CorSport: The full fascinating background behind the breakdown in Maldini-Cardinale relations

By Oliver Fisher -

The dust has just about begun to settle after the news broke over the last 48 hours that AC Milan have sacked Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara.

This morning’s edition of Corriere dello Sport (via PianetaMilan) has done a deep-dive into Maldini’s sacking, starting by confirming that the responsibilities shared by him and Massara will now pass into the hands of an ‘integrated working group’ which will have to refer to CEO Giorgio Furlani.

Maldini’s exit ‘was a classic Italian divorce’ as per the paper, meaning it happened without a discussion, exchange of ideas or a conversation about future plans and the actual reasons for the end of the relationship.

In the end, AC Milan owner Cardinale seemed to be swayed very little by Maldini’s glorious past with the club and he was not happy with the season and the transfer business that followed after giving him full autonomy as part of his renewal.

There were three results recorded on the books of RedBird: the Champions League semi-final, essentially being fifth place in Serie A for points amassed but for Juve’s penalty, and the €50m invested without any benefit for Stefano Pioli’s squad except for Malick Thiaw.

That means Maldini failed in two of three areas, and the disagreements between the ex-captain and Cardinale date back before yesterday.

As soon as he landed in Milan the American businessman found himself at a crossroads. On the one hand, he saw the Scudetto win against all odds, but on the other hand Maldini sometimes went against the grain with his media comments and was demanding full power, which is far away from how he usually operates.

Cardinale gave that autonomy only to safeguard the positive atmosphere and he also gave him a pay rise too, but what tipped things over the edge was the interview given by Maldini after the elimination in the semi-finals of the Champions League by Inter.

He asked for investment to avoid falling behind, which also goes against RedBird’s plan for sustainable growth and their conviction that data use can be useful for acquiring players.

In addition, Maldini explained that ‘it would have been easy to sign Paulo Dybala’, a negotiation undertaken by Furlani and then interrupted precisely so as not to break the truce with the technical area. In place of the Argentine, Maldini brought in Charles De Ketelaere and paid €35m, but he has been a flop.

Another disagreement between Maldini and the owners of Milan took place regarding the fate of head coach Stefano Pioli. In the hours following the 2-0 defeat away at Spezia, which seemed to write off top four hopes, there was a bitter confrontation between manager and coach.

It was a clash in which the possible sacking of Pioli at the end of the season in the event of not obtaining a Champions League place was put forward by Maldini, but the owners made it clear that Pioli is untouchable.

Maldini was suffering from criticism of his transfer market and at one point he even asked the club to be able to hire a personal spokesperson to handle relations with the media, which was met with a ‘If he insists, he’ll pay for it’ response.

That’s why, according to the newspaper, Maldini gave some non-footballing interviews during which he told the background on the work done at Milanello. Friends like Christian Vieri and former associates came to his aid.

Not surprisingly, it was Leonardo who improvised as Maldini’s spokesman on Monday evening to circulate the real progress of the meeting with the Cardinale. The rest is known history, with Maldini not even showing up yesterday at Casa Milan.

Tags AC Milan Paolo Maldini Ricky Massara Stefano Pioli


  1. Pioli is criticized for not using new players, but the problem is that management buys players that the coach does not want in the first place.

      1. Yeah, he was only given Messias from them lol.
        Considering that Pioli had to use Kessie for AM, it is obvious that CDK and Adli are not the players Pioli wanted.

        1. Kessie? Did you mean Bennacer?

          Pioli last week: I want intelligent player
          Pioli 3 days ago: CDK is very intelligent player

          If he don’t want CDK at AM, just move him to RW as the heatmap data (2021/2022) suggest he is a winger.

          1. I don’t think you are getting my point.
            Kessie, who Pioli used heavily, left and a completely different type of player has arrived.

          2. So that was your point, I thought you were saying Pioli use Kessie over CDK and Adli. He did use Benaccer over CDK and Adli though.

  2. Jerry should fire everybody and hire ChatGPT to run the team. It will do well with data and won’t overshadow his behemoth ego.

    ‘If he insists, he’ll pay for it’
    Sums up things pretty well. Players will be asked to wash their jersey at home to save money, and they will travel on a skateboard also. Jerry is here for dividends and to turn Milan into a money tree.

      1. Money will flow by signing cheap young players to sell them when their price tag increase and when they ask for a well-earned payrise. Like Atalanta, Lille, Monaco, etc. These teams win nothing.

        1. Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Maignan come from Lille where he had just won the championship just before arriving to Milan and winning the 2nd championship in a row?

  3. Smear campaign. Hopefully we hear paolos side one day. Very nearly amassed the 10 points over Juve for that not to be an issue. It’s only right we progress as Juve are clearly not on Milan’s level in a head to head. Our weakness was quality in depth and not being able to pick up points off the back of CL matches against lesser teams. The quality was there to take max points off salernitana, Lecce, spezia, etc. this is where Juve and inter get the job done. We looked shattered come April. In hindsight it would have been great to have dybalas 20 goals and CDK would likely be playing in the championship with Leeds.

    1. ” Our weakness was quality in depth”

      Indeed. And wasn’t it M&M’s job to increase the quality? And they didn’t.

  4. Pioli is in charge of the players, Milan’s game under him is terrible. Always choose his favorite players, Messias & Krunic.

    1. “Always choose his favorite players”

      That’s what 90% of coaches do. They field their favorite players. The issue is/was that Pioli had a poor selection to choose from. Quality issue.

  5. “He asked for investment to avoid falling behind, which also goes against RedBird’s plan for sustainable growth and their conviction that data use can be useful for acquiring players.”

    This, this is the reason, the rest of the article is of lesser importance…

  6. OK, let’s be clear and honest. Gerry didn’t want Maldini in the first place. He only kept him because he had just won the league – and also he is a legend. As much as he wished, he had zero reasons to let him go.
    It was clear that he was looking for excuses to let him go. It ridiculous to fire any director for one partly failed campaign.
    I mean, seriously, who can fire any director because a 21yr foreigner doesn’t perform in his first year. For the good of our team, I hope this is just an excuse for Cardinale because if he actually believes this, we are in serious trouble.

  7. Let’s not forget also the “revolution” Maldini did vs Elliott 3 summers ago (with Ranknick) – thank God he did it, the few haters of course have forgotten this.
    Elliott shallowed it because they are probably smarter and also because they just wanted to sell. Gerry wants to be a boss, it would never work between them in the long run.

  8. Was this article written by cardinale??? Sure sounds like it. Anyways, there was another article that said cardinale only wanted to spend 35 mil plus sales this transfer window and that’s where things completely broke down. 35 mil after winning 80 mil from cl and seria a. Going back to this article, what data use will buy him for 35 mil? Time will tell, but maybe this fool got football mixed with baseball.

  9. “As soon as he landed in Milan the American businessman found himself at a crossroads. On the one hand, he saw the Scudetto win against all odds, but on the other hand Maldini sometimes went against the grain with his media comments and was demanding full power, which is far away from how he usually operates.

    Cardinale gave that autonomy only to safeguard the positive atmosphere and he also gave him a pay rise too”

    As I have been saying.
    The old owner Elliott didn’t want Maldini, that’s why they let his contract expire, and the new owner RedBird gave him a new contract just so he doesn’t get off the wrong foot with the fans by letting go of the clubs biggest legend after the team won the scudetto.
    This was bound to happen and should have happened last summer. We’d be better off now if they just cut ties instead of worrying about the optics

  10. I

    It amazes me. Teams signing players Worth 60mil, ,80 mil and so on that flop. Maldina signs CDK who underperforms. Is that enough reason to sack him? While he gets the like of Theo, maignan, Leo, bennercer for cheap
    I still CDK will pick form sooner

  11. Pioli is afraid to try new players. Adli was the best player in the pre-season but he refused to use him. We all thought malick chiaw was another useless addition until Injury forced pioli to use him. He will rather play messias everyday than to try another player.
    Mourinho didn’t use Salah and debruyne. How on earth they became so lethal

  12. Pioli have been protected by maldini and massara, we will all see it now, he has a lot of defects, he doesnt know how to play against a physical team which uses 3 at the back, he doesnt know how to play against a team with a low block, let him choose the players he want with 35mill and see whats gonna happen, cardinale has lost the plot, the was no need to distabilise the momentum, its so hard to gain that momentum again, they were supposed to discuss past mistakes, correct each other, advise each other, and continue, that was the best for ac milan, its sad that nowadays football clubs are managed by hiring and firing, selling and buying, its boring to follow now

  13. I definitely dont believe in the autonomy part bullcrap because we’d definitely have different players in the team if that was so. Seems like Cardinale never liked Maldini and the way he was sacked seems to indicate so. There was no care for status of legends (and this goes for AC Milan in general as those players brought them glory and to where it’s status is right now). Results-wise we know it couldn’t be the reason for the sack so its definitely otherwise. Oh well, obviously it’s painful to see a legend turned director go in that manner but let’s hope for the best that the ideas C has moving forward works.

  14. give the dog a bad name just to hang him… the power of propaganda… well, Pioli must be a genius according to Cardinale… let’s see what happens. The same Pioli that never achieved anything or won anything until he came to Milan, he was sacked in his previous clubs too. that was precisely why maldini brought in senior players to boost the mentality of the young players, something Pioli is loathe to do.
    Time will tell.

    1. Maldini is the reason Pioli is at Milan in the first place. He signed him and he kept him when they were trying to throw him under the bus. This is the thank you he gets. Unbelievable.

  15. Looks like Cardinale himself typed this Article and sent it to CDS. lol

    Why was the window F’ed up during last summer BTW? Answer.. Cardinale.

    less Points amassed by losing to relegation teams? because of a coach who won’t use players because.. he ‘didn’t like them’? Isn’t he a ‘professional’ manager? So, instead of playing the players he has.. he chose to ran the club down the table by not using the players who could’ve helped seal the wins then? And this guy is being ‘trusted’? LOL Is Pioli by any chance trying to tell us Relegation squads were better than Milan’s? LOL

  16. And here comes the Redbird PR spin lol. Ya it’s all Maldini’s fault for everything. He’s a power hungry egotistical man and has been like that his whole career – says ABSOLUTELY FKN NOBODY WHO HAS EVER MET THE MAN OR DEALT WITH HIM AS A PLAYER OR EXECUTIVE. Typical PR spin from poor Gerry who didn’t want to hear the truth about the state of the club. Players who developed were because of Pioli but those who didn’t are all Maldini’s fault lol. How convenient. Players who flopped are all Maldini’s choices but the ones who excelled are Moncada’s? No need for veterans because you know Giroud Kajer and Ibra had zero impact on the squad despite each young player saying the exact opposite – hey but what the hell do they know? Yup I believe this 100%. Maldini is a power hungry fellow LOL🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪

    1. Indeed!! In one corner we have a man who has a red & black heart, red & black blood, who is loved and respected all around the world, who only wants what’s best for AC and is not interested in personal glory. In the other corner, an American businessman who only sees dollar signs, who didn’t know what AC stands for till last year, who will probably take the cash and run in two or three years, possibly leaving behind a mountain of debts. Now, let’s see. As an avid AC fan, which of the two should I trust…?

  17. Just for personal interest. Can anyone point me to a ‘big name’ football club taken over by American businessmen which has been successful? I know Man Utd started well under the Glaziers, but that was more because of the stature of the club before takeover. Before this year they have been a joke for 10 years. Chelsea is a joke. Jury is out for AC, but chances are we could also be heading that way. At least when someone from Asia or the Middle East buys a club, they want sporting success. They have so much money that they don’t need the club to be a business success.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.