Gennaro Gattuso spoke at length on the first day of pre-season, making it clear that due to all the corporate issues, goals haven’t really been set for next season and it’s not certain that there will be new signings. Rino also discussed Kalinić, Silva, Fiori-Magni and more.
The preparations for the new season started today for Milan, as the players (excluding the ones who played in the 2018 World Cup in Russia) returned to the Diavolo for the first day of training.
The first training day is usually accompanied by enthusiasm and desire to see the team back on the pitch but this time the sensations are different due to the massive confusion that comes from the corporate affairs at Milan. According to the vast majority of reports, Elliott Management is set to take over the club and the Chinese era at the club is coming to an end after just over a year, as President Yonghong Li missed a payment and therefore is destined to see the club get taken away from him.
These issues, together with the fact that Milan’s mercato is practically non-existent, as they need to sell before they can buy, mean that the spirits of the fans are not as high as they could’ve been.
With all this considered, today Gattuso and Mirabelli faced the press at Milanello.
“The points won last year? That’s the past, we have to look to the future,” Gattuso said to a room full of journalists. “We didn’t change a lot and I’m sure that we will have other signings and afterwards Mirabelli will speak, but we must start and restart with great enthusiasm, the alibies are set aside, the issues are set aside, we are here to sweat and work and afterwards we will see where we arrive or going to arrive, but we must believe – strongly believe – in what we do. We had some issues, we had some problems, but our duty is to prepare for the season at best.
“I was running during the physical tests too? I live football, I’m just like this, I can’t change, and I can stay in strong contact with my guys and hit the ground running with them. Sometimes it’s useful, sometimes it’s not, but it’s my personal characteristic.
“The sensations and the difficulties at the start of the season when you have a team of which you don’t know who are the players that will continue, who will be the new signings and this air of change in ownership? I always say the truth, these were 50 difficult days, also for me, and I can assure you that I had worse moments as a coach in other clubs, I’m used to it, but I’m convinced and I’m sure that things can improve and will improve. I have heard and listened to many rumours over these 50 days that players want to go away, but to date no player has come to me or called me or went to the President – maybe some agents did, I don’t talk to them – but I’ve heard no player ask me to go away. We are restarting from an important basis, with an important group of top players and then we will see how this club will be strengthened or not, but we start from a very good basis.
“Fans say that the only certainty at Milan is Gattuso? I feel the pressure, but I’m not worried. I’m sure that I can’t do everything on my own, this is a very important. To say the truth, this club has had some issues, but I wish to ensure you again that from economic and a financial point of view, we never lacked anything, maybe one week delay for the payments, but from a structural point of view, we never lacked anything. The people around me, the people working for the club, have always been fine. The fact that the President isn’t in touch with the top management makes it all more difficult, but I believe that in this moment we must honor this club and we must do our best to make it work at best, and I’ll do my best. I feel this pressure, but I like it. In these months, I always put my face out there, because I’m the first fan of this club, I’m the coach, I’m the head of the fans and for me it’s an honor to coach such a team and I’m happy. I’m not worried and I will do my best.
“If we will live day by day or we already know where we want to get? We have a strong group and to strengthen this team, both Mr. Fassone and Mr. Mirabelli know what type of players I like. We start from a very important basis, I hope new signings will come because I think there’s a need for it, but I can stay also like this, there’s no problem. We are aware that other teams there were already top teams have already strengthened.
“The department that needs strengthening, considering the fact that it will be a self-financed market and we can’t expect big negotiations? [Laughs] I’ve always said that we need an alternative for our wingers, a mezz’ala [side midfielder] with the same characteristics as Kessié, and then we’ll see. Let’s not forget that we have four forwards – Bacca, Kalinić, André Silva and Cutrone, let’s see what the transfer window will say. If no forward leaves then we’re not going to look for other forwards.
“The physiological effect of corporate issues taking away what we do on the pitch? From today our objective is to prepare ourselves. We’ll know the CAS ruling on July 19th, but we will have to start our pre-season with the idea that we’re going to participate in the Europa League. We must start with the conviction that we’re going to play in the Europa League.
“If the club has asked me for specific targets this year? Do you think that with all the issues the club has asked me for targets? After May 20th, I was at Casa Milan everyday talking with Mirabelli, with the CEO. In two of the occasions, there was also David Li, we spoke about what we had to do. Then I went on holiday, I spoke 4-5 times with Fassone, but we haven’t talked about objectives yet, because there are more important issues to be solved.
“If I’m happy that we have two top goalkeepers in Pepe Reina and Gigio Donnarumma? The one who is better will play. It’s better to have two top players than not having a top goalkeeper. It will be my problem, it will be difficult for me to choose but it’s fantastic.
“The situation with the strikers as we want to relaunch André Silva after not a perfect season? It’s the pitch that will talk. We’ll see. You were talking about André Silva, but I’ll talk to you about Bacca. I hope he will arrive with the will to sweat, not with the idea that he has to leave, and then if he finds another solution it’s OK, but if he stays here, he has to stay here like I want him to stay. But this also applies to other players. André Silva knows that in this moment, after one year, I want him to give higher performances, because he has the characteristics, he’s a good player, what he did last year is not enough, so he has to train, he has to sweat, he has to be available. And then, I don’t know who will be in the line-up, it’s the pitch and what happens on the pitch. In my mind, I know what they can give to me, what the four strikers can give to me. I know it. Kalinić, for the movements he makes, the cleanness and the cleverness, makes himself the only one [in the squad] while the other forwards have different characteristics, so when you look for something, you look for the best.
“What I think about Buffon going to Paris Saint-Germain [he officially joined them this week]? I never thought that Gigi, at 40-years-old, would continue being a protagonist for a team like PSG, a team that is currently one of the top teams in Europe. And I was surprised, because if I remember, in 2010, he had problems with his back and everyone was saying he was finished. And now we’re here talking about Gigi, at 40-year-olds, going to play for one of the top teams in Europe.
“Alen Halilović [who arrived to Milan from Hamburg on a free transfer]? I see him as a mezz’ala, with different characteristics to Kessié. I’m not kidding, he played some matches as a mezz’ala, with less runs but with greater technical qualities. If you put him right, he can do well.
“If we saw any interesting player at the World Cup in Russia? [Smiles] We don’t have to go to Russia to meet players or to see players, but before Mirabelli said something important: we have to sign players who can grant improvement to this squad, if not then it’s useless. Now, who the new signings will be – if they are going to arrive – they will have to have specific characteristics, not only technical and tactical, but also human characteristics, because maybe sometimes when you spend €40m, €60m, €70m, you don’t think about the human part of the player and his character. The human part is important for me, because I have to work with him, I have to look at him. What type of professional he is, and when we talk about players, it’s an important element for me.
“The corporate issues? Thanks God I’m only the coach. Since I’ve been here, I’m only to coach, there are many professionals here and I spend my time only when we talk on technical and tactical levels. In other clubs I was more than a coach, but since three days ago, I’ve been every day to Milanello, we talk only about football, we are preparing for the season and the training camps, and all the anxieties just go away, I do what I like. The worst moment was when I was on my own, after the time with the kids and my wife I started harassing Mirabelli [laughs].
“Plan B on the pitch for next season? Yes, we’re going to start from where we finished, but we’ll start to work on new concepts and we will work on these things. Maybe a 3-man defense during the course of matches, but the midfield will have three players and then we’re thinking about some changes.
“The fact that Kalinić was sent away from the Croatian squad [the question was originally given to Mirabelli but Gattuso asked to answer in this place]? I spoke with Nikola. I can tell you that when he left Milanello, he was always suffering from some physical problems during training, and when he went away from here [to Russia], he had this physical problem. But the problem is that he didn’t talk, and he was not honest with his NT coach. And when you have an NT coach, you have to do the best, because if not then there’s a lack of respect from the teammates and from the coach. This problem came out, I spoke with him and I can ensure you that it’s not easy to train Nikola, but he’s a very sensitive guy, doesn’t hold a grudge. And when he sees that people around him always speak to him then he knows how to behave. And I think his biggest error was that he wasn’t honest with the coach.
“If Simone Zaza is a player that I like [it is believed that Milan will try to get him if Kalinić leaves]? We already have someone like him – Patrick Cutrone. He’s similar, with less experience but he’s similar. We repeat again: today, the priority is to talk about our strikers. Then if someone of these four forwards wants to leave, it’s OK, but to date we have no ideas to purchase new attackers.
“If and when there’s a change in ownership, would I want to have the same relationship with the same sporting director [Mirabelli]? We are a couple that works from morning to night, we confront each other, but it’s always respectful, we look each other in the eyes. We don’t need to convince one another, we do things for Milan’s benefit, to improve things and maybe we can make some mistakes, but before we make mistakes, we insult each other, sometimes in Calabrian dialect, sometimes in English because I’ve started talking in English. But we talk between ourselves to improve.
“The decision to replace goalkeepers coach Alfredo Magni with [former Milan goalkeeper and trainer] Valerio Fiori? There is also Gigi Ragno, who has worked here for five years with the same methodology as Magni. Gigi Ragno was in the Youth Sector. Now all the people at Milan are all people who’ve worked here for 10 years, I preferred to make this choice because I cannot waste time explaining how things work here. With Magni we lost a great professional, there’s nothing against him but I think that at this moment, it was both my and the club’s choice. We looked for a professional like Valerio, who already knew Milan, but there’s nothing against Magni as a professional and a man, it was only my choice and the club’s choice.
“Everyone thinks that Bacca is going to leave? Bacca has a price, the club gave it to him and if they don’t find an agreement then he’ll come back here and be part of the squad. I hope he will come here with great will, great commitment and I will work also with Bacca. But if he arrives and then I’ll have to start to convince him, then no way… if he comes here, he puts on the Milan jersey, he represents Milan and he trains as well as everyone else. Last year he scored 18 goals in all competitions at Villarreal, why not keep him instead? If he needs some cuddles and hugs, I have no problem…
“What is the objective for next season: Champions League or Europa League? The real objective is to find tranquility from all points of view, from a corporate point of view, for our fans to live day by day quietly. We have to hope for this and we have to start working on the objectives, get enthusiasm. It’s easy for me to say that our objective is to get to the Champions League, but it’s difficult.
“Let’s wait one second, let’s start and make as little mistakes as possible and see where we arrive, what type of mercato we’ll do and when you see me again, I ask me the same question.”