(SOURCE: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 18 March edition)
A full translation of the Paolo Maldini interview given to Fabiana Della Valle in La Gazzetta.
Maldini, did you see the game on Sunday?
“Yes, also the match with Atlético and nearly all of those for the last two years. Inside me there was a mix of anger and disappointment – not for the results, because this is already the tenth or eleventh time this has happened – but because the impression is that they have thrown away all that has been built over the last 10 years. Milan have had the good fortune to have had more winning cycles with similar synergies of men – I know how much work there was behind so many triumphs, what it took to build such a beautiful story. To see it all destroyed makes me crazy.”
What is this situation born from?
“The departures of so many players with a winning mentality. I believe that success depends first of all on the men. Many of these have passed through Milan in the last 25 years, but how many of those work at the club? None. The history of Milan is Filippo Galli, head of the youth sector. And then there is Tassotti, who I feel could leave at the end of the season. If this happens it would be another huge blow. We would lose another piece of history. I hope it is not true.
“At Bayern and Real Madrid, the legends work at the club. This is the first big problem. Juventus have understood this and have restructured, starting with a solid group of Italians that know how to reach success.”
Said in this way, it could seem that this is a discussion ‘pro domo sua’.
“I know, but mine is not a personal matter. Some might think that I spit on the plate from which I have eaten, but it is not like this. I suffer seeing Milan in these conditions. I have two children who play in the youth sector – one is now on loan at Brescia – I feel part of the club.”
Barbara Berlusconi and the fans have underlined that Milan have spent badly. Do you agree?
“The club must declare that they have other objectives – they cannot compete with Juventus and are not one of the top 10 teams in Europe. A project does not exist – they look at today and not tomorrow. You must buy players functional to the game, and not acquire only free transfers. You can do well once [with this tactic], but not always. And then offering a huge contract serves no purpose. But the problem is structural.”
“Milan have many employees, but it is understructured in the sporting aspect. Galliani is a great leader, but he is not at a level to understand the players. It is all him and this is not possible. If you always trust the same agents – one in particular – at times you can make a deal, others not. At the base there must be knowledge. In recent years, Braida has played a marginal role. First there was Leonardo, who helped to understand whether a player was suitable for Milan.
“I remember when Leo wanted me at all costs to be sporting director, Galliani said: ‘it is an outmoded role’. This is not true. If you surround yourself with capable men, there will be fewer mistakes. Pirlo, for example – if the coach comes and says ‘Andrea is finished, I do not need him anymore’, there must be someone at the club who responds ‘this is not true, Pirlo is a legend of the club, he must stay’. This way, maybe we would not have done Juventus a favour.
“Another problem – the Milan of today cannot allow itself not to have a network of high level scouts. Before, they could choose the best, now you need to go and take players functional to the squad. Milan are lightyears behind the smaller teams.”
However, the management of Galliani has borne fruit for many years.
“Yes, but the results do not ever depend on a single person. Galliani is the man of reference in every field – sporting and non-sporting. The difference is that before at Milan there was a strong group who knew how to manage the dressing room. If someone did not arrive right, we thought we could set them straight. Maybe you can think that there was only Galliani, but there was also a synergy of men with the right knowledge, more than the investment of Berlusconi. With the departures of so many players with this winning mentality, it has all collapsed.”
Should Galliani stay or go?
“It is not for me to say. I think when you feel omnipotent, you do not understand that the results were also thanks to others. To win we want ideas, a project and great passion. At Milan, only the passion remains. It is not enough.”
Is Barbara at a level to lead Milan?
“I don’t know. It depends on who you surround her with. I do not think she is an expert on football or footballers.”
Months ago there was talk of your imminent return to the club. How close were you and why has this failed?
“I had two conversations with Barbara. After the division of responsibilities [Galliani looking after the sporting side, Barbara the business] I was referred to as the successor to Galliani for the technical area, but I have not heard from anyone. She wanted me to transmit everything we have talked about so far – I was ready for a sporting role, but there was no follow up.”
How much of this is the fault of the club?
“For sure, this situation does not help the players. The problems were there in the past, but they were managed at Milanello by the coach, captain and players.”
Seedorf has a Rossoneri background. Is he the right coach for this moment?
“It is logical that he cannot be an expert, he has great courage and personality, but not even Guardiola could do anything. It is not Clarence’s fault – there is a lack of clarity in objectives. Perhaps you could have come to the end of the season and taken a more conservative coach, in order to then start well next year. As it is now, there is a risk he will be burned.”
Would you have sacked Allegri?
“The situation in the table was bad, but I never thought another coach could do better or turn the season around.”
Can Inzaghi be a viable alternative for the future?
“He has done two years in the youth sector and this is important. But a rookie coach must be supported by a strong structure to ensure he does not get burned. Sacchi and Capello were [rookies] at the start, but could rely on great champions.”
Is the squad as poor as the table suggests?
“The classification reflects the value of the performances.”
There is talk of a split in the dressing room. Have you heard anything from your old teammates?
“No, I have not heard anything and to the voices I think even less, but in these cases exists a strange situation. There is a group that feels bad, finds anxiety, and the performances are affected, and there are other players who are less involved because maybe they already know they are leaving.”
Between 1996 and 1998, Milan finished 11th and 10th, but then won the title in 1999. Can you see similarities with those seasons?
“This Milan is lightyears away from that. To rebuild the squad you need a lot of investment. At that time to start again small alterations were enough. When we won the Champions League in 2007, I said to Galliani: ‘We do not think of being the best in Europe, not like this’. I had already understood that without a renewal we would start to fall. It was the first step, but the final blow came with the sales of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva.”
How long will it take to see a competitive Milan?
“It depends on the objectives. I don’t think the fans just want to see a winning Milan. They would like to see a project – the generational change was fatal.”
Is Balotelli overrated?
“He is still not a champion. The same goes for Pato. The day I see them put the team on their shoulders and carry them for 90 minutes, then they will be. He has done it at times. I don’t know him, but I get the impression that if he went to Juventus – a team where there are clear ideas, a tough coach and a solid group of Italians – he would make the leap in quality. However, it is wrong to put all the weight on his shoulders – he is not the saviour of the country.”
Would you have agreed to talk to the curva?
“I have always hated these things – I have never accepted that some guys younger than me tell me to work harder when I was the one with the most appearances. If you are not satisfied then whistle me, but it ends there. I remember in 2007 when we won everything, for six months we did not have the support of the curva. There I got angry. I didn’t understand.”
Is Berlusconi absent too much?
“The current situation tells us that he is not very involved. The Berlusconi that I knew gave different indications from a sporting point of view.”