Zvonimir Boban has given interviews to MilanTV, Sky Italia and reporters at Milanello, and said ‘Milan is a great challenge, perhaps the biggest sporting challenge of my life’.
Milan’s new Chief Football Officer, Zvonimir Boban, was at Casa Milan on Monday for the presentation of new coach Marco Giampaolo. On Tuesday, he was at Milanello for the first day of pre-season.
Boban answered the call of Technical Director Paolo Maldini and left his prestigious role at FIFA in order to return to the Rossoneri.
“I’m very happy to have taken this decision,” Boban told MilanTV. “A decision of the heart is always good. I have no issue with taking risks and making mistakes. Never trying is the true problem. I’m back at the club I love, with the people, the fans who have given us so much. I believe I bring a lot of passion and knowledge of football. Knowledge as a former player, of course, but also as a director because I’ve been doing it for a while. I’m well acquainted with the institutions, as well as the flow of communication. I think I can contribute in a lot of fields. You could say I’ll be a managerial playmaker, coordinating play between the sports and administrational areas, but truth to be told there is a lot of administration in the sport’s area. I’m confident I can give a lot to this club, in every way.
“Working with Maldini and Massara? I’ve had a brotherly bond with Paolo for many years, we stayed in touch after we retired from playing. We have a deep friendship with mutual respect and share a lot of values, as well as sharing ideas about football and ideas for Milan’s future. I never had any doubts in this regard. I didn’t know Massara but during our first meeting he made a great impression from the start. He clearly knows and understands football and he broadens our knowledge of players, he is as informed on players from minor leagues as those from major ones.
“Marco Giampaolo? Over my career, I played in almost every position in every formation, I understand the need for balance and I understand the demands of each role because I experienced it myself. I went from a number 10 to a playmaker, then as deep-lying midfielder for my national team, and even played in defense and on the wings. So I’m completely aware of the four midfield positions, if the coach does opt for the 4-3-1-2. If a different formation is chosen then the coach will let us know what’s needed, but he’d have no problems fielding me.
“As for him, I think he’s a special person, a special coach. He has achieved a lot and done really well, he’s always had faith in his ideas, fine-tuning them when needed because he’s very intelligent. Fundamentally, as we heard on Monday, without quality players the concept and formation aren’t enough to win. To begin with, he must learn and understand as he pointed out himself. One might wonder, ‘has he not already seen the players?’… But seeing them from the outside and coaching them are two very different things. Now he has to get what he needs out of them to see how suitable they are. That will be the first evaluation process, after which they will need to adapt to the formation he decides on. Finally, everything will need to be perfected and optimized.
“It’s a perfectly natural process, especially with a coach like Giampaolo. From now on, I’m going to be dedicating all my time to Milan.”
Boban also talked at length to journalists at Milanello yesterday: “I’m glad to come back here and see these colors again. The emotions are strong, but I’m 50-year-old now so I won’t cry. Thinking about what was created here and what was won at San Siro, this is a very special place to me and I’m glad to see everyone again.
“The ‘life’ of the upcoming season? We hope it’s a life for Milan… it’s no coincidence that it’s said that Milan is Milan. We all have the heart to do what is already being done, after the unfortunate sale of the club a few years ago. Now there is a certain stability with the current ownership. There is so much talk about a non-ambitious club but it’s not true. Milan cannot not be ambitious. Unfortunately there are restrictions, prices to pay. It’s up to us to be good and make this time go by, it’s up to us to demonstrate our ability to make Milan return to competing on the highest levels. We will do our best.
“I have no problem with failing, the problem would be not to try. Here at Milan, mostly. I think we all feel a bit like this. Apart from Paolo, we [the directors] will get to know each other a little better. I met with Gazidis for three years in different forums. We’ve also been on opposite sides, but there’s always been a lot of respect and a good relationship. We’ll do everything we can to help the team and the new coach to make sure they do well.
“If there was a moment that convinced me to embrace the Milan project? I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t tried. This is why I’m here, to try to give what I can do. Paolo called me, because Leonardo was leaving and he needed a different support, to share with someone who could help him out. I also spoke with Ivan and saw that it was right, but honestly I understood from the first moment that I would accept Milan’s offer. There was a phone call a year ago but it wasn’t the right time.
“How much it cost me to leave FIFA? It didn’t cost me anything. Milan is a great challenge, perhaps the biggest sporting challenge of my life. If the fact that I was a number 10 when I played influenced my choice to get Giampaolo? No, definitely not. I expressed by thoughts and then shared them with Ivan and with the ownership. He is one of the few coaches who already knows clearly what movements his team will do. It’s like a car moving across the field, in every situation, his teams always move well. Now coaches are more managers of space, even in the bigger teams that have won a lot like Real Madrid. What gives me the certainly that Marco will find the right path where he needs to be, is that he understand that without certain players, the concept alone does not win, it’s a balance of things in which his concepts will give great strength to the qualities of the players that we have to put at his disposal.
“In what role should a big signing be expected? I can’t ruin the mercato [laughs]… you’ll have to ask Paolo. There must be organic growth over time but it must be a Milan of higher quality. This year is a year of change, in which the coach, having no European games, will be able to work better with the players. Now we must invest well so that we can build well.
“The promise of a big signing to the fans? I can’t promise. We will even try to do more than one. Big signings can mean everything and nothing, the players must be functional to Giampaolo’s game. He’s asked us for profiles, we will try to give the maximum quality to the profiles requested.
“If the atmosphere reminds me of some of my Milan? It’s different. I experienced it with different emotions and with a different mindset. You experience it like a dream when you’re a player. I experience it differently, but with my whole being. The Rossonero does not disappear, it is indelible and strong.
“The situations of Veretout and Bennacer? They are good players. I can’t anything, it’s more of a work of Maldini. I’m like a playmaker, I spend time with both Paolo and with Ivan. We work well. Massara and Paolo are more on the market.
“Maldini said Donnarumma will remain? No, Paolo said on Monday that we are happy to have one of the top three goalkeepers in the world, the best talent in the world for a goalkeeper. At the moment it is like that, at the moment means that the situation may change but it’s not said that it will change. That’s how I would translate Paolo’s words.
“If there are more hopes or more certainties? There are so many hopes, and there must also be certainties, which we must build. This, however, as Giampaolo says, must take place step by step, but it must be a very fast path. We have to do everything to do well at Milan and make the right choices. We have to work and think a lot, we have the skills. You can make mistakes and you will make mistakes but you have to make logical football choices by discussing. Then, when you come here and get into this environment, when you play at San Siro, some suffer more than others. These things have happened in the past and maybe it’ll happen to us too, even if we hope for less. Every now and then agents come in and tell us what a player looks like, they look like professors. Of course I’m kidding, they do their job and it is right that they sell their products; they have to be respected but I think we understand things too.
“The fans? I remember the statement in which Milan thanked the fans because there were over a million at San Siro, it is crazy. We didn’t always see the show that one expects, there was so much struggle, so much responsibility and a lot to do on the part of Gattuso. The fans were fantastic, clinging to the colors, to the team, supporting it with love. We expect this. I have no doubt that this will be the case, but we must give them satisfaction, beautiful play and a behavior ‘da Milan’.
“If the objective is the Champions League? It’s obvious that the objective must always be to win all the games and playing well. A team like Milan cannot accept to have medium ambitions. You cannot finish a game by being happy to have simply given everything but lose. It’s not a thing for Milan. We will try to be competitive and get into the Champions League but to also play well and build. We must give a hope of a game of superior quality and performance.”
Speaking to Sky, the Croatian stated: “If my heart is beating since we’re at Milanello? The heart is beating fast, it’s very exciting. I’m 50-year-old and some emotions maybe I experience with maturity but these were difficult to contain. I was silent to experience it well, deep down, because it’s right. Then the rhythm of the meetings and the work frenzy takes you elsewhere, but Milanello is the house where we built and won so much, San Siro is the consequence of this place here.
“What is Milan for me? I grew up in a different era, today the soul of football has been lost a little, and the ‘bandiere’ [club symbols] and the sense of belonging have been lost. I immediately fell in-love with Milan, it has become the club of my life. This continues forever. When you finish playing you have a year or two of detachment, it’s logical because all of this is tiring. For a year or two I was not a fan as I should be and I had my own pace. But then it comes back to you and it’s worse: you love it even more than when you played. Then it becomes something more mature, even more beautiful.
“The call of Maldini? It was at home in Zurich with my wife and children. Actually, we talk often, two or three days before that he talked to me but I had thought he’d go ahead alone because Leonardo was ending his experience. But I didn’t really understand: ‘Think about it, let us talk’. I took the car and we talked all night to see all the problems and see what there was to do. If it’s the biggest challenge of my life? Yes, it is. But I like challenges, I don’t like the comfort zone, after three years at FIFA I reached it, after we overturned that criminal organization that was FIFA and all the shame that it’d given us. This is a different challenge: with my colors, my past, my skills, and the objective of giving something to my club. It has a different flavor. I’m not afraid of making mistakes or failing, I would have problems with myself if I didn’t try.
“Rebalancing Milan financially and sportively? Financially, it’s already quite in place. With so many restrictions of the FFP it’s not easy to go back to Milan that was. We must speed up this process with our qualities and our right and logical football choices. It won’t always go well, no one has ever guessed all the players, but we have to choose the right ones. Maldini and Massara have absolute competence, I’m here to give my contribution. The club is more stable and ambitious than you think, Elliott fell in love with Milan. If there weren’t ambitions to build something great, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t know how many years it will take, maybe 4-5 but we’d like to speed it up to be competitive first and be strong this year. We’ve chosen the right coach even though Gattuso did well.
“Why is Giampaolo special? Because there are few coaches out there with his concepts, when you see his teams playing you see a spot that moves all together, whatever happens. He has a great football knowledge, which is very complicated to have. We see coaches who manage the spaces with the quality of the players but it’s not the same thing even if you can win like that. The quality of the players is still fundamental, the concept alone doesn’t win. But it can help and he will give us this.
“If Milan can think of signing great players now? We cannot invest in a Neymar, due to the restrictions we were talking about earlier, namely the FFP. We will certainly do everything to create capital gains and create opportunities for investing. It must be an organic but rapid growth, we must speed it up. The fans will see a good football, offensive, football ‘da Milan’, a Milan idea, because Milan is Milan. Donnarumma? Gigio is a great goalkeeper, we are happy to have him. For now this is the situation, let’s see forward. The mercato will tell us what to do, for me he’s the best talent since Buffon.
“If I feel the weight of the responsibility? I feel like Maldini, like Gazidis and Massara. Milan can’t be an average team that is happy to get to 6th or 5th. I think we will succeed.”