Maldini reflects on 2022, praises ‘unique’ Theo and reveals he spoke with Leao during World Cup

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan technical director Paolo Maldini believes the team are doing well in their preparations for the second part of the season, reflecting on a fantastic 2022 in the process.

It has certainly been a memorable year for Milan, one that saw the culmination of a journey started under Elliott Management in 2018 as the Scudetto drought was ended after 11 years and the team hoisted the trophy as champions back in May.

As director, Maldini has rightly received plenty of praise for his role in helping the Rossoneri’s resurgence, with many of his transfer intuitions paying off resulting in a young core of exciting players like Leao, Theo Hernandez, Tomori, Kalulu, Tonali, Bennacer and others.

Maldini was interviewed by Milan TV as part of the behind the scenes access for the training camp in Dubai, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.

How are the team doing?

“The team are doing quite well, it’s a preparation phase and we aim to be ready on January 4th to play many close matches, we will practically repeat the first part of the season which was then interrupted by the World Cup.

“The heat helps, it also helps the recovery of some injured players, we’ve found the ideal conditions to do double training sessions, which maybe when we’re at Milanello we don’t do so often. I believe that the retreat is made up of work, sacrifice and also unity. After a few days of separation we found each other, we began to talk about what our goals should be.”

How are the injured players?

“We’ve had some injuries, we hope to recover all of them in January or almost all of them. We can and must be protagonists in the four competitions that remain for us, because little by little they will be very intense months, we will have to face these competitions as Milan, and Milan must aim to win.

“We know that the Champions League is the most important goal but also the most difficult to achieve, but in the meantime let’s take it step by step. It is true that he will arrive in February but the match against Tottenham will tell a lot about what our path in the Champions League could be.”

There were several Milan players at the World Cup in Qatar…

“I didn’t speak with them, I only spoke to Rafa (Leao) but I didn’t speak with the others because you never know what the national team plans are, you never know what their habits are and so I let them enjoy this incredible moment which is participating in a World Cup, which is a truly fantastic event for a professional footballer. Then we’ll meet again here when it’s time to meet again.

“Rafa did his part anyway, two goals in a World Cup are no small thing. Unfortunately, he didn’t play much, I think it was still a good and high-level experience for him. As far as Olivier and Theo have been stars since the beginning, they showed. I must say that we are proud to see them in the starting lineup having reached the final of a World Cup.”

Theo Hernandez is experiencing an incredible moment…

“Often other people are given credit but the great credit is his. He made a dazzling start to his career, then got lost a little. Then he decided to come to Milan, also renouncing many things that his contract provided for, he got back into the game and rediscovered the impetus that a player with his characteristics must have, because he is a player who in my opinion can and must still improve a lot. In his way he is unique.”

What is the main image from 2022 for you?

“From our sporting point of view, the victory of the Scudetto, therefore the match played in Sassuolo closed a three-year period that started in 2019 with a very specific project, which did not envisage the victory of the Scudetto but envisaged the return to be competitive.

“I’d say that’s the image that’s imprinted on my mind. Of course we’re talking about Milan and we can’t be satisfied with having won a Scudetto, we have to be a little more ambitious.”

On the economic aspect in football and the renewal with Emirates…

“The economic aspect of the football business is essential to be competitive, this is now an equation that leads some teams to be protagonists almost mathematically with certain revenues. To be protagonists we must have of revenues as protagonists.

“Among other things, Emirates has been our sponsor for 15 years now and I think they are used to this type of collaboration and therefore we are really very happy, to be here first of all but then to have renewed for a few more years.”

Tags AC Milan Paolo Maldini
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