Algorithms, Cardinale, transfer market flop: the 4 things we understood from Paolo Maldini’s interview on Milan

The heart is not commanded, but Paolo Maldini he wanted to wait a bit before speaking, before having his say. Exactly five months after his dismissal by Jerry Cardinale, the former AC Milan star – and former director of strategic development of the sports area of ​​the Rossoneri club – returns to make his voice heard and does so thunderously, from the pages of Republic. In his interview, which we have already reported it in fullsome key elements emerge that we would like to underline once again, to try to understand what moved Maldini and why he decided to come out today, Friday 1 December 2023, after a bad defeat suffered by Milan in the Champions League and on the eve of a Milan-Frosinone , that is, two matches that could be very important for the immediate future of Milan coach Stefano Pioli and the club itself. Here is Maldini’s recent history with Milan and the points we want to underline.
  • 24 maggio 2009: Paolo Maldini’s last match at San Siro, a week after (31 May 2009) the last match of his career, in Florence.
  • August 5, 2018: Maldini returns to Milan as a manager, becoming director of strategic development of the sports area under the new ownership of the US investment fund Elliott Management Corporation.
  • June 6, 2023: Milan announces the conclusion of Maldini’s assignment which will become official on July 1st.

1) Never at Milan with this ownership at the helm

“There are people passing through, without real respect for the identity and history of Milan. And there are others linked to his ideals. It would be better to keep them close. With him (Cardinal), in a year, just a chat, plus 4 of his messages He said that we had to trust each other. I did: 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, 2 years with the option of renewal, it was given to me on 30 June 2022 at 10pm: too unpopular to send us away after the Scudetto. I see a new era represented, a Berlusconi 2. A review of Italian history of the last 40 years, both political and entrepreneurial? I said before my leave: ‘Today you are in charge, but please respect Milan’s history. ‘Me in Saudi Arabia? Who knows, it’s an idea’ (…)”.

The concept is clear: Paolo Maldini no longer wants to have anything to do with this ownership: the cost he suffered the first time was too strong, his positions were too distant from those of Cardinale (especially) and Furlani. Maldini has the history of Milan at heart: for this reason he cannot bend to the will of those who – in his opinion – do not fully understand what being a “Milanist” wants (and here the reference to Berlusconi 2). Paolo also underlines his distance from the entrepreneurial work put into practice by Cardinale, when he refers to the forced contract renewal and the decision to fire him and Massara taken some time ago. That’s not how you run a club, but it’s also not how you run a business. The comment on Arabia will give a pang to the hearts of all AC Milan fans and others, but these are the times.

Paolo Maldini and Fikayo Tomori

Credit Foto Getty Images

2) The flop of the last purchasing campaign was not the ‘reason’ behind the breakup

“The concept was conveyed that Massara and I were separated because we did not share objectives and market strategies: nothing could be further from the truth. If we talk about the terms of employment, I have never had signing power even for loans. Every player who was taken was chosen by me, Boban and Massara, every choice shared with the CEO and with the owners. After having acquired around 35 players, the hiring of De Ketelaere was contested, who was also 21 years old, a age in which adaptation is not always immediate. Anyone who has played football knows that at that age they are not always structured to support such an important leap as the one made by Charles: the kids must be waited for, helped, cuddled and taken back, continuously (…)”.

Take one to judge everyone: it’s too easy to point the finger at the “wrong purchase” by De Ketelaere, a 21-year-old boy who should be duly waited and cultivated before issuing a definitive sentence. At this point, Maldini “challenges the protesters“, let’s put it this way: in the narrative that has been made in recent months the idea has passed that the separation from the upper levels of the management by Maldini and Massara occurred because there was no unity of view and intent in the market strategies , something absolutely denied by Maldini.

3) Not a problem of algorithms or money to invest but a clear difference in how the role of manager is interpreted

“There is no need to trouble the algorithms to sign Loftus-Cheek, Pulisic and Chukwueze, just use the money for the market that a company that finally has a turnover of 400 million deserves […] President Scaroni declared that without me the working group is now united? It bothers me how things are said. Milan deserves a president who only looks after Milan’s interests, together with a management group that never leaves the team alone. Sharing and support are principles to be implemented in good times as well as bad ones. In these years I have never perceived a clear sharing of what teamwork means: he never asked me if there was a need for a few words of encouragement to the players and our work group, in public or in private. I have never received support in the many difficult moments (…)”.

How many times when we hear footballers talk do we hear about the locker room, about chemistry, about the group to be shaped, united and grown? In this part Paolo Maldini makes us understand that the current management has in fact left the team and the coach alone, without helping them with an intermediate figure – the one that for example Maldini and Massara themselves had. There has been a lot of talk about algorithms e di “moneyball” to buy the right players for this squad? Very well, but then the job of amalgamating them and giving them guidance does not fall solely to the coach, but also and above all to the management. Who must rejoice when things go well, but also intervene /defend/speak to the media when things aren’t moving in the right direction. Maldini himself says he has never received help in difficult times: in other words, where is ownership when it’s needed?

4) Between Maldini and Milan there was the risk of ending up on the books

“The club was sold for 1.2 billion euros and the new ownership had the right to change the organizational chart, but the methods are important and many things did not go as they should have, out of respect for people and their roles I had to discuss to find an agreement and not to give up my rights, but I immediately told Furlani that the last thing I wanted was a dispute with the club: you realise, I explained to him, that it would be the second lawsuit of a cub legend to the AC Milan ownership group in two years, after the one (lost!) with Boban? One thing is certain: my love for AC Milan will always be unconditional.”

One of the many revelations of this interview: imagine if after his immediate dismissal, Maldini had also sued Milan! Heavens open… And yet here too the Rossoneri Paolo got the better of the manager Paolo, seeking and finding an agreement with Furlani. Another revelation: Milan would have lost a case with Zvonimir Boban two years ago. No, it’s not exactly the Milan of Toyland that we once remembered…


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