AC Milan Primavera head coach Ignazio Abate has spoken at length about the role that he holds, the importance of developing players and about the 2023-24 season coming up.
It was confirmed back in June Abate had extended his contract as head coach of the Primavera (U19) men’s team until 30 June 2024, with his previous deal having been set to expire at the end of the month.
It was an entertaining campaign for the youth side in 2022-23 as they were in a relegation battle in the league until they managed to pull away towards the end, but they reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Youth League.
It has already been a busy summer with the likes of Davide Bartesaghi, Kevin Zeroli and Chaka Traore getting a look in the first team, while Mateusz Skoczylas, Noah Raveyre and Alex Jimenez are among the players to arrive and bolster Abate’s squad.
The head coach Abate spoke to Milan TV in an interview that was aired before the game and he spoke about the upcoming season, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.
On pre-season preparation: “I think we had an excellent training camp, we changed a lot. We have set up a team that is still very young, we believe that forging ahead with some youngsters is an important factor, always hoping to see them among the professionals and perhaps one day in the First Team.
“We are happy with the project undertaken. We have had an excellent retreat where we are growing from a physical point of view, we are getting to know each other, we are trying to create an identity but above all union to create a beautiful strong soul.”
On his journey as a coach: “I have matured a lot but I still have to improve a lot. I hope to grow again this year together with the boys. I have a little bit more experience in this league, where there are so many good players, so many trained coaches.
“We will leave with an extra beam of experience, there will still be difficulties that we will all face together with serenity and with great spirit.”
On Bartesaghi, Simic and Zeroli, who have tasted First Team experience: “First of all, they experience first-hand what it takes to become great players. How to experience the profession at 360 degrees, how you train on a daily basis.
“It also gives you a lot of self-esteem. Seeing the great champions you always manage to steal something from them on and off the pitch, I hope my lads have done that, but they are smart lads.
“Every year some boys leave as an aggregate to the First Team, we work to see one on a permanent basis one day. It would be my dream and that of the whole environment.”
On the targets for the upcoming season: “The result must not be an end but a means for the growth of the boys. Playing with five over the age limit… we are not for this philosophy.
“We believe that at a certain age you have to touch real football. As I said before we have set up a young team to speed up some paths and we believe in this.
“Young players have to be allowed to play, they have to grow up, they have to make mistakes, they have to get a little dirty in the teeth. They have to touch what it takes to raise the level.
“My greatest satisfaction from last year is definitely the Youth League, it has a particular resonance. I’m also happy and proud of the 11 more points in the second round. It is synonymous that the boys are grown up.
“It’s definitely been a bumpy ride, there were difficulties in the first months in a league that if you play under age physically you pay for it. Then they grew physically, mentally and in terms of football knowledge and they had a wonderful second round.
“But in addition to the result they have grown in mentality, which is always playing with water at their throats, always thinking about the standings and having to save it was an incredible experience for them and also for me. The pressures were strong and the final satisfaction was enormous.”
On the new staff: “My assistant has changed, I thank Marco Visconti who was with me last year and gave me a huge hand, we bonded a lot from a human point of view.
“Now a young man has arrived who has already coached in the Spanish youth team. I’m happy, maybe he can open my mind on many things, he can give me a different view on many things, there will be some ideas to discuss and improve.”
On opponents: “We know who will set up teams to compete in the immediate future and they will be very difficult to face. Others start a little further back but still have a lot of quality.
“It is a very difficult league where many teams play purely for the final result. We too play, I stress, to obtain a great result because that must be the mentality and the goal, but we also try to follow a path that cannot be separated from the game and the concepts of football.
“We have to be aware that the boys will have some difficulties, but we ask a lot from the point of view of the principles of the game: it takes time and he’s allowing us some mistakes.”
On working with Stefano Pioli: “It’s lucky for me to deal with a great coach like him. He is always attentive to our dynamics, to the growth of the boys. He knows everything, even in the next friendlies there will be some guys who will join the first team.
“We often compare ourselves for their growth, it is the main focus. For me it is an honour to see how he prepares the matches and to receive some advice from the coach.”