Daniele Massaro has said he and Gonzalo Higuaín would’ve been a good pair, confirmed he rejected Juventus in 1986 to go to Milan and then rejected a move to Inter to stay with the Rossoneri.
The Derby della Madonnina is just one day away, and Milan legend Daniele Massaro, spoke to today’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport to talk about his experiences.
Massaro, who played for Milan as a striker, a winger and even as a fullback, has been working at the club for many years and is currently a Brand Ambassador of the seven-time Champions League winners.
“It all happened in 1997, I had just returned from Japan [where he ended his career with Shimizu S-Pulse] and Galliani called me a few hours after landing,” Massaro said. “He invited me to Milanello the next day and told me: ‘From tomorrow, you start working at Milan’. I have not stopped [since], except for three years ‘on the bench’. By the way, since Gattuso will not call me up for tomorrow, I’ll watch Inter-Milan at Casa Milan in the middle of the fans at Bistrot Fourghetti.
“What is Milan in one word? The dream. As a child I wanted to wear the Rossoneri shirt more than anything in the world. When it happened, it was the best day of my life after the one in which my daughter was born. A story of the movies? But I had to go back on my word given to Juventus. December 1985, I was at Fiorentina and Giovanni Trapattoni [Juve coach at a time] told me: ‘Michel Platini spoke to L’Avvocato Gianni Agnelli and he wants you at Juventus’. I had an expiring contract, I assured him that we would talk about it at the end of the campaign; Juventus, in those years, were the top. In the early months of 1986, my phone rang and the ‘usual’ Galliani said: ‘Berlusconi bought Milan, I will be the CEO, we want…’ I didn’t let him finish the question.
“I was born a Milanista. I saw into the future? Absolutely, even though I experienced difficult moments. When Arrigo Sacchi arrived [in 1987], for example, he introduced himself like this: ‘You will never play on my team’. Things went differently, as you know, and I will always thank him because with him I got back into the game, he made me understand that in the kind of football that he had in mind, I could only play as a striker. Well, 12 years later he took me to the World Cup.
“My strength was the passion for these colors, I did everything for Milan, also playing as a defender, I agreed to sit out after I scored, and I always put the group in front. I [also] said ‘no’ to Inter. I was in the third year of my contract and Ernesto Pellegrini [the sporting director of Inter from 1984 to 1995] offered to double my salary. But I would have never gone the other side [of Milano].
“What is the derby for me? That match for which the word ‘defeat’ is not admissible. Take the first goal I scored in the derby, it was the third goal of a 3-0 but I still enjoyed it like crazy: at that moment I realized that they were definitely out for the count and wouldn’t recover anymore.
“My goal in the derby on April 18 1992 in the 89′ minute to win 1-0? Perhaps my worst match ever. I never got it… [but] then Diego Fuser went on the wing and I slipped as I was about to go inside [the box]… Riccardo Ferri, who was marking me, turned, he didn’t see me and he moved. I got up, appeared out of the blue, hit the ball with my head, and San Siro exploded.
“My goal in the derby on March 20 1994, again in the 89′ minute to win 2-1? It was 1-0 to us. Inter got a corner, I got distracted and let the ball get past me and Salvatore Schillaci shoved it in behind me… 1-1 in the 86′ minute, a drama. Three minutes later, I made up for it: a long ball, a stop on the chest, left foot and 2-1. Fantastic [Milan ended up winning the Scudetto that season].
“If that goal was better than the double in Athens [in the 1994 Champions League final]? Those two goals in the 4-0 against Barcelona were the icing on the cake of an unforgettable season. In 1994, I scored the winner in the derby, the brace in the Champions League final and the decisive goal for passing the first round of the World Cup in the United States [1-1 against Mexico].
“How did we prepare for the derby? I fell asleep on the bus from Milanello to San Siro. I was able to concentrate when it counted without getting caught up in agitation. Our strength was also that: the awareness of being able to make it at the end of the last Saturday training session.
“And those 90 minutes were a liberation: at Milanello, with Sacchi and Capello, there were battles, the beatings you took against Inter were nothing in comparison… The secret to winning a derby is to prepare for it maniacally, mentally and physically.
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“If Cutrone is like me in the sense that he gets you out of the ‘traffic jams’? I hope so. And I also said it to Gattuso: when Patrick plays as a starter, he starts off well but then drops in his intensity. If he enters during the game, however, he is special: at this moment he is the man who changes the game, as happened against Roma and Olympiacos, or in the Coppa Italia derby last year.
“His performance is about quality and not quantity, like what happened to me in the last phase of my career. He must understand that he has an incredible margin for improvement, he must be humble and take advantage of the years ahead of him, learning from Higuaín.
“What kind of pair would El Pipita and I have been? I always did the dirty work for the first striker, we would’ve done great. If Higuaín better than Icardi? Mauro has grown a lot. He has stopped playing for himself and waiting in the penalty area and now he is in symbiosis with the group.
“But I’d take Gonzalo, he’s more complete. The toughest opponents in my derby and in tomorrow’s game? In my day, Giuseppe Bergomi and Riccardo Ferri. Tomorrow, keep an eye on Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović, they get up in the morning and say: ‘Today I make the difference’. If this happens, you can’t take them. But we have Suso, when he comes on, there are pains for Inter.
“If Gattuso can stay long at Milan like Sacchi and Capello? Yes, because he reflects the values of Milan: passion, work, dedication. They say that he has no experience but there’s nothing more wrong than that. The years at Palermo, Crete and Pisa, in situations that were not always ordinary, have formed him. He has a fundamental skill for those who coach at high levels: he can handle pressure.
“And Gattuso’s Milan play well. What players I imagine will still be at Milan in 10 years? Romagnoli, Cutrone, Calabria and Donnarumma. They can become record-breaking Milanisti, ala-Maldini, they have a different thickness than others. And if they start winning…
“Higuaín said he wants to win right away while Elliott are giving themselves 3-5 years? It takes time and vision of everyone. The new ownership has it: it is solid, it has chosen the right men in all sectors, from Leonardo and Paolo, who have brought credibility and competence, to Gazidis and Higuaín. The return to the Champions League is within reach.
“What answers can the derby give? It’s a turning point game. If you beat Inter, Milan take off and the season as well. If we’ll beat them? By nature I’m an optimist…”