MASSIMILIANO ALLEGRI believes Milan are more of a team, and has claimed that Milan will keep playing the same way.
Milan take on Galaxy tonight (in the night between Wednesday and Thursday – 00:30) and it will be their last game before the UEFA Champions League playoffs (Milan will learn who their opponent is on Friday – when the draw takes place).
Milan’s pre-season was affected by many injuries but they are expected to have most of the injured players in time for August 21st. Massimiliano Allegri has fielded many youngsters this pre-season and he says Milan are better than last year.
“It’s stimulating to train youngsters because they have hunger and desire to win. A 20-year old can have recklessness and the craziness to try something that you wouldn’t do if you thought it through first,” boss Massimiliano Allegri told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “My decision to stay at Milan? I trust my instinct. It has gone wrong those times when I have not followed it.
“Galliani, the president and I spoke, and we decided to continue together. This is a new challenge for me. My squad? I have a squad of quality youngsters, and we now have the advantage of having played together for a year. We didn’t have that last year. I think that Serie A will be more well-balanced this season, and there’s a big distance between the 6-7 teams and the rest. However, Juventus have won the last two seasons, and they have signed good players, so they are the favorites.
“We were the favorites after we won the Scudetto in 2011. Juventus have worked well and they have beaten us. Those who win are the favorites – that’s how it works. I’m always calm. It’s just that Juventus have taken a couple of my jokes a bit too seriously. There is someone who should take a course in humor. I’m fortunate enough to come from Livorno, so humor is a natural thing for me. How my relationship with Conte and Mazzarri is? I respect everyone. But character is one thing and professionalism is something else. Conte has done an excellent job. Mazzarri is a good coach, and he will do well at Inter.
“As for myself, we seem to have more of a team now than we did a year ago. We will have Balotelli with us from the start this season, and he was the best signing in 2013. And I have faith in CEO Galliani. He always makes good signings at the end of the transfer window. The fact that other teams have changed more than Milan have? But we have improved as a team.
“The youngsters have grown; if they improve their individual qualities then our play will also improve. If I field a youngster then it’s not because he’s young and that I have to field him. If I choose him then it’s because he’s a good player. Which players to keep an eye on this season? Petagna and Cristante have started the season well with the first team. Cristante did better in the beginning, and now Petagna is doing better. But you need to have balance when it comes to youngsters; you must not overhype them when they perform well, and you must not criticise them heavily when they make mistakes.
“El Shaarawy didn’t get to play in many matches in his first season at Milan, and then he played 28 matches the following season. The youngsters that we have must grow, but they have qualities. I’m curious to see Gabriel and Vergara will do. If I’m worried? Apart from the first 35 minutes against Manchester City, I think that our pre-season has been good. As for Inter, they have changed the way that they work. Mazzarri will have time to make progress: they will only play once a week this season, and that’s an advantage for a new team. If there’s still a big gap between Milan and the best European teams? I don’t know if the gap is bigger than it was a year ago, but Real Madrid, Barça and Bayern Munich are a level above us.
“Anything can happen in the Champions League; Manchester United, City, PSG and BvB are also there, but it’s very difficult to see the three big clubs failing. Milan were courageous enough to close a cycle and make a change. After Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were sold last year, it seemed like it would be a tragic season, but we managed to finish third and qualify for the Champions League play-offs. The ideal thing is to always finish in top 3 and make the youngsters improve.
“How Mario Balotelli is behaving with the youngest players? He’s behaving well. Deep down inside, he’s still a kid. He’s also a well-mannered person, but he’s only 23 so he must be treated like a 23-year old, who has to improve in many aspects. Mario knows what he has to do. I talked with him for a long time, and he knows that he’s the most important player in the squad, and the best one technically. Mario must take his responsibilities, and he must become our technical leader.
“Balotelli can’t be our psychological leader because he’s a timid person. If it’s better to coach Ibrahimovic or Balotelli? I’ve been fortunate enough to coach both of them. Ibra was stratospheric in his first four months at Milan. He won the matches all by himself. And then he was the usual great Ibra for a year and a half, but his first months at Milan were incredible.
“Balotelli is different – also technically. Ibra is more of a passer, while Balotelli is more of a dribbler. But Balotelli has an indescribable potential, and he still has to improve a lot. Balotelli’s mother said that Balo cried when Mourinho coached him? He was five years younger than he is now when he worked with Mourinho. He definitely doesn’t cry when he’s with me.
“If I gave Mourinho a fine for wearing a tracksuit? I was only joking in that interview with GQ. It’s summer and we’re only playing friendly matches now. In any case, I can confirm and repeat it: the coach represents the club and he must not wear a tracksuit during the matches. Football should follow the example of basketball in this aspect,” continued the Italian coach.
“Milan will play with three strikers or two strikers and a trequartista, but it depends on who the opponent is. If I’ve explained it to Berlusconi? We agree. And I have always fielded four offensive players: three strikers plus a midfielder who makes inserting runs. How I felt about a possible sale of El Shaarawy? Napoli sold Cavani and reinvested the money, and Roma did the same thing with Marquinhos. That being said, I’m happy that El Shaarawy stayed because he has done some good things and he will do better things. If it wouldn’t have been bad if El Shaarawy had been sold? You need to look at the facts:
“The Italian clubs have to be self-financing. With all the money that’s going around in the world, it’s impossible to be declared as unsellable. There aren’t any unsellable players in Italy. If I would have liked to have had Ogbonna at Milan? He’s a good defender. Juventus had a great defence and now they have improved it. But we have signed Matias Silvestre.
“And those defenders that I have are good. My defence is often criticised, but we didn’t concede that many goals in the second part of last season. It shows that the team is working well because if you leave your defenders isolated then even the best defenders in the world will struggle too. Why I’m still playing with four defenders when many Italian teams are playing with three? Nobody in Europe plays with three defenders, and it’s basically a five-man defence. I use the players that I have, and I like a defence consisting of four players, and a midfield with three players,” the 45-year-old added.
“If I’m worried about the current injuries? No. Mexes and Abate are fit and ready. De Sciglio and Robinho should also be ready for the Champions League play-offs. Who the leader in this Milan squad is? There are many. Montolivo has grown a lot in terms of personality, and then there’s Abbiati who looks like a bear, but is a real man that a coach can count on. And then there’s also Bonera. Nigel De Jong? He has charisma and personality. I didn’t think that he would return to being in top shape so quickly. Nigel has a good technique, and we have Montolivo, Poli and Muntari who are also good technically.
“Muntari has a good technique for a midfielder. In the great Milan side, Pirlo played with Gattuso and Ambrosini if I recall correctly. It’s not true that I favor muscular and physical players – I like technical players. You need to have technique within in a squad, but Milan always play with four players in attack. Isn’t that enough for you?” Allegri told the Gazzetta reporter.
This is Allegri’s fourth season in charge at Milan. The first one was the most successful one with the Scudetto won, he later went on to finishing as runner-up to Juventus are a Scudetto fight and last year Milan and Max finished in third place.