Gennaro Gattuso did not hide his desire to stay at Milan past the current season, as he is getting ready for possibly the most important day in his career so far.
The final Matchday of Serie A will be played tomorrow, and there are three teams fighting for just two Champions League spots – Atalanta, Inter and Milan.
The three will be playing at the same time on Sunday evening and the Rossoneri will hope one of their rivals loses points, while they take maximum points from their match against SPAL at Stadio Paolo Mazza (20:30 CEST kickoff).
“I know SPAL very well because their core started off in Serie C when I was also in that division,” Gattuso said in today’s presser. “I’ve been facing Leonardo Semplici for a few seasons now and he’s gotten better every year. He has improved constantly since leaving Fiorentina’s Primavera. Tomorrow we have to be careful because they play very well, they have Manuel Lazzari and Mohamed Fares on the wings and they move at a thousand miles per hour. We’re aware a lot is on the line, we will need to fight, until 22:30 CEST we’ll think of our duty and then we’ll see what happens.
“What will happen at the end of the game? I will embrace everyone, because I owe a lot to this group of players. We are missing the icing on the cake, but I have only positive words for them this season. There is a lot at stake tomorrow and we’ll fight for it together.
“The sensations during the week? I haven’t seen packed bags or any empty lockers or anything like that. I’ve been impressed by the commitment shown by the players this week. I saw everything in its place and great professionalism from every single player. The management has been involved as usual, nothing has changed. We’ll play for a lot tomorrow, all united.
“If it’s a mental advantage of disadvantage to play knowing everything depends on other teams? We have to think about doing ours, the mistake we can make is to play in Ferrara while thinking about others. The SPAL we face tomorrow have an objective, they want to get 10th place and there is a lot of money involved. Tomorrow it’ll be very difficult.
“If playing away makes Milan more free-headed? I don’t know, we have to be gassed when San Siro pushes us with 65k people. Against Frosinone we played badly in the first half, with little verticality and zero second balls. After the penalty we then improved and tomorrow we can’t replicate that first half because SPAL are much stronger.
“Last training session at Milanello? Training Milan is a dream. It has been difficult and I hope to continue experiencing it. It’s been an honor and I want to carry on in this role for as long as possible. If the probably fifth place would be a failure? No, because if we look at the statistics, we’ve picked up more points than over the last few years. We had a lot of problems and always got through them.
“On paper, apart from Atalanta who are enjoying a sporting miracle, there were teams that were better equipped than us and yet we are in front of them in the table. It’s true, we wasted some opportunities, but it’s not a total write-off. Besides, I repeat that nobody at this club has ever told me to qualify for the Champions League. I was asked to try and that is what we are doing, going into the final round with a good chance. But the club has never said the Champions League is obligatory.
“If I expect to be confirmed? It makes me laugh. Until 22:30 CEST tomorrow, we only need to talk about the pitch, only about SPAL. From next week there will be time and a way to talk about all this. A sacrifice for the Champions League? I could do everything or nothing at all but right now I don’t have the mind to think about these things. I might shave my beard, as I’ve had that for 10 years, if it happens then maybe tomorrow night I’ll show you me without a beard. I don’t know, we’ll see.
“If there’s anything I wouldn’t do about this season? I would do it all again, for better or worse I’d do it all again. Because at the end of the day I am not one to make calculations, I’m a frank and honest person and it shows, but I’m happy about it. If I have to analyze then maybe there have been some errors but I would try to improve myself on a technical-tactical level.
“If there’s been excessive criticism towards me? I don’t care who speaks well of me and who speaks ill of me. Right now I just have to concentrate on the work that is already difficult to do. If every day I’d have to listen to those who throw away words then I’d lose time. I was the first to want to raise the bar this year, because I had a young team in my hands and I couldn’t say ‘we are worth sixth place’. I am sorry because when we could’ve done something more we missed out, but all the merits and positive things go to the boys, not to me. Even in difficulties they have always worked, getting out of it. On the other hand, it was in the moments of calm, when we should’ve been confident, that we slipped up. That’s a pity. It angers me that we needed to be woken up before we’d react.
“What to improve for the leap in quality? There is not much to do. So many times we have to analyze well and understand what kind of football we want to play, with players who are functional. For the type of team that we are, we perhaps need someone with experience who takes responsibility in the locker room, I think we need to go in search of this and that’s what I thought last year too.
“If a single point can change the ratings of the season? I think that in the last 10-15 years the work of the journalist has changed incredibly. It’s a strange work, there are 100 websites, who write and write and nothing can be verified. Many times you lack professionalism.
“What should the fans expect in the summer? The fans must know that there is a strong club behind that is made up of smart people, and they must expect the best because I have known all those who run the club and they know which way they should go. We must have confidence and be calm.
“How much have I changed from the start of the season to now? I haven’t… I look at myself in the mirror and I’m just older. It doesn’t seem like a year has passed from the tour in America at the beginning of the season, but rather ten years. I believe that on a professional level, at the start of my career I was much more furious while now in these last 19 months I feel improved in terms my character and in the relationship with the players, they were also good at helping me to calm down.
“Which player has surprised me? I don’t want to talk about individuals, so many have improved. Seeing how Abate played as a center back was a surprise, we spent a few weeks convincing him and then it was the biggest surprise. He played a big role, but then many have done week. Unfortunately, in terms of quality there was very little Çalhanoğlu; seeing that he’s scored so few goals makes me angry because he could score 7-8 goals with the ballistic capabilities he has.
“If I’m fascinated by the possibility of a younger Milan next season? The younger it is the harder it becomes [laughs]. We’re lacking the ‘beautiful game’? Yes, and I’m the first to be disappointed. In the first 10 games I was very happy with how the team kept the field. That’s why it’s important to find functional players, not only strong players. But today I don’t want to talk about what will happen, the head is only on SPAL and from Monday we’ll talk about everything that will happen.
“With Abate and Zapata gone we’ll have even less experience? These are corporate choices. I said what I thought but I respect the choice of the club that wants to follow a very precise line. For how they behaved and for their professionalism, I can only say positive things. Then the choices are made by the club, we really need to thank them for the professionalism they put up to the last day.
“Which game I remember the most? Every one of them. There was a moment when we were missing 10 players and those who were there gave everything. The thing that makes me angriest this year is that we have always had to take some blows to wake up. When we were calm, however, we never played with anger and malice. We only came out in times of difficulty and this makes me angry.
“The affection of the fans? All you can say is thank you. The fact that over a million supporters have come to the stadium to watch us demonstrates the passion and hunger they have. They were also incredible during our match against Frosinone. Our fans are hungry for Milan, the love and attachment they have shown us has always been unique. They’re a real added value and they deserve much more than this lack of results in recent years.
“I would like to thank the journalists and media who have followed us. Sorry if I lost my temper at times, I have to improve on this but that’s part of my personality. I thank you all for your professionalism. You wrote some rubbish at times, but that’s part of the job! There have been important months and difficult ones, but this is a team that is difficult to explain, above all for someone like me who played here for many years. I will do everything to stay here for as long as possible and bring important results for this glorious club.
“The thing that has given me the most annoyance this season? That we made it look like 65 points with a game still to be played was normal, to be expected and just the average. It seems that this whole group is useless, that everyone must leave and should run away from home. But it’s not like that. It is true that we made mistakes but we also did positive things. Everything we’ve done hasn’t been written or taken for granted. On the contrary, it has been difficult and we’ve done everything to still be clinging to the last Matchday. Then, if we go tomorrow to the Champions League I really want to see of gets on the bandwagon. If I see some of you on our bandwagon, I’ll kick you off it [laughs].”