Mauro Tassotti has given a very long interview to the Ukraine media, discussing his decision to leave Milan after 36 years to become Andriy Shevchenko’s assistant, talking about the ‘secret of success’ that Carlo Ancelotti’s side had and speaking of his former players who are now coaches.
The ‘enteral assistant’ left Milan at the end of the last season after spending no less than 36 years with the Rossoneri. Tassotti played for Milan from 1980 to 1997 and then acted as coaching assistant to Carlo Ancelotti, Leonardo, Massimiliano Allegri, Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi.
In his final year working for the red and black club, his job was to scout the Milan players who are on loan but the burning desire to return to the pitch and coach again saw Mauro teaming up with his former player Andriy Shevchenko in a new challenge in the form of the Ukraine national team.
Speaking in an extensive interview to ‘Sportarena’, the 56-year-old discussed a very big number of topics, talking about his new role but also giving his input on what’s going on at Milan.
“My first impressions of the Ukraine national team? I’m delighted to be part of the team,” Tassotti said. “It’s a difficult experience but stimulating. We are here to help Ukrainian football to grow and progress. With regard to training, it’s been nice. There’s been a lot of people [involved], young people and even children. I think it was important for the team in terms of morality and psychology.
“We were received well. The players are very interested in what we do. And there is cooperation between us. We are very happy with the way the players perceive us. We have hard work ahead, because the team had a bad European Championship. The results were bad.
“In our qualifying group for the World Cup, we have serious rivals. Iceland proved themselves at Euro 2016, and Croatia are also a strong team. It will be a very difficult path, but we’ll try to get to the World Cup, and I especially want to help the Ukrainian football to grow.
“How long it took before I agreed to join Shevchenko? Andriy called me and offered me the chance to work with the team. For me, it certainly wasn’t an easy decision. I worked at Milan for 36 years – first as a player then as a Coach – 36 years nonstop! It was hard to give up those colors. But most of all, I wanted to return to training and working on the pitch, especially with my friend and a man I know well. For me Shevchenko’s offer is an honor and a type of recognition, the recognition of my work.
“I missed working on the pitch, and I understand that working in a national team is not like in a club. But I wanted to coach again. I missed encountering the other coaches, the communication with players. I want to share the players’ experience with the players, so I became very bored.
“Last year my job was to follow players on loan? It’s not that I wasn’t happy with my post, but naturally I wanted to coach more, and now I am with new people and different coaching staff. Employment in other areas has been an important experience for me and helped me.
“I watched the Milan players who were out on loan. I liked it, but the fact is that in Milan began to trust more people from the outside than those who were already the club. This is what needs to change because for an agent, his client is always a good player,” added Mauro, perhaps referring to Adriano Galliani constantly relying on agents and his friends to make transfers in recent years.
“What’s happened to Milan in recent years? The club no longer spend as much as money and aren’t bold in the transfer market as they were before. Plus, the competition has increased as there were sheikhs and rich clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City. They’re able to spend a lot of money on players, and with them it’s very difficult to compete. It’s hard to be rivals with clubs who spend €150m. Of course, mistakes were made in the management of the club, but they were normal. You can’t afford to make mistakes when you have only a little money, but it’s impossible [not to].
“Silvio Berlusconi is selling? He is the greatest President in the history of Milan and Italian football. He was there for many years and has a great passion for Milan. But in recent years, the situation has been very unclear and no-one knew whether or not the club would be sold. The sale is good news as there’s no more of this confusion or misunderstanding of what to expect. In the last transfer window, there wasn’t a lot of signings, but maybe the new owners will buy good players.
“The formula for success of Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan? There is no secret – there were great players and a strong coach. The formula for success is in the legs and heads of the players. It was a team with strong individual players but at the same time – they were a group, a team and that is what allowed us to win the Champions League twice. In football, not always the strongest side wins.
“For instance, we had to win against Liverpool in Istanbul but lost and then played worse than them two years later but won the Champions League. Every year even if Milan weren’t in the final – they were close to it. This is the greatness of these players. They were in top level for many years.
“Arrigo Sacchi’s football revolution? He completely changed Italian football. Before Sacchi, calico was very defensive and everything changed with him. He came from a club in Serie B and had the strength to bring his philosophy. He was a maniac at work. Every day, he put an incredible burden on us, destroying us in training. Day after day, it was the same thing. He managed to create a team that played from memory and by heart. And we not only won, but we also had fun.
“We liked to play. In training, he was very hard, but when we went out on the pitch, it was different. All situations that we worked on in training were easily obtained in the game. It was great. Who is my favorite coach? Sacchi gave me a lot. The most important thing was that he taught me how to train. But it’s not just me. This culture of work remained in Milan for many years.
“And thanks to Milan, from season 1987-1988 and about until 2009, they remained on top. Sacchi brought this mentality, and he passed it onto the players. When Shevchenko joined Milan, he met with Paolo Maldini, Billy Costacurta, Albertini, and they worked with Sacchi. These were the players with a special mentality, but once this generation passed, the problems started.
“Inzaghi, Seedorf, Gattuso and others are all coaching? It’s early to say something about them because they’re only recently started their careers. They will have time to show themselves. Oddo is already working in Serie A with Pescara and got promoted from Serie B. Gattuso was in Lega Pro with Pisa and now he’s in Serie B while Nesta is gaining experience in the US and Seedorf is in China. I’m sure they will succeed. They are not only good players, but good people with their own ideas.
“If I saw Shevchenko as a future coach? Young players who are just starting to play don’t think about whether to be coaches or not and then when they realize the end of the career is near they begin to think about it. It’s very difficult to leave the world of football, it was so for me.
“And I think that you don’t think about it before you’re 30-32. After you reach 30, you ask yourself: ‘What is next?’. It’s only in this atmosphere, in this world – that you feel good. It’s work, but it’s special work when you do what you really like.
“Andriy was always interested in the tactical aspects of the game and we were constantly figuring out with him how to move in attack and how to use the free spaces. We often worked together, discussed and analyzed things. He was interested. And those who are interested also want to work themselves.
“If he consulted with me before becoming a coach? Andriy didn’t ask me anything, it was his decision. Many players from Milan have started to work as coaches. About 20 men ended their career and roughly 10 now train in Italy or in the United States (MLS) like Sandro Nesta.
“Shevchenko immediately emphasized the importance of discipline? There are rules. When there are many people, they should be a group. Don’t use phone during dinner time, dress the same – it’s completely logical to me, of course as in Italy it’s instituted. I don’t know how things are in Ukraine. Shevchenko doesn’t seem harsh to me, but rather attentive. If a team is organized outside the field, then it’ll be on the field. If there is no order outside the field, then there will not be order on the field.
“Those are the rules. If Sheva has changed since becoming a coach? He’s a different man. When you play you’re only responsible for yourself whereas as a coach you’re responsible for the whole team. There’s no time to be distracted, you have to change – it’s necessary when you become a coach.
“My duties with the Ukraine national team? I try to deal with the defenders and their defensive game, seeing as I was a defender. That’s my main role. Together, the staff work together on the overall picture, but time is limited. This feature works in the team. Eight to nine days is necessary to pay attention to many aspects and solve a lot of problems because the players then return to their clubs.
“In my thesis I wrote about the work of defenders? All the defenders have to think the same way and read the game the same way. There should be an understanding between them and they need to move well and understand how to move in certain situations. It’s important to help each other.
“Who from the Ukraine national team I would’ve taken to Milan if I were still there? But I don’t work at Milan! Of course, I’m still a fan and I can’t forget those 36 years. I don’t know whether there is in Ukraine a player ready for Serie A. I’ll spend here more than and then I’ll be able to say. A very interesting young player is Oleksandr Zinchenko but he has already been bought by Manchester City. He’s very promising and has great room for growth.
“It was hard for me to leave Milan? Of course! I spent 36 years at Milan as a player and as a coach. It’s a very long time and I knew all the people at the club from people at Milanello to the manual workers. It was a deep relationship which was not easy to end.
“The fact that I was always the assistant at Milan? I was never asked to become the head coach but of course it was desirable. When I coached Milan Primavera I had offers from other clubs to be a head coach but I’d decided to stay. I had young kids and I’d decided to stay in the city and with the club.”
Tassotti and Ukraine start their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification stage tonight with a match against perhaps the best thing that happened in the EURO’s this summer: Iceland (20:45 CET kickoff).