The 2012 version of the Rossoneri are a pale shadow of their title-winning side last term.
No bravado from struggling AC Milan after summer exodus
Andre Dias thrust out his chest, clenched his fists and roared his pride.
It was not that the Brazilian, stocky and robust, had scored a goal for Lazio, nor even contributed to putting a teammate on the score sheet but, rather, he had just executed an immensely satisfying interception to prevent AC Milan equalising in the first half at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.
It was the kind of gesture Rino Gattuso used to make when he was the self-appointed galvanizer of Milan, one that says no cause is lost, that acts of defiance should be brandished like a sword.
Dias's interception was also precisely the sort Daniel Bonera, Milan's captain on Saturday, had tried but failed to make as a he struck out a right leg, having been obliged to step this way and that in the lead up to Hernanes's opening goal of a night when Lazio scored three times before Milan, finally, with two goals, hinted at the sort of gumption they need greater quantities of in the coming days.
Gattuso is gone from Milan, with his warrior ways.
So, since the summer of exodus, are many more.
The consequences of mass departures was always likely to fray at the spirit of the 2011 Italian champions, but any forecast that the losses of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and a range of senior men including Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf and Antonio Cassano would mean the difference between runners-up spot last May and a position very close to the relegation zone at the end of October would have seemed excessively gloomy.
Poor Bonera, the stand-in captain on the day Milan suffered their fifth defeat in eight Serie A matches and set a 74-year low for starts to a campaign.
He and Mario Yepes, at the centre of Milan's defence, suffered a troubled evening against Lazio's Hernanes, Antonio Candreva and Miroslav Klose, playing uncertain against crosses and insufficiently protected by their midfield.
The expedition to Malaga, where Milan meet the leaders of their Champions League group tonight, carries a number of ingredients to bring trepidation to a rickety back four, notably the promptings of Malaga's Isco and Joaquin.
Ahead of leaving for Spain, Massimiliano Allegri and his players were confined to the Milanello practice centre for the two days and nights ahead.
"The players will have had a chance to think hard about what is happening," said Adriano Galliani, the club vice president, portraying his decision to order them to barracks more like an incarceration than a chance to find inspiration.
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