Serie A leaders Milan are one of Europe’s hottest soccer teams. Is their form sustainable?

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Milan have seemingly found the right blend of youth, versatility and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his pomp to go on an unbeaten tear. Xinhua/Alberto Lingria via Getty Images

A lot of American soccer fans only dove fully into European club soccer when the Premier League started showing up live on their television about a decade ago. These fans have only heard about AC Milan; they have not yet seen the storied club in full flight.

Like college football’s USC Trojans, Milan are glamorous and dominant when piloted by just the right leader, finicky and mediocre in a less capable set of hands. They have won more Champions League/European Cup titles than anyone besides Real Madrid, but it has been 13 years since they last made even a semifinal. Hell, it has been more than six years since they played a Champions League match at all. Since finishing third in Serie A in 2013, their average league finish has been 6.9. Fishy signings, faulty ownership, poor managerial hires and Financial Fair Play violations conspired to hold them back.

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Milan have enjoyed a fantastic run of quality signings, however, and damned if their results haven’t actually been encouraging for once. Since the summer’s coronavirus restart, the Rossoneri have yet to lose in league play — they’ve won 14 league matches with four draws and a 49-17 scoring margin. They are first in Serie A through six matches, and their core stats say this isn’t a lucky start.

They’re also 5-1 in Europa League play, qualifying for the group stage with wins over Shamrock, a spry Bodo/Glimt and Rio Ave in a shootout; they’ve won group games over Celtic and Sparta Prague. (They hosted Lille on Thursday, losing 3-0 to take a tiny bit of shine off their run.) And they’ve done all this while battling the temporary loss of key players such as goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and ageless striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to positive COVID-19 tests.

It’s fun to write about an old power that looks like a power again, but is this rise sustainable?

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