Former Milan director Leonardo says he is ‘stunned’ by the clubs decision to part ways with club legend Paolo Maldini. The Rossoneri released a statement on Monday, confirming the news, with reports in the Italian press suggesting there was a falling out between Maldini and Rossoneri owner Gerry Cardinale.
Speaking in an interview to Corriere della Sera, Leonardo shared his thoughts on the decision, pointing to Maldini’s role at the club, his relationship with the players, and the incredible work he had done in a short period of time:
Leonardo, you resigned in summer 2019. Boban bid farewell in March the following year; Maldini was fired this week. Does the Milan hedge fund struggle to live with its bandiera?
“It is not easy to answer, because it must be acknowledged that we were hired first. Rather, it seems to me that it is wrong to reduce the dichotomy to a struggle between old and new.”
“It seems that the new frontier is the acquisition of players through numbers and algorithms, but look this is not new. This methodology has always been used in recent years, even when I was there.”
President Scaroni to Corriere blamed Maldini for the difficulty in working collegially. You who brought him into the management, what do you think?
“It is absurd to say that he does not know how to work as a team. He has done it all his life with humility, even with me when in a normal situation I should have been his second. Rather there is another aspect.”
“Like me at the time, he didn’t have signing power. It’s not like he would wake up in the morning and buy a player independently. Purchases were always the result of a joint decision. Some up-and-coming talent that we had flagged had been vetoed.”
You seem astonished, yet wasn’t the difference in philosophy between Paul and the funds such that such an ending was foreshadowed?
“Not only am I stunned, the whole footballing world is astonished by the manner of the farewell and the reasons for it. Milan in the last two years has won a Scudetto and reached a Champions League semifinal. For more than a decade the club has not closed the budget in profit and now it is about to do so, not to mention that the overall value of Milan, since Elliott took over from the Chinese to today, has quadrupled.”
Should the players have been informed before the divorce?
“It is underestimated how decisive in the growth of a player, such as Leao or Tonali, is the personal and daily relationship. The reactions on social media are proof of that. It is obvious that players are bewildered and ask themselves, ‘if they did this to Paolo Maldini, what will they do with me’?”
Among the reasons for friction is the difference in views. RedBird is oriented toward buying youngsters for resale, while Maldini prefers experienced men.
“It seems to me that everyone within the club agrees that the contribution of Ibrahimovic, Kjaer and Giroud has been decisive in the club’s successes.”
Admit it, though: the purchase of De Ketelaere was not apt.
“Not yet, but he is 21 years old. Besides, he is a deal that everyone worked on, as everyone was involved on Leao, Theo Hernandez, Maignan.”
Is your judgment influenced by his personal relationship with Maldini?
“We are friends but Paolo is a unique figure. Let’s not talk about me being Brazilian: I went to Inter and then to Paris. As Ancelotti said, his dismissal is a lack of culture, of respect even toward the values of sport. And for someone who is a Milan player, it is a lack of self-respect, because Maldini is Milan. This decision creates dislike.”
To those who attribute a 38 million flop to you for the 2018 market, what do you reply?
“Meanwhile, they were purchases decided collegially. Caldara was the most promising defender around before he got injured. Higuain was the fruit of an exchange with Bonucci. Milan recouped all the money invested in Paquetà. He was Brazil’s starter and champion in the Conference League final. A player who comes to the Premier League for 60 million cannot be considered a flop. Piatek, then top scorer, was bought and resold for the same amount.”
How does it affect you to see that a year after your farewell to PSG, the French club is preparing for yet another revolution?
“As the famous joke goes? With me it’s difficult, but without me it’s impossible … ha!.”
Messi is about to move to the US. Did he not feel loved enough at PSG?
“I’m so sorry about what happened. He is an extraordinary person and a champion worthy of entering the Olympus of soccer with Pelé and Maradona. He has made a life choice that will allow him to reconcile family and work in the best possible way. If you go to war, with Leo you don’t risk dying alone. With others you do.”