AC Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis has insisted that Paolo Maldini is the man he wants to take over from Leonardo, and that Elliott Management saved the club from bankruptcy last summer.
Leonardo and Gattuso departed the club on Tuesday to begin a summer shake-up at the Rossoneri, and Gazidis paid tribute to the pair amid criticism over his own vision and choices.
The former Arsenal board member also revealed more about how the club was saved from the brink by US hedge fund Elliott last year.
“Elliott saved the club by injecting them with €220m of capital so they could meet their obligations at the end of July, otherwise they would’ve gone bankrupt with the risk of relegation,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Soon after we took on Leonardo, who I will always thank for the great work he did in those weeks to revive the club.
“Leo has decided to leave and take on new challenges. There was no conflict, only maximum recognition for him and his great effort.”
On Gattuso: “I have no words to describe him. He’s an extraordinary man, who took full responsibility for how the season went, maybe too much.
“He did some analysis and made a decision of great honesty: he couldn’t bear the burden any longer, but Rino will remain a friend of the club forever. I didn’t know him before, but I have enormous respect for him.”
Lille’s Luis Campos has been tipped to replace Leonardo as sporting director, but Gazidis put that talk to bed.
“I never thought about Campos, he works as a director for Lille, where he’s doing well, and he won’t come to Milan.
“The press wanted Campos, but I want Maldini. I really hope Paolo stays with us and helps me in this great challenge with an increasingly central and important role.
“I admire him immensely. He represents the club’s values and culture. You see Maldini and you see Milan.
“He’s ideal for managing the technical area. He would have a good staff around him. It wouldn’t be a role just for show, but one that’s absolutely central in technical choices.
“I’m not asking him to do everything by himself. He’ll work as part of a group, he’ll be supported and helped. He can give us a lot.
“It’s been a tiring season for everyone, and Paolo also asked for time to reflect and understand if he has the right energy to start over with this difficult and arduous project, which requires his utmost commitment and which he must totally buy into. He must feel 100 percent.
“That’s the condition for anyone who wants to come to Milan. But in the case of Maldini, he mustn’t come to Milan. He is Milan.
“I don’t want to think about profiles that aren’t Maldini. I’m waiting for Paolo’s decision: then we’ll make a decision on the Coach and the players.”
Finally, Gazidis talked about the man who will succeed Gennaro Gattuso.
“They’ll be chosen with care: their age or nationality doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re suited to what we want to do and build.
“The choice of Coach, I hope with Maldini’s help, will be made calmly, studying every detail: history, character, profile, results, statistics. We don’t want to do anything wrong.”