Abate beaming with pride after ‘historic’ European run for Milan Primavera

By Oliver Fisher -

Ignazio Abate is understandably full of pride as his AC Milan Primavera team booked their place in the final four of the UEFA Youth League with a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid.

The enormity of this European run for Milan cannot be understated as they finished top of a group with Chelsea, RB Salzburg (last year’s finalists) and Dinamo Zagreb before beating both FC Rukh Lviv (who knocked out Inter) and favourites Atletico Madrid to reach the semi-finals for the first time ever.

Goals from Dariusz Stalmach and Youns El Hilali in each half were enough to overcome Fernando Torres’ Atleti side, and the Primavera will play the winner of Borussia Dortmund vs. Hajduk Split on April 21 at the Colovray Stadium in Nyon.

At the end of the game Abate spoke to the microphones of Sky Italia in front of a celebratory crowd of nearly 1,000 people at the PUMA House of Football, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

A historic result for the Milan youth sector…

“The truth is that it is a historic result. We had never made it past the last 16 of the Youth League. Unexpectedly we are in the semi-finals, I dedicate it to my boys.

“I must also remember the words of the club, when on the first day I signed the contract with Paolo Maldini, Ricky Massara and Danzè, and they asked me to believe it, that we could fit perfectly in this competition.

“Slowly we grew. It was a crescendo. We set up a very young team this year, we knew the difficulties. In the league our path has been fluctuating, we pay for the difference in age, two-three years.

“In the Youth League, on the other hand, we’ve always had good performances against strong teams. I think this achievement is deserved. Today we had a very good match against an experienced and very very strong team.”

After the first goal you were in control…

“We started off a bit tense, the boys felt the importance of the match. For the first time it was sold out here at our home. They are a strong, intense team with great quality.

“The boys understood that they could fit into the competition and their qualities came out. We risked little, we started to come out from behind. I’m happy with the boys. But we haven’t done anything yet: now we’ll play in a historic semi-final.”

Do you see some of your boys having the chance to make it into the first team? 

“I have to say that anyone in the squad has qualities. We have set up a very young team, focusing on quality players, some may be still behind in the path. Everyone has the talent to aspire to an important career.

“That is the goal of the Youth Sector, trying to bring players into the first team. Surely there are some very interesting profiles, you have to let them grow. It’s better not to name names, because they are also a bit strange generations (laughs).

“They are guys who need to be given a mentality, to frame them, make them understand that the road is long and tortuous and many sacrifices are needed. I’m very happy with my boys, they put their spirit and heart into it. In terms of quality, there are certainly some very, very interesting guys.”

This team resembles you in terms of intensity and attitude…

“You’re right. I like a technical, reasoned football, but you can’t ignore the attitude and desire. They went beyond the obstacle with their hearts, they certainly reflect me.”

Your former team-mate Ibrahimovic meanwhile could be a starter against Udinese…

“Mister Pioli, who sees him every day, will certainly take care of it. It is not part of my skills. I can say about Zlatan that going back to being like this at 41… We see him spending 10 hours a day at Milanello, he can only be an example for my boys. He has an incredible desire to record again. And then let’s call him a kid, otherwise he’ll get angry if we say he’s getting older (laughs).”

Tags AC Milan Milan Primavera


  1. Thatd a fantastic news. Future of milan. Hope they become great and stay with us for a long time. Even abate, hopefully he becomes a great coach and our coach. They said some time ago that they will invest in youth youth, guess they were serious.

    1. Agreed.

      If I had a choice between:

      1) finishing 4th next year stripping back the senior squad in a big way (that would be culling at least Tata, Mirante, Gabbia, FBT, Dest, Bakayoko, Pobega, Diaz, Rebic and Origi – I would strongly consider Salamakers and Adli) replacing it with only 3 or 4 targeted signings and then integrating the likes of Bozzolan, Coubis, D’Alessio, Eletu, Zenoli, Maldini, Stalmach and Toure into the first team; or

      2) being able to genuinely challenge for the title but keeping a larger main squad and adding to it

      I’d choose take the hit on the depth and choose 1).

      You can’t have your cake and eat it too. At some stage for the project to be based on the Primavera, even only in part, it will necessarily require a bit of pain. We’re not going to be able to maintain control over development (as we’ve seen with Maldini getting far too little playing time at Spezia this year) unless we’re playing these guys.

      I accept that we can’t not finish 4th but when I consider some of the options we are linked to, I am far from convinced that we are advancing our position beyond playing Primavera players – it is the perception that is different.

      Mourinho has played a lot of Roma’s kids in the last few years and it has rarely been any of them that have set the team back.

      1. I should have said that the aim is long term sustainability. Maybe a step back to take 2 or 3 forward.

        Not another 2021/2022 which, while great, still leaves us treading water because our competitors have improved and there is only so much that can be wrung out of limited players.

        We could probably match EU50m we spent in January this year just from the Primavera. Not only do we get to develop players and save transfer fees, and wages, when can then spend more of specific players.

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