Giampaolo: “It’s an honor to be here and I feel no fear, the path is long and we must take things one step at a time, I haven’t chosen the formation yet, Milan’s goal has always been to achieve great things through beautiful play”

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Paolo Maldini and Marco Giampaolo during a press-conference at Casa Milan on July 8, 2019. (@acmilan.com)

Marco Giampaolo was presented to the press today and he spoke at great length about playing beautiful football, the topic of the formation and the fact that he needs ‘functional’ players.

The new coach of the Rossoneri arrived in Casa Milan today and he sat for an hour alongside Paolo Maldini, Zvonimir Boban and Frederic Massara to answer all the questions of the journalists.

Tomorrow Giampaolo will be at training center Milanello to do what he does best – coach players. But on Monday he took the time to speak a great deal about the 2019/20 Milan.

“If Milan is the big chance I’ve been waiting for in my career? First of all I’d like greet of all you, I’m delighted and motivated to be here. It’s an honor to coach Milan, the club has a glorious and prestigious history, it is one of the most well-known clubs in the world, and this is definitely a great opportunity. Through hard work, research and sacrifice, I believe that I do deserve this chance, now I need to deserve it on the pitch. However, this is not a point of arrival – there are never points of arrival in one’s professional journey, my path has been of falls and ascents. One of the first things and one of the most important things that members of the club told me when we first met is that ‘we do not trust those who have not made mistakes before’ – it is important to learn from one’s mistakes, only through making mistakes can we learn new things. I’m delighted to be here and I’m delighted to take on this challenge. And I think that I’m exactly at the right point of my career for this challenge.

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“When did I realize that I will become the coach of Milan? To be honest I was on a boat with friends ready for my holiday. The phone was ringing and Paolo asked me to come up so we can talk… my friends took off to Croatia for a holiday, I took the first plane to Milano. Five years ago I accepted to drop down to Serie C to coach, a choice that could’ve ended my professional career as a coach; it was a brave, difficult and perhaps crazy choice to start again from the third division, but I wanted to make it back to Serie A, starting from the lowest division. I wanted to be coaching at the top of the game, and five years later when I got a call from Maldini, I was over the moon. It’s a great honor and privilege to be here and I’m ready to take on this challenge.

“Boban said that I’m a logical and easy choice? First of all I’d like to thank him for the faith in me. For me, Milan has a clear identity in terms of football and play, the goal has always been to achieve great things through beautiful play, a goal that has often been reached, there’s a sense of belonging… the Rossoneri shirt of horizontal stripes is just one identifier. We have a lot of objectives this season and in the future. This season is going to be very long, but the primary objective is to have a clear brand, to be easily recognizable. Our players must identify with what they do and the fans must feel that sense of belonging, that pride of being a part of Milan.

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“The three cardinal points of my philosophy of football considering Conte’s motto is ‘head down and pedal’? [Laughs] The slogan is ‘head high and play football’. I don’t believe in distinguishing between starters or reserves, weak or strong players… I think the important thing is that the players are motivated and ambitious. I want players who want to write their names in the history books, they must want to be remembered for doing something important. We have to offer the fans and the audience an enjoyable spectacle, something they enjoy watching. Milan must point at top objectives, but we cannot start at the end, we must take things one step at a time and my first step is tomorrow when I’ll meet all the players. I want to understand what and how they thing, what their ambitions are, I want to create a shared belief in a style of football that we always share and is easily recognizable. The path is long, we must take things one step at a time and each step we take will determine the vision for the grander picture.

“The expectations of having to play beautiful football and not just win? I think it’s not possible to play good football unless you have quality players. To play esthetically-pleasing football you need top-quality players, they need the technical ability to actually turn that idea into a reality. All the players must be reading from the same sheet of music and here at Milan there are many players who meet that definition. Last season I was convinced that Milan could be the surprise package in the league. I remember their fantastic performance in Naples against Napoli… Milan were leading 2-0, they lost but the performance was truly impressive and it showed that this club, this team, can truly aim to finish in the top parts of the table. This squad and the players need to bring forward the project of esthetically-pleasing football. We have the idea and now we must bring it on. We will try to choose players able to carry on our idea of the game.

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“If it will not take a long time to create play esthetically-pleasing football as the team is lacking players of the quality of Boban and Maldini? It’ll certainly take a long time, and time may be both my first ally and my first enemy. We have a very young squad, probably the youngest in the league. First of all, we must impart the right ambition in these players. It’s an exercise in mentality, it will be necessary to transmit a winning mentality. In a well-balanced league, the differences are tiny and the most important thing is to make sure that everyone has the confidence and ambition to aim for the top. Boban and Maldini have a lot of experience and they can give a great contribution to helping build this new team. Playing or coaching Milan is not something that comes in every day, if you get this opportunity, you must face it without fear and you must be ambitious. You must not be afraid of being yourself. I’m proud and ambitious. Now, I’ll have to meet the players and understand what we’ll be working with. This is a great challenge, one I cannot wait to begin.

“In what areas of the field I think need to be reinforced? As I said, I want to get to know all the players in the squad very well: from Kessié to Laxalt, Paquetá, Cutrone, Bonaventura, who I hope recovers as soon as possible, Caldara who is not available now and I cannot count on… Before moving seriously in any direction, we want to understand who will be able to meet the plans we want to enact, and which players, although strong, will not be functional to our ideal. As I said, it’s not about great players or not-so-great players but about which players meet the requirements we need. In this sense, I want to take some period of reflection. It’s a pity I couldn’t study these six players sooner. We start off with a limited number of players but it also allows us to complete the team in the best way.

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“The formation I’ll use at Milan? Tomorrow will be the first day of training. It’s very important to understand where I am, what players are available, what the dynamic between the players is and I’ll choose the formation and tactical approach based on the players at my disposal. We will certainly play with four players in defense. Before I make any kind of choice, I want to meet everyone and to be able to judge everyone in order to avoid making any mistakes.

“If I think it’s realistic to point to finishing in the Top 4 and which players I think will be the key for this team? The final objective must be built, we can’t start with the final objective – we must take things one step at a time and with each step we build towards what we want to achieve. Clearly, our idea is to finish at the top of the table. But I’ll be focusing on each step. As for which players we’ll be building the team on, you mentioned three [the journalist mentioned Donnarumma, Paquetá and Piątek], but I prefer to talk about the entire squad. There are 24-25 players, including the goalkeeper. The squad comes before any individual player, every player must work for the good of the team. Every single player must give everything for the Milan cause. The difference is made by a group of players that are in the team’s service. There are no prima-donnas or privileged players, but Milan players.

“If I think this is a chance to prove Juventus wrong for not believing in me, as 10 years I was the Juve coach for one night? This is not about proving anything to anyone. My professional journey has been full of ups and downs as you’ve already mentioned. I was disappointed by the negative experiences, but I never gave up, every set-back has made me stronger, I’ve always sought to start again and start better. I’ve always studied, I like to keep up-to-date, and I believe you can never stop learning. It’s not a revenge, I’m passionate about my job and that passion has led me here today and I hope to stay here for as long as possible.

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“How do I think I can adapt Suso to my traditional 4-3-1-2? Suso is a quality player and I like players like that. He has dribbling and a personality, he’s capable of taking on his man and beating him, he’s capable of winning games alone, without quality players you don’t win games. As I said before, I’ve not chosen which formation to use yet, that will depend on the players at my disposal and what will suit them. Suso is one of the players who will influence what formation I work with, I need to find the best balance to get the best out of both Suso and the rest of the team.

“If we’ll be looking to sign experienced players in the market as last season at Sampdoria I had guys like Quagliarella alongside young players? I work together with the directors on the mercato, I draw the profiles and the club does the research. I can speak about players that I coached, it’s always important to have leaders in your team, there are players who do make a big difference, players who take the idea that the coach has and make it even better.

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“My Empoli predecessor Sarri is now at Juve? There is an ancient friendship between us… we often talk, we studied together at Coverciano during the coach’s course. He comes on holiday near my home, so we see each other, we often talk and discuss our views about football. Sarri is a great example of someone who did everything the hard way, he fell into the lower division but he’s won. He’s made great sacrifices and through his passion he’s achieved great things. I owe him a lot; in fact, he recommended me to Empoli’s board at the time when I was coaching Cremona and that is how I got the opportunity to coach Empoli. This is the result of mutual respect. Over the years, we’ve both taken from each other and stolen ideas from each other.

“How does it feel to receive praise from Milan legends who have been critical of the club? I never expected to have such respect from such important people. When estimated by people, the responsibilities increase and then there’s the chance of betraying trust. I want to live up to their expectations. I’m not afraid of letting them down, I feel no fear. I’m only afraid of being late for training tomorrow [laughs].

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“The arrival of Theo Hernández? Theo has been studied thoroughly by the club, he’s a player with great quality and great potential. He’s young, 21, and one of the reasons I was brought in was help develop young players who have great potential. I’m very curious to see what kind of the player he is. He certainly has the potential to become of the best players in his position in the world. He is a different type of player than Ricardo Rodriguez, perhaps more similar to Laxalt. But it’ll be important to evaluate him before deciding how to use him.

“If I want to bring Dennis Praet from Sampdoria and whether Cutrone and André Silva will be able to find room at Milan? First of all, I’d like to thank President Ferrero of Sampdoria. He put me in the ideal position to do a great job, and despite my contract having years left to run, he allowed me to leave and join Milan. As for Praet, I’ve coached him and I have a lot of respect for him. But he is not necessarily a player that we’ll be targeting, because we have four players in that position in the squad. At the moment he’s not a Milan player and we have plenty of options in that position, so I don’t know how things will unfold. As for Silva and Cutrone, that’s something I’ll have to take care of. My first impression is that they are very different players in terms of characteristics. I have to evaluate how they fit in with all the forwards available in the squad. I can decide who is truly functional for our idea of football and who would be less functional. The ability to choice is a luxury, the problem is when you don’t have options.

“What would my ideal type of player in terms of mental and technical characteristics be? A hybrid of Maldini and Boban [laughs].

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“If we can say that my goal is to make the fans fall in love with the team again and make them proud through the way we play football? I don’t want to make a lot of promises, I will work hard. There are many things that go in managing a club, from the training regimes to each individual player’s physiological traits. It’s a massive job. I promise that I’ll do my absolute best, I’ll work as hard as I can and give everything I’ve got. I plan to arrive at Milanello at 08:00 in the morning and not leave until late at night. I like players who are responsible and feel a sense of belonging to the club, players who are reliable. I don’t like players who don’t like working hard. In today’s football, you can no longer afford to not have a truly professional approach to your job. The only way to achieve important things is through complete dedication. I feel this responsibility. The fans must see the results of our hard work. We want to recreate the feeling and bond, that sense of union, between the team and the fans. But that will all come down to our attitude and how we work.

“If getting excluded from the Europa League is a missed opportunity or a blessing in disguise? Obviously it’s a pity because we’ll be missing out on a European competition. But at the same time, it allows us to work more during the week, it allows us to prepare for each game with more time and prepare in a better way.

“Sacchi called me a ‘master’ of football? [Laughs] I’m buzzing, I won’t comment on it. I’m a coach who does his job with great passion.

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“How does my football philosophy sit with the Milan directors? I have a lot of flows, my colleagues have all been players at the highest level. They have the sensibility to understand… I’ve not been pressing, clearly I have my point of view and my opinions. I’ve asked for players in the short term is to be functional, but we’ve already discussed it. I trust their knowledge. They know exactly what I’m like, they’ve studied me a lot. When I say that I need a player and they present me the opposite then it means that we’re far away, their suggestions are always relevant, but I don’t think that I’ve ever been pressing.

“If I’ll be using last season’s formation in the first friendlies or try to adapt the players immediately to my style of football? As I said, six key players will be missing, so we’ll be starting out with a limited squad. I will be testing out and carrying out new ideas with players who were part of the team last year. But I don’t need to experiment, I need to understand the player’s characteristics, and from that I’ll decide what formation best suits them. When you go to the tailor, the tailor needs to measure you, it’s not you who tells the tailor what to do. Football is not just what you see on Sunday during the game – every day is important, every training session can teach important things. And that is what matters.

“If Donnarumma will be the starting goalkeeper next year? Donnarumma is a fantastic player. Very rarely do I ask for opposition players’ shirts… 3-4 years ago I asked for Donnarumma’s. Obviously, if it was solely up to me, he’d be the goalkeeper, but it’s not my decision.

Marco Giampaolo at training center Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

“The legacy of Gattuso and the differences with my football? I can only say that when we played against each other, the two times we met, I complimented Gattuso for the dialectical management of the situation. He always stepped up and accepted responsibility. As a coach, you must accept responsibility and Gattuso was always very clear in doing so. From a technical point of view, the team had plenty of quality, often played very well and the team was well-organized defensively, with a lot of quality added on top of this organization. Now, I have my own ideas, but first I must evaluate the players at my disposal. I need to get to know them well, to get the best out of them to play the type of football in which every player feels like a protagonist. The players must be proactive, they must be playing the game and not allowing the game to play them, they must not be on the back foot. But all that requires hard work, every day, and I expect every player to be determined and to work hard I want them to work hard in this project we’re creating because they believe in this project. It’s a very, very, challenging task.

“If I discussed Milan during my meeting last month with Giovanni Galeone and Max Allegri? The dinner was with Galeone, who is someone I worked with in the past, and at that time Allegri was our player. It’s always great to be able to talk and discuss with colleagues, with fellow coaches. I think it’s very important to understand exactly where you are, to learn as much as possible.

“If any top players have been discussed with the club? We’re only looking for top players [laughs].

Paolo Maldini, Zvonimir Boban and Marco Giampaolo during a press-conference at Casa Milan on July 8, 2019. (@acmilan.com)

“How long will it take to develop my brand of football and how will the structure of the next two weeks at Milanello be like? To answer this question will require a long, long time. There is a schedule to follow and the players must carry out the tasks they’re assigned. I said before that there are steps to follow, first – we must get to know each other, the players and I – they need to get to know me and I need to get to know them. The first thing I’ll do tomorrow is talk to the players, to understand what kind of players they are. After that, I’ll start thinking about what kind of formation and style of play we can use. It is a long-term plan. As I said before, time can be my greatest ally but also my greatest enemy. The players must be convinced to buy in to the project and then when they do buy in, it will be their work that will lead to success and the results we need. The vision is there, we know where we want to go, there’s a lot of work to do but I’m not afraid of it.

“What kind of approach can we expect at Milan, considering my Sampdoria attacked a lot but also conceded a lot? It’s important to improve the analysis. The goal-difference is important, we must improve on it, and the best way to do that is with better-quality players. Clearly, we want to score more and concede fewer. But the only way to truly do that is with better-quality players.”

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“ I don’t need to experiment, I need to understand the player’s characteristics, and from that I’ll decide what formation best suits them. “ Brilliant!