Gazidis explains how he and Elliott Management rebuilt Milan including challenges overcome

By Oliver Fisher -

Ivan Gazidis has spoken about some of the experiences he had during his time as the CEO of AC Milan, including why Elliott Management were so important for the club’s resurgence.

Gazidis joined from Arsenal in December 2018 as part of a new era started by Elliott after they came into control of the club, and he was at the centre of the improvement made both in sporting and commercial results. However, he left his role late last year.

Several months after his farewell to Milan, Gazidis has told the secrets behind the revolution brought to Milan by Elliott, arguably the main architect of the club’s rebirth after many difficult years on and off the field.

Gazidis spoke during an interview with Business of Sport, a podcast hosted by the brothers Charlie & Harry Stebbings, and he lifted the lid on what he learned during his time with the Rossoneri. His comments were relayed by Radio Rossonera.

What kind of a situation was inherited back in 2018?

“The club hadn’t been in the best shape for some time, they hadn’t qualified for the Champions League for seven years and they hadn’t won the Scudetto for 11 years.

“Milan were taken over by the Elliott fund as the Chinese property was unable or unwilling to repay the debts it had created to buy the club and therefore Milan were in a real crisis.

“I remember one of the first matches, we lost 0-3 at home and the Curva Sud left the stadium during the match, so we played towards the part of the stadium where we had to score… empty.

“The club were losing around 150 million euros a year and there was the risk of reaching 200, because despite the fact that they made a very expensive transfer market, the team’s performance on the field was not of a high level, so there were a lot of challenges for us.”

Those challenges included few sponsors, issues with the new stadium and strategies to rethink…

“There were few foreign sponsors, two thirds of the sponsors were Italian and we had a stadium which, despite being beautiful and historic, was not in excellent condition, with some areas which, however dangerous they were, are still closed to the public today.

“Access for the disabled is limited and toilets are best avoided, especially if you are a woman. The situation wasn’t rosy and I arrived chosen from a fund in New York and not knowing the Italian language, a fund in which people didn’t believe much.

“They inherited the club not by choice but because there was the risk of default and as a result they found themselves having to manage Milan.

“They could have approached this adventure in various ways, they could have cut costs and sold the club immediately so as to immediately make money, but they decided not to do it.”

What choices were made by Elliott Management to help rebuild Milan?

“They completely revolutionised management, both at a sporting and commercial level, and from there we immediately had a lot to do to fix the team.

“The first thought was to lower the wage bill, because we couldn’t afford to lose all that money, but at the same time we also had to improve our performance on the pitch, that was the real challenge.

“We hired Moncada, a world-class scout leader, and a team of expert scouts, combining these two things we immediately achieved excellent results.

“Then we identified Paolo Maldini as sporting director, he immediately impressed me. Paolo not only brought charisma to him, but he was able to create real father-son relationships with the younger players. Paolo was very good.”

What were some of the difficulties you faced?

“It wasn’t easy. The first year we sold and even let some of our players go on free transfers. People were skeptical, but we warned them that we would buy young players who would become strong.

“I felt the pressure from the fans, of course. Over time, however, I have learned that you have to do what you believe in. You have to focus on what you think is right and let people know you’re doing what’s right.”

What is your favourite memory?

“The most iconic sporting moment I’ve been involved in for me remains the Scudetto won with Milan. The images of the party in the streets of the city fail to describe what it really was.

“All of Milan was closed, and we couldn’t move by bus. Five hours to cover just over a kilometre, and we concluded in Piazza del Duomo, in the centre. Anyone who was there will never forget that day for the rest of their lives.”

Tags AC Milan Ivan Gazidis


  1. Rebuilt it and then watched as it was all dismantled again.

    My kids Lego buildings last longer than Milan’s title winning side.

    It’s got to be some kind of record?

    We’ve lost 13 players from that squad in the space of just 2 summer transfer windows?

    1. “We’ve lost 13 players from that squad in the space of just 2 summer transfer windows?”

      And who’s fault was that? I bet Cardinale is the one to blame, right? 😀 😀 😀

  2. So basically, Milan saved a lot of money by not giving expensive contracts to players.
    In terms of economy, it is better not to give Kessie 6 million net salary, but to buy young midfielder for 20 to 40 million and give him 2 million net…

  3. “It wasn’t easy. The first year we sold and even let some of our players go on free transfers. People were skeptical, but we warned them that we would buy young players who would become strong.”
    Operative word is “we” just like all the transfers in and out it was always a group decision. Their strategy was planned. When players didn’t align to the strategy they left either free or for a fee. This strategy caused the books to be healthy. Bleeding 150m a year required sacrifice. There is hindsight of course. But it seems Gazidis stuck to his guns and indeed made the balance sheet a whole lot better. The difficult part which was on the pitch results belongs primarily to Pioli and of course Maldini and Ibra. These were bold calls and we’re the right calls

  4. According to Gazidis:
    – Moncada is a world class scout leader with a team of expert scouts that immediately achieved excellent results.
    – Maldini is a charismatic glorified babysitter.

  5. @IKWYDLS,
    It has always been easy for all the anti-Maldini lowlifes to accuse him of letting players leave for free, while ignoring that Gazidis actually called the shots.

    I didn’t really like Gazidis, but I respect him because he was recruited to do a job and he did a very good job.

    At the end of the new season, we’ll see Furolani’s scorecard.

    1. “It wasn’t easy. The first year we sold and even let some of our players go on free transfers.”

      IN THE FIRST YEAR!!!!!!

      He is talking about players like Montolivo, Andre Silva, Pepe Reina, Kalinic, Biglia, Bertolacci, Strinic, Haliliovic, Borini, Zapata, Suso, Cutrone, Laxalt etc. Players who were useless but on high salaries signed by the previous management’s.
      He isn’t talking about Hakan, Kessie, Donnarumma, Romagnoli.

    2. The level of power Maldini had was nowhere near what Gazidis and Furlani had. For the latter still has it. Gazidis had blocked certain transfers before as well. Those guys had the power. Maldini is being made out to be this power hungry guy. Like Leonardo said … Maldini wasn’t the one signing the checks

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