Maldini: ‘The love for Milan remains unconditional’


Paolo Maldini says his love for Milan remains unconditional and explained why he’s now ready to talk about his departure from the club. The Rossoneri legend was sacked from his position as Milan manager earlier this year, along with Ricky Massara; a decision that shocked many within the club. Speaking with La Repubblica about the decision to fire him, Maldini explained why he waited 6 months before deciding to talk about the situation:

Paolo Maldini, why 6 months of silence after his dismissal from Milan?

“I would have talked about my gut, time allows for serenity. There are people passing through, without real respect for the identity and history of Milan. And there are others linked to its ideals. It would be better to keep them close.”

Were you expecting a divorce?

“If the club was sold for 1.2 billion and the owners want to change, they have the right. But people and roles must be respected. I had to find an agreement for my rights. The love for Milan remains unconditional. As Cesare’s son. As a former captain. From Christian and Daniel’s dad. And as a manager for five fantastic years.

“The information is not directed towards the truth: anyone who says otherwise knows they are lying to themselves. Luckily it seems to me that the public is not influenced.”

In Cardinale’s eyes you are an individualist…

“It is confused with the desire to be responsible for the decisions required by the role. Daily discussion is a blessing. A former top-level footballer is used to being judged every three days. As a manager I grew, in the first three months I felt useless. Leonardo told me: ‘You’re just learning. It is not easy to communicate with an American fund or a South African CEO’.”

Are you referring to the mercato?

“Nothing could be further from the truth than that sporting director Massara and I did not share objectives and strategies. Never had, nor wanted, signing power: not even for loans. Each purchase was endorsed by the CEO and owners.

“We chose the players, sometimes the budget disappeared. It is normal at times to interfere in sporting choices, which shift financial balances. The accusation of not having shared them is unfair. For Ibrahimovic many meetings were needed.”

Can you talk about that fateful June 5, 2022?

“Gerry Cardinale told me that Massara and I were fired. I asked him why and he told me about bad relations with CEO Furlani. So I said to him: have I ever called you to complain about him? Never.

“There was also a joke from him about the semi-final lost against Inter, but his motivations seemed a little weak to me. The so-called assumptions, the seasonal objectives, were: elimination from the Champions League groups, one round passed in the Europa League, qualification for the next Champions League.

“The Champions League semi-final brought in at least 70 million more revenues and record sponsors and ticketing. The newly approved balance sheet assets relate to the 2022-23 financial year, with the assumptions largely met.”

Did the controlling shareholder object?

“With him, in a year, just one chat, plus four messages from him. He said we had to trust each other. I did it: how it went is known. I believe that the decision to fire us had been made months before and there were those who knew it. The contract, two years with the option to renew, was signed to me on 30 June 2022 at 10pm: too unpopular to send us away after the Scudetto.”

What was Cardinale asking for?

“To win the Champions League. I explained that a three-year plan was needed. From October to February I prepared it with Massara and a consultant friend of mine: 35 pages of sustainable strategy and the need for a leap in quality, sent to Gerry, two of his very close collaborators and the CEO Furlani.”

The answer?

“None. Out of 35 purchases we are challenged on De Ketelaere, who was 21 years old. If you choose kids of that age, the failure rate is higher. They must be waited for, helped, pampered, taken back.

“On the other hand, after three months of work, Boban and Massara and I were called to London by the owners and CEOs and practically delegitimised: the various Leao, Bennacer and Theo didn’t like it. But a path was needed. I always remember where we started from.”

Can you summarise?

“In 2018-19: not a young and underperforming team. No Champions League for six years, squad worth around 200 million, wage bill of 150.

“In 4 years of restructuring with young players: market spending net of transfers 120 million, 30 per year and 15 per window, value of the squad rose to around 500, salaries dropped to 120 and then to 100 for 3 years, without being able to renew with Çalhanoglu and Kessié.

“And at the end of last season: three Champions League campaigns played in a row, Scudetto after 11 years, Champions League semi-final after 16, positive balance after 17. But if you’re on edge, one season is enough to ruin the previous work.”

What was the 2023-24 budget?

“There hadn’t been any talk about it yet in March and we can’t wait until June to plan the transfer market. Then, four days before the dismissal, Furlani very embarrassedly told me about a low budget: I took note of it. After our departure, the budget even doubled, net of the sale of Tonali, and the salary amount is finally in line with our plan: it must have become a source of inspiration!”

Would you have sold Tonali?

“We would have done everything we could not to let him go. We have never been totally against a major sale, but there was no need. We spent a fifth of the public domain value for Sandro and had to have heated discussions with the CEO and owners: the scouting area didn’t even want him.”

For Scaroni, without you, the working group is united…

“It bothers me how things are said. Milan deserves a president who only looks after its interests and managers who don’t leave the team alone. He never asked if the players and team needed encouragement.

“I often saw him leave when the opponents equalised or took the lead, perhaps just to avoid finding traffic, but punctually in the front row for the Scudetto. I have a different concept of sharing and groups. I can also say the same regarding the two CEOs, Gazidis and Furlani”

The algorithms?

“There is no need to use them to sign Loftus-Cheek, Pulisic and Chukwueze: just use the money that a team that finally has a turnover of 400 million deserves. You can’t compare the 4 previous markets with the last one, we had different weapons.

“Sustainability? With Boban and Massara it was stimulating to cut salaries by 30%, renew the squad and increase its value with the Scudetto and three years of Champions League, after seven without.”

Maldini, did your dynasty stop on June 5th?

“I don’t know, a 36-year bond is too strong and will remain forever: history cannot be erased. I say thank you to life and to Milan. I see a new era represented, a Berlusconi 2. A review of the Italian history of the last 40 years, political and entrepreneurial? I said it before my leave: today you are in charge, but please respect Milan’s history.”


Serie A obsessive.