Nélson Dida has spoken to La Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of tonight’s Derby della Madonnina.
Milan play Inter this evening at a packed San Siro and there will be many eyes watching the first Derby of the season.
One of the people watching will obviously be Nélson Dida. Last season he was the goalkeeping coach of the team working with Mike Maignan, but this year he returns to his seat as a fan and legend.
Ahead of the game, Dida spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Alessandra Gozzini.
Imposing, confident, authoritarian: how much of Dida is there in Maignan?
“We focused on integrating him into Italian football, he had to understand its mechanism, and how your Calcio develops. At first he struggled a bit but then he learned a lot in such a short time that it was surprising. We were all delighted with his dedication, improvements were noticed in every match.”
Mike said of you: “The fact that he was there as goalkeeping coach was an added incentive, because I knew he would allow me to improve since he was one of the top in the world. When I met him I realized he is also a humble person, who lives for football. He was a point of reference.” How do you want to reciprocate?
“His words give me immense pleasure. For me it was wonderful to have contributed to his formation. To know that I left something behind means that I worked in the right way.”
Are you still in touch today even though you’ve chosen, for personal reasons, to leave your role on the staff?
“Of course we are. He needs to continue on the path of growth, thanks to the professionals who are with him today. He is outstanding both technically and humanly.”
Maignan has an increasingly competitive team in front of him: ready to repeat itself?
“Certainly they are part of the favorites and with the same certainly I say that they have the strength to repeat themselves. This championship will be strange due to the interruption of the World Cup, but the group is solid and of quality.”
Will the Derby already be decisive in directing the season?
“Yes, because it is very important, it involves not only a whole city but the whole country. It’s often said that all the matches are the same but it’s not like this: the Derby is different. It is for the atmosphere in the city in the days leading up to it, for the atmosphere in the locker room, for what it represents for Milano and for us who wear or have worn the Rossoneri jersey. I am not talking about tension or anxiety, but about adrenaline, positive firing-up and the desire to prevail.”
What is your most beautiful Derby?
“All the ones we won. But even more so, the ones in the Champions League. My favorite save is the one on Verón in a league Derby in 2005.
Speaking of the Champions League: is the team ready to return to the top of Europe, where you had taken your great Milan?
“An extra year of experience will come in very handy. Last season we faced a particularly challenging group and this allowed even the youngest players to measure themselves up immediately in high-intensity, high-level matches. This Milan team has all the credentials to get as far ahead as possible.”
Speaking of comparisons: has De Ketelaere reminded you of Kaká?
“He made a very good impression on me, but like all new players, especially young ones coming to Serie A, he needs time and serenity to express himself at his best. Charles has all the potential and technical characteristics to be a Champion.”
Pioli will be able to train him at Milanello. Fun fact: In Reggio Emilia, in the Scudetto celebration, you hugged each other for a long time…
“A deep and sincere hug. We esteem and love each other, I was part of an extraordinary group. His merit is that he was always lucid, clear and above all determined. He never gave an inch and was able to push the whole locker room every day to achieve the result.”
Did you expect your former partner Maldini to become an equally-successful director?
“Paolo is an exceptional person, on the pitch he was a Champion, indeed The Champion, a leader and a loyal teammate. After he stopped playing he did well to take his time, be with his family and watch from afar. This helped him become the winning director he is today. I had no doubt, he has always shown a strong professionalism also off the pitch.”
And will Ibra still be decisive?
“He always has been and still will be. It’s in his DNA.”