AC Milan technical director Paolo Maldini has given a long interview to broadcaster DAZN about a number of different topics.
Maldini spoke to DAZN about various subjects related to Milan, with his words transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.
He began by discussing his new role at the club, and how he talked about coming back while Silvio Berlusconi was still in charge but the time wasn’t right.
“I think I prepared for 9 years doing anything else. I tried to do the things I had missed: spend time with family, the children, I followed them in school and in football, also my wife, even my friends because then I did things that I would never have done in my life,” he said.
“I enjoyed these years as a return to normalcy. I prepared myself by detaching myself from what was the reality of football, in any case following Milan and football, with a detached eye.
“Maybe I was not very ready because it was a sudden thing: I was in Miami and Leonardo called me: ‘You must be here in 10 days, we must leave together, I want you with me’. It was easy to say yes.
“In the recent past there was the possibility of joining the other group with Fassone and Mirabelli, but we didn’t agree on certain things. There was also the possibility of joining with Barbara [Berlusconi]. My choice, besides the interest of PSG, always through Leonardo, has always been linked to the Rossoneri colours.”
He also offered an insight into how the process of choosing a player to sign works, from the scouting process to concrete interest.
“Nobody gets the chance to see all the matches. You must have a scout within the club who works in your direction. Three of you and the scout department have to start getting to know who you want, how you want your players, and they maybe tell you what worked the last five years compared to the previous five years,” he said.
“In all of this there is a football revolution. Let’s talk about the defence: a defender is easy for me to read, but the request, for how football is going is: first I would have asked for a defender who was doing well in a department, now I would go and get a strong defender in one on one and then I teach him to be comfortable. The difficult thing to teach is one-on-one, strength and concentration. It’s something that’s missing.”
On the role of the coach in the transfer market: “The coach has an important role. He has a game idea. The coach sees the team he has and also sees what the needs are.
“What we ask of the coach is to give us profiles. I believe that the names must be chosen by the club and that it must incident from all points of view, both from the economic point of view and from the age of the player himself, and also from a vision that goes beyond what the year after could be.”
On Pioli: “He is good at conveying his thoughts. He does so with an unexpected vigour. Seeing his career, he may not always confirm what he showed at the beginning. Sometimes we have to stop him. It is a characteristic that I did not recognise.”
On his presence at training: “It depends on the moment. At the moment in the market, going to training becomes difficult. In a week, Massara and I go to Milanello at least 3/4 times. We talk to the coach every day.
“There are some things you can only see if you are there. These are little things that I recognise immediately.”
On his relationship with the players: “I try to understand the players. There are situations and situations. It depends what you go to say.
“If you have to go and tell someone that he is playing badly, go there with understanding trying to help what are the difficulties of the player himself. If one is misbehaving, then you have to be tough. I try to have a dialogue with everyone.”
The impact of Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the current group cannot be understated, as at 39 he continues to be Milan’s leader on the field.
“Ibra is an idea from the previous January, we talked about him with Leonardo. We had talked with him, with Raiola and with Ibra, who however had given the words to the Galaxy that if he achieved a certain sporting and economic result he would stay,” Maldini continued.
“Once that result was achieved, he said, ‘I’m sorry, let’s talk about it’. In our opinion he was the right man to make that mix between youth and experience. He and Kjaer have given incredible results.
“We have always had points of reference and at that moment there weren’t many points there. Maybe there was someone but he played little, and playing little maybe he became less important than someone with the extraordinary character of Ibra.
“We cannot afford to sign players who are not seen and approved by the ownership, but it was a very calculated risk. He was coming from 2 years of MLS, and that’s a completely different thing. He himself, when we proposed 18 months of contract, told us: ‘Let’s do six months because I don’t know what I can give you’.
On the comparisons between Ibrahimovic and Van Basten, Maldini added: “They are two super champions. Making a ranking is difficult. Baresi and Van Basten were the ones who had something more than the others.
“Marco, unfortunately, had to stop at his best moment. Ibra, for what he has done and what he is doing, he is undoubtedly at that level there. To do certain things you have to be a great champion not only on the pitch, but also off the field.
“Zlatan breaks the boxes in an impressive way. Ours was already a competitive group, but perhaps the boys were a bit held back by their responsibilities. Ibra arrived and took all the responsibilities.
“Even in these difficult years, the environment at Milanello was not bad at all. We had important players, like Biglia and Reina who helped these youngsters grow. Both Lucas and Pepe played little and therefore preferred to leave to play more.”
The American fund Elliott have shown their determination to bring the Rossoneri into a different era by investing heavily in young players.
“It’s hard to find anyone who has disappointed me. Duarte was unlucky, he had many injuries. Leao’s talent is there for all to see, he can reach incredible levels. Saelemaekers was the result of our scouting, I didn’t know Alexis,” Maldini said.
“We were looking for a right-back at that moment there, or one who in anticipation might one day play for us. We saw this guy playing right, left, as full back, number ten, with such intensity that after you give him the ball he’s there. Bennacer has great personality.”
On his vision of Milan: “The design changes along the way, I am linked to a winning Milan, my figure is linked to something that is not only aimed at putting the accounts in order.
“I must also safeguard what my story carries with it, what the fans they expect from me. That’s where I push the owners to do certain things instead of others. The results proved them right for many things and us for many others, right now there is a unique idea and this helps that that is the project.
“We have embarked on a path that must lead us to the Champions League permanently, it is a competition that gives you important income to invest what you would like, it is also a brake on the future distribution of victories in the various competitions, but I believe it is the right way.
“We started with an idea of a project that will one day become self-sustainable, in a moment of great crisis this has even more value.”
On working with his son Daniel: “Having dad in the boxes is not pleasant, I know it too (smiles). I know that the worst moment is when you come back from a game in the car with your dad and he tells you what you had to do better.
“Even my son told me several times. His luck is that he plays in a different role than mine. For Christian, who is a defender, it was even worse.”