real Madrid) Kylian Mbappé (PSG) Dries Mertens (Napoli) Lionel Messi (Barcelona) Luka Modric (Real Madrid) Neymar (PSG) Jan Oblak (Atlético Madrid) Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) Luis Suárez (Barcelona). Who is favourite to win? There's only one, really. It's rare you see Leo Messi with odds of 8/1 attached to him for anything. Cristiano Ronaldo - 1/20 Leo Messi - 8/1 Neymar - 33/1 Gianluifi Buffon - 50/1 Harry Kane - 80/1 Antoine Griezmann - 100/1 Eden Hazard - 100/1 Kylian Mbappe - 100/1 Who has won the award the most? Yep, you've guessed it - Leo Messi (5) and Cristiano Ronaldo (4). They have won the last nine between them since Kaka's victory in 2007. You can see a full list of winners here. Ballon D'Or | Wins by player  

Ballon d'Or 2017: What time is the award announced, who is on the shortlist and will it be Ronaldo or Messi?

What is it? It's the 2017 Ballon d'Or, France Football's annual award for world footballer of the year - the 62nd  When is it? The publication will be unveiling this year's winner on Thursday December 7. What time will it happen? The winner will be announced at 18:45 GMT.  What TV channel is it on? Sadly, it won't be in the UK. But you can follow all the build-up and reaction right here with Telegraph Sport. What happened last year? Cristiano Ronaldo crowned a memorable year by being named the world's best player for a fourth time when he won the 2016 Ballon d'Or on Monday night. The 31-year-old Portugal and Real Madrid foward topped the poll of 173 journalists worldwide. Ronaldo played a crucial role as Real beat city rivals Atletico Madrid in May to become European champions for a record-extending 11th time. The pair have won the last nine Ballon d'Or awards Credit: AFP/Getty Images Then two months later, Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016 in France to claim a major trophy for the first time - despite losing their talisman to injury early on in the final. Ronaldo, who has so far scored 48 goals in 52 games for club and country during 2016, was not able to accept the award in person with the forward currently away in Japan as Real Madrid prepare for the FIFA Club World Cup. Who is on the shortlist? The 30-strong list is below, including England's Harry Kane: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund) Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) Leonardo Bonucci (Milan) Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) Edinson Cavani (PSG) Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) Kevin de Bruyne (Man City) David de Gea (Man Utd) Paulo Dybala (Juventus) Edin Dzeko (Roma) Radamel Falcao (Monaco) Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid) Eden Hazard (Chelsea) Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich) Isco (Real Madrid) Harry Kane (Tottenham) N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) Sadio Mané (Liverpool) Marcelo (Real Madrid) Kylian Mbappé (PSG) Dries Mertens (Napoli) Lionel Messi (Barcelona) Luka Modric (Real Madrid) Neymar (PSG) Jan Oblak (Atlético Madrid) Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) Luis Suárez (Barcelona). Who is favourite to win? There's only one, really. It's rare you see Leo Messi with odds of 8/1 attached to him for anything. Cristiano Ronaldo - 1/20 Leo Messi - 8/1 Neymar - 33/1 Gianluifi Buffon - 50/1 Harry Kane - 80/1 Antoine Griezmann - 100/1 Eden Hazard - 100/1 Kylian Mbappe - 100/1 Who has won the award the most? Yep, you've guessed it - Leo Messi (5) and Cristiano Ronaldo (4). They have won the last nine between them since Kaka's victory in 2007. You can see a full list of winners here. Ballon D'Or | Wins by player  

Champions League - Roma vs Qarabag

Soccer Football - Champions League - Roma vs Qarabag - Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy - December 5, 2017 Roma's Diego Perotti celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Perotti commits to Roma with two-year contract extension

Perotti commits to Roma with two-year contract extension

Perotti commits to Roma with two-year contract extension

Perotti commits to Roma with two-year contract extension

Perotti commits to Roma with two-year contract extension

The Argentina international midfielder is now tied to the Serie A club until 2021 after penning fresh terms in the Italian capital

Perotti commits to Roma with two-year contract extension

The Argentina international midfielder is now tied to the Serie A club until 2021 after penning fresh terms in the Italian capital

Perotti signs two-year Roma extension

Roma have handed Argentina international Diego Perotti a contract extension running until 2021.

Perotti signs two-year Roma extension

Perotti signs two-year Roma extension

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