(SOURCE: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 7 August edition)
A translation of the interview with Max Allegri in today’s La Gazzetta. I don’t usually translate the opening paragraph as that’s superfluous more often than not, but the first question would not make sense without it.
A year later, Massimiliano Allegri is still here to talk about the youth growing. Same beach, same hotel, same coach for Milan. The sea is calm after the storms of May. “It is stimulating to train young players. They are hungry and want to win. At 20 years you can have the recklessness and craziness to try things that you would think is better not to do.”
You are no longer 20, however you have chosen to stay at Milan, which can seem a bit crazy in view of what happened in May….
“I trust my instinct – when I have not followed it, I have been wrong. We talked – me , Galliani and the president and we have decided to continue. For me this is a new challenge.”
With what possibilities? If Conte and Buffon fear they cannot retain the championship, what can you say?
“That I have a quality squad of players and that, with respect to last August, we have the advantage of already being together for a year. I think it will be a more balanced championship, with a split between the first six or seven and the others. But Juve comes from two victories, has bought good players and therefore are the strong favourites.”
If you continue to press this button, you risk making Conte angry….
“After the Scudetto we were the favourites. Juve have worked well and have beaten us. Those who win are at the front, this is the way it works.”
For a couple of seasons you have been on the receiving end of Conte’s remarks, who now seems to be more annoyed at Mazzarri. You will be more calm.
“I am always calm. It is only that Juve have taken some of my jokes too seriously. There is someone who has to take a good course of humour.”
Indeed there is not much [humour] around.
“I have the fortune to be from Livorno. Humour for me is a natural thing.”
But in the end, how is your relationship with Conte and Mazzarri?
“I respect everyone. But character is one thing and professional capacity another. Conte has done excellent work, Mazzarri is good and will do well at Inter. As for me, now we seem a little more like a squad with respect to a year ago. We have Balotelli from the start – the coup of the market in 2013 – we have recovered De Jong. And I have confidence in Galliani – in the end he always makes great coups from the market.”
So far the other teams have changed and Milan is more or less the same.
“But the squad has improved. The young players are growing, and if they improve their individual quality their game will improve. If I play a young guy it is not because he is young and I must call him up – if I choose him, I choose him because he is good.”
In the next season, who will we have to keep our eye on?
“Petagna and Cristante have started well with the first-team. First Cristante was better, now it is Petagna. But you need to have balance with the youth – do not get excited when they do well, and do not kill them when they do wrong. El Shaarawy, in his first year at Milan, was at times not called up, then he made 28 appearances. The youth have to grow, but they have quality. I am curious to see Vergara and Gabriel.”
The big Italian clubs for now are taking slaps in the friendlies. Are you concerned?
“I look at my Milan, and apart from the first 35 minutes against Man City, to me it seems that our pre-season is good. Regarding Inter, for example, they have changed their method of working. Mazzarri will have time to make progress – they will play once a week and for a renewed squad it is a big advantage.”
Even if you want to reduce the importance of certain results, there remains a larger gap between the great clubs in Europe.
“If it is a greater than a year ago, I don’t know. But Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern are a cut above. In the Champions League anything can happen – there are Manchester United and Manchester City, PSG and Dortmund, but it is very difficult to avoid three great clubs.”
Milan cannot compete in the Champions League and must try to stop fierce competition domestically, but is the club ready to wait before asking for results?
“Milan was courageous to close a cycle and make a change. Last year, after the sale of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva it seemed a tragic year, and we managed to make third place and play in the Champions League qualifying round. The ideal would be to stay in the top three and grow the young players.”
How does Balotelli behave with the younger players?
“Well. Deep down he is still a kid. And then he is an educated guy, but he is still 23 and should be treated as a 23-year-old who must improve in many aspects.”
Making a comparison with another icon – Cristiano Ronaldo – you could say that the Portuguese is a team player and Mario must work more across the whole pitch?
“Mario knows what he must do. I have spoken to him at length, he knows he is our most important player, the best technically. He must take his responsibility. He must become our leader technically. He cannot be our leader psychologically because as a person he is timid.”
Is it better to coach Ibrahimovic or Balotelli?
“I think I have had the fortune to train them both. For the first four months, Ibra was stratospheric, he made us win games on his own. Then it was the usual great Ibra for the next year and a half, but the first few months were incredible. Mario is different, also technically. Ibra passes more, Balotelli dribbles more. But he has indescribable potential and must improve.”
Your mother says that with Mourinho she cried.
“When I was working with Mourinho I was five years younger. With me for sure she does not cry.”
About Mourinho – the other day you ‘fined’ him because he was on the bench in a tracksuit. Mazzarri was in shorts…
“In that interview with GQ I only made a joke, and we are still friendly – it is summer. To confirm and reiterate – the coach represents the club and should not go to the bench in a tracksuit. From this point of view we should take the example of basketball.”
Let’s move on to the style of play. How will you play with the 4-3-1-2 if you do not have a trequartista? We have still not seen Saponara and Boateng is very atypical.
“Depending on the opponents, we will have three strikers or two strikers and a trequartista.”
You have explained it to Berlusconi?
“We are in agreement. And then in my line-up there is always four offensive players – three attackers plus a midfielder that moves forward.”
What was your position on the sale of El Shaarawy?
“Napoli have sold Cavani and have reinvested, Roma have done the same with Marquinhos. That said, I am pleased he stayed, because Stephan has done good things and will do better.”
But the sale would not have been a scandal?
“We have to look at the facts – Italian clubs must be self-sufficient. With all the money around the rest of the world, it is impossible to be unsellable. In Italy, there are no players that are unsellable.”
There is a player from Juve that you wanted? Maybe Ogbonna?
“He is a good defender. Juve had a great defence and they have improved it. But we have taken Silvestre and the ones we have are good. My defence is criticised so much, but in the ritorno we conceded few goals. It signifies that the squad has worked well, because if you leave them on their own, even the best defenders in the world would struggle.”
Why do you still play with a back four, when in Italy most line up with a three-man defence?
“In Europe no-one plays with a three-man defence, which then is always a five-man defence.”
So it is a method to be more international?
“I take advantage of the players I have. And I like a four-man defence, with three central midfielders.”
Are you worried about the injured players, thinking about the Champions League qualifier?
“No. Mexes and Abate are in place, De Sciglio and Robinho should also be ready.”
Who is the leader of this group?
“There are many. Montolivo has grown a lot on a personality level, then there is Abbiati, who seems a bit grumpy but is a true man that a coach can rely on. And there is Bonera.”
In Holland, De Jong was a leader.
“He has charisma and personality. I did not believe he would return to the top so soon.”
Now you will put him back in front of the defence, and the criticism of Allegri loving muscular players will start again.
“Apart from the fact that De Jong has good feet, we have Montolivo, Poli, Muntari, who in order to be a god midfielder has good technique. In the great Milan, Gattuso and Ambrosini played with Pirlo. It is not true that I am only for muscular players – I like technical players. In a squad you need technique, but Milan always play with four attacking players. Is that not enough for you?”