Marcel Desailly said under-fire head coach Vincenzo Montella is not entirely to blame for AC Milan's struggles, pointing to the club's owners as he called for patience at San Siro.
Montella is in a precarious position, with Milan unable to live up to the hype following a busy and expensive transfer window - seventh in Serie A and 13 points adrift of leaders Napoli.
Not even the high-profile arrivals of Leonardo Bonucci, Lucas Biglia, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, Franck Kessie, Fabio Borini and Nikola Kalinic have been able to restore Milan's fortunes early in the season.
Montella was reportedly spared his job following Sunday's 2-0 win at Sassuolo but the axe is set to fall on the 43-year-old if Milan - without a Scudetto since 2010-11 - concede further ground on the leading pack, having already tasted defeat to Juventus, Inter, Roma, Sampdoria and Lazio.
But former Milan centre-back and World Cup-winning France international Desailly - who claimed two Serie A titles and the Champions League during his time at the club - defended Montella.
"I remember when they lost against Roma, everyone was saying 'let's sack him'. This is where the guys who are in charge are very clever, because they know it is also their fault," said Desailly, speaking ahead of the Golden Foot Hublot Award in Monaco.
"Whatever manager you bring into the system, according to the players you bought... Some players you bought because if you don't buy them now, in the future when they get to another club, you cannot have them back because the budget will be too high.
"So, you know already that you are into a transition season. I know the fans, the media will talk about AC Milan, how healthy financially they are with the Chinese, they could spend more. No, it's a transition season.
"They were just hoping that maybe with the confidence they were going to succeed and get to a certain level. It didn't happen, so it's just a matter of patience and seeing for next season to top up with three or maybe four top, experienced players."
With Milan's wait for a Scudetto set to go on for at least another season, Desailly is desperate for Maurizio Sarri's Napoli to end Juventus' stranglehold on the Serie A.
"I like football, because there's no truth, first of all, and there's cycles. I would like the cycle of Juventus to finish, because it's now seven years almost that they've won Serie A. We want other faces," he added.
"Napoli are a very nice face, because, tactically the projection, how they go forward to play and the technical aspect of the collective of Napoli is just amazing. I really want them to be able to physically stay at that level and be able to win this league."