Maldini: “This Scudetto is a masterpiece, the club needs figure out the strategy for the future, it’s disrespectful that to date Elliott have not sat down to talk with Massara and I, Leão & Ibra…”

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Paolo Maldini and Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Paolo Maldini has given a very telling and extensive interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport, discussing the success of this season and what needs to be done to remain competitive.

After leading Milan to their first Scudetto in 11 years from the role of a technical director, the legendary Paolo Maldini sat down for an interview with Gianni Valenti of La Gazzetta dello Sport.

A red and black flag waves on the terrace… Casa Maldini is an elegant villa in the center of Milano. Paolo comes to open the door for us with the smile of someone who is still experiencing a magical triumph.

The hangover of emotions will last a long time. It’s his Milan has that has become great game and there is the wonderful family story that continues, entering more and more into the history of football. 13 Scudetto between his dad Cesare, himself, and his son Daniel.

Paolo, to whom did the first thought go once the Scudetto was won?
“To mom and dad, I hope they can be proud of me up there.”

Did you think about what would Cesare say to him?
“Maybe nothing, just a pat on the back or a hug. He was one of few words, especially to me. Over time he softened a lot and we talked to each other more. On the other hand, my two sons are also of few words. Like I was when I was playing: talking was forcing it, I tried to do it as little as possible.”

Paolo Maldini and Daniel Maldini celebrating after winning the Scudetto at the end of Sassuolo-Milan at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on May 22, 2022. (Photo by Chris Ricco/Getty Images)

Did you celebrate with your son Daniel?
“In Reggio Emilia during the Award Ceremony, at one point I heard the speaker announcing number 25, Florenzi. Then I realized it and said to myself: ‘Now it is the turn of Daniel, how nice’. I saw him coming towards with his eyes down. He was not looking straight at me. I knew, he always does that. We gave each other a somewhat of a high-five. The next day I saw him again here in the living room. I told him ‘O Dani, congratulations’. We hugged. And it ended there.”

You won 7 Scudetti as a player and now 1 as a director. What place does the latter hold in your heart?
“It’s the first triumph of a new life. This time I was not playing with speed and technique but instead with my head and my values. I consider it beautiful. One thing unites it to the other titles I won: the passion for Milan and for football.”

Milan players celebrating the Scudetto at Casa Milan on May 23, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

Is this #19 Scudetto a masterpiece or a miracle?
“I would say a masterpiece. It is the victory of ideas, will and team spirit. We stayed at the top for 2 years and managed to do something super against all odds. And it’s not trivial that in the last 20 years Milan had won only 2 Scudetti. That’s why it gives us so much pride.”

Many former Rossoneri Scudetto-winners, in a Gazzetta poll, called this Scudetto the most beautiful and most surprising. Is that so?
“I would say yes. It’s similar to the title won with Zaccheroni in 1999. But came with less investment and more ideas.”

There are those who say that Inter lost the Scudetto…
“These are opinions. I say we scored 86 points. And only once in the history of the three-point era had Milan managed to score more. And I would like to add that the enthusiasm we registered in the fans was also due to the playing style the team showed and the courage we showed. Also in the mercato choices. This winter we had Kjær out with an injury and Tomori injured his meniscus. There was no budget. We could have loaned in a player to fill the hole. Instead, we put our faith in our youngsters. Because we know they can guarantee us so much.”

Milan players celebrating the Scudetto with the team bus on May 23, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

What, then, has been the secret of this Milan?
“From 2019 to today we’ve taken 21 players. A mix of experienced guys and many youngsters. Massara and I told each of them the story of a project that then came to fruition. So we were credible and that is an important part of our success. Of course, they were different stories. To Zlatan, for example, we asked him to give us what he could bring to the group right now. For a young man like Kalulu the discourse was: ‘The first six month you watch and learn. You are in the homeland of defense, memorize everything. Sooner or later the opportunity will arrive’.”

Maldini, what is the greatest satisfaction this job is giving you?
“The personal relationship I have established with the players. Most of them are young guys who needed guidance. Many see me as a second father.”

Paolo Maldini and Brahim Díaz during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Your son Daniel is also in the locker room. Is it difficult to manage this situation?
“No, because he is a very good guy who knows his place. He is appreciated for who he is. And then the field speaks for itself. If you are not suitable for that type of level your teammates recognize it immediately. This doesn’t happen for Daniel. Then it’s clear that he has to grow but his autonomy of thought and of his life is clear within the group.”

The only time in the season you raised your voice was after the Udinese game, over the very dubious goal awarded to Udogie…
“Every now and then saying things as they are is useful. I do it little because I prefer to ask the refereeing officials for explanations separately. And almost always there is openness to dialogue. That time it wasn’t like that and then I decided to speak up. However, in general we don’t like to complain because this can create alibis for the players and risks triggering in the public something not positive.”

Ivan Gazidis, Stefano Pioli, Stefano Pioli and Frederic Massara during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

As a technical director, you always had a half-empty wallet. Where there moments of frustration because you failed to sign a player you had in your hands?
“Of course. The 21 players, who under my direct management, we signed permanently, have resulted in a net expenditure – between entries and exits – of €75m. When I decided to stay after Leonardo’s departure, I had a higher budget in mind. Then the idea of doing things, but doing them not because you have to but because you are convinced of them has to prevail over the idea of spending what you have. If I can save the club money than I’ll do it. And that made my vision completely change. I realized that young guys must be given opportunities. However, it is necessary to make them feel confidence, especially in difficult times. Which is something that never happened to me as a youngster.”

So let’s go to the players: it all started in June 2019 in a caffè in Ibiza with Theo Hernández…
“I am fond of him because he is a fantastic guy and player. He won the Champions League at 19 with Real Madrid and he needed to find some confidence because his star was already fading. That day I told him: ‘You are strong, take this chance’. I told him of the Milan world, of Milano and what I wanted from him. And in half an hour he said ‘yes’, leaving aside the offer of a German team that offered him a super salary. Today he is one of the most important fullbacks in circulation.”

Paolo Maldini and Theo Hernández during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Was Maignan a surprise for you as well?
“We relied on the advice of Dida, Ragno and Betti, our goalkeeper coaches. Talking to him we understood what he had in mind, his personality and the desire to win like no other.”

Remove a curiosity:  did Donnarumma write to you to congratulate you?
“No, but during the year we talked and then I saw each other at Ibra’s 40th birthday party. If he regretted it? I don’t know, I still hope he is happy. He’s given so much to Milan.”

Tonali was one of the decisive men in winning the Scudetto. If you had to compare him to a teammate of yours from the great Milan, who would you associate him with?
“They said he could be the new Pirlo but he felt like Gattuso. I would say he has the characteristics of both. The first year he lived in a very difficult situation. He came off an injury and suffered the pressure of being at his favorite club. We understood this, keeping him with us. The results showed.”

Paolo Maldini, Frederic Massara and Stefano Pioli during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Here we come to Pioli. How did the ‘Normal One’ coach turn into a special one?
“Being normal in 2022 is already something special… I knew Stefano because I played with him in the Under 21 team and I always had esteem for the man and the coach he is. From the outside, I always liked him. What surprised me is the intensity of the transmission of his ideas and the energy he puts into it at Milanello. I’ve told him several times: ‘You can change all the game systems you want but do not lose this energy that is vital for us’. And see that he’s also tough in the things he says. I really like this thing.”

Are you discussing technical issues?
“With Massara we often sit together with him to try to improve something. We do this especially when things are going well because you are more open to dialogue.”

Paolo Maldini and Clarence Seedorf during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Is he the right man to open a cycle with this Milan team?
“He is definitely an important component. Then of course there has to be the will of the club to open a cycle. Today, Milan – with a high-level strategic vision – can go and compete next year with the biggest sides. On the other hand, if we chose a vision of maintenance, without investments, with an idea ‘da Milan’, we would remain in limbo among the best 6-7 teams in Italy to try to win the Scudetto again and qualify for the Champions League. That is why it’s time for the ownership, Elliott or the one that might come, to close the three-year period and figure out what strategy they want for the future. With 2-3 important signings and consolidation of the players we have – we can compete for something bigger in the Champions League.”

This is a clear indication for RedBird…
“Yes, although I’ve had no contact with them.”

Is it true that you read in the newspapers about the change of ownership?
“We were told about it after it appeared in the press… but I had perceived something was happening inside the headquarters. But it was not a problem. In the end when you manage to create a special team group like ours, these rumours do not disturb the environment. At Milanello we went ahead knowing in any case that we had a strong club behind us that was always punctual in payments. Of course, there was curiosity. Some player with whom we were talking about renewals told us: ‘Let us wait because maybe there will be more money…’”

Paolo Maldini and Pierre Kalulu during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

On the mercato I guess you’ve been moving for some time…
“For months, but at the moment we don’t have the financial resources to think about this leap in quality. Also because we are in a transition phase. We’ll see… And in addition that is also the question relation to my contract and that of Massara. We have expiring contracts and we haven’t renewed. I must say that for our path and for what happened in the past also during the period of crisis with Rangnick, I find it disrespectful that to date – the CEO and Elliott have not even sat down to talk to us. I only say ‘talk’. Because they might also tell us ‘you work has not been good enough to continue’. Or it may be that I say: ‘I do not like your strategy’. As I said at the time, I like to be a kind of guarantee for the Milanisti. I am not the right person to do a project that doesn’t have a winning idea. I could never do that. The reality is that the ownership has never sat down at the table and this is not good.”

Back to the team: many of the guys are cornerstones for the future, starting with Leão. There is already talk of big clubs courting him. Do you consider him unsellable?
“Of course, he is still a diamond in the rough, who has had great improvements from one year to the next. We took him from the Lille bench by paying €24m for him and immediately put a €150m clause on him because Boban, Massara and I believed in him. In terms of potential, he was always a Champion. He needed to follow a path that is not finished yet. He is extremely intelligent and needed a little help. I’ve talked to him a lot. It’s clear that if in the future Milan is not at the level of Leão, or Leão is not at the level of Milan, then things can change. But right now the growth is exponential for the club and for him.”

Ismaël Bennacer, Paolo Maldini, Ivan Gazidis and Frederic Massara during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Ibrahimović underwent a new knee surgery. What will you guys do?
“I spoke with him on Monday and we agreed to meet in a fortnight. I see no problem in finding an agreement. He is certainly not comfortable playing so little. We will see what happens in the next two weeks. Everything will be done for his and for Milan’s good. From what I understand, his intention is go forward.”

Giroud has had an extraordinary season, but in the next Milan at least one more striker is needed…
“Sure, we are talking to Origi and it’s very well-addressed.”

Can this be enough?
“Let’s not forget that Giroud a Champion, a player of high-level. But we also have Rebić. The solutions are there. Then it’s normal that to compete you have to think about improving something. We will move in accordance to the budget.”

If I say Botman for the defense?
“We followed him, but there are many good players in that role.”

Milan players celebrating the Scudetto with the team bus on May 23, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

Inter and Juventus are already reacting on the mercato to redeem themselves…
“Juventus are not going to stop at Vlahović. Inter will do the same. Next season we’ll have a league that will go up a level. Because Roma, Napoli, Fiorentina, Lazio and Atalanta will also be competitive. That’s why reasoning on our strategy is fundamental.”

Paul Singer, Elliott’s big Capo, appeared in the stands in Reggio Emilia. What did he say to you?
“He was delighted, he knew my story. He complimented me on the values conveyed to the club. And he was ecstatic and surprised by the passion of the people. He knew I believed in it. His son, Gordon, had told him about the message I sent him six months ago: ‘Get ready for us to win the Scudetto’.”

Paolo Maldini during Sassuolo-Milan at Mapei Stadium – Città del Tricolore on May 22, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

Were you already thinking about the Scudetto at Christmas?
“Yes, I knew and believed that there was this possibility.”

Let’s close with San Siro: is it right to leave it and build a new stadium?
“San Siro was made great by the teams that played there. If we want to be competitive, we need a new stadium. It is the only way to be competitive in Europe. But the new stadium cannot have 55,000 spectators – it has to be big and capacious. Football is a popular sport, the stadium cannot be elitist. We owe our fans a facility at least as big as San Siro.”

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Elliotazzuri

Can you guess see are unabmitious the owner his from maldini interview, they are only interested in making gain from the club and nothing else, give maldini leao ibra a new contract fast you vulture fund, also maldini knows Milan has to spend to be competitive, not like what some dumb Milan fans in this blog, are saying that we need to maintain a self sufficient budget and not give players what they ask, please all of you read maldini words so that some people here can change their dumb mindset, see what he says about 6-7years

Azad

Wtf… The reality is that the ownership has never sat down at the table and this is not good.”

Serpent of modinna

Our this season mercato will determine whether we are Milan or arsenal let be patient

Milan10

like i said WAY back then, people who disrespect(ed) maldini AND praise nazidis (and rangnick) clearly dont understand football. i hope nazidis and eldiott just get the hell out with their stingy way so the new owners can come and give triple M respectable war chest they thoroughly deserve. like i said milan is not dortmund or arsenal ffs ”As I said at the time, I like to be a kind of guarantee for the Milanisti. I am not the right person to do a project that doesn’t have a winning idea. I could never do that. But the new… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Milan10
SJF

Always with the negativity!!!
Always going on about what you said.
Always complaining about what others said

btw You know this is a Milan forum, Milan supporters worship Maldini

Try and enjoy the scudetto win if you can and be more positive. It will help you in life.

Milan10

“SJF
 9 months ago
Amazing to see Juve sign K.Jorge for 3m plus 1m in bonuses!!
They are a club he has no chance of getting game time. At milan hed have lots of opportunities. Yet somehow our glorious leaders messed this up. They are embarrassing the club with their carry on.
Fffs sell Krunic for 4m and use it to buy him!!!”

u uninitiated always make it way to easy for me lmao

SJF

It really is quite shocking to hear the owners have given Maldini and his team no indication of their plans. Maldini is a man of principle and if they disrespect him, he will leave. I’m sure they are smart enough to understand how important he has been in attracting players and forming a team with few resources. The owners have had a busy time in negotiating with interested parties, the result of which will determine our budget and ambitions. Let’s hope the situation is resolved quickly as Milan have very important renewals in the balance as well as potential signings.… Read more »

AC Milan

Anyone to disrespect the captain is a disrespect to the team. Elliot out! Or we can all boycott?