Mirante gives insight on Fonseca, Maignan, Ibrahimovic and what Leao ‘lacks’

By Oliver Fisher -

Antonio Mirante departed AC Milan after Saturday’s game against Salernitana and he has given an interview reflecting on his time at the club, as well as sharing his experiences with former head coach Paulo Fonseca.

Mirante joined Milan as an emergency solution in the 2021-22 season when Mike Maignan suffered an injury which kept him out for nine games, but he did not make his first appearance for the club until the last game of 2022-23.

He came on for the final minute of the win over Hellas Verona and many thought it was to be a farewell appearance, and yet he was given another one-year deal by the club.

After starting the game against Salernitana – his third appearance for the club – Milan announced Mirante’s departure on social media, with some expectations that he might retire.

Mirante spoke to Radio Serie A about a number of topics from his time at Milan to what the future holds, and his comments from the interview were relayed by MilanNews24.

What does the future hold?

“I wouldn’t want to reach Buffon’s age by playing again, but I feel good and therefore the following weeks will be weeks of reflection. Today I would like to continue, I feel good and this season I also had the chance to play a few games.

“The future depends a little on the path that everyone has taken, on how you feel, where you play and how you approached the last football year, without forgetting the importance of the motivation that pushes you to move forward. Injuries certainly affect a player’s career and for me to think about going abroad now is almost impossible.”

How would you judge your time at Milan?

“I arrived at Milan as a free agent after my experience in Rome and it was a different Milan, despite having already been reborn a year ago, a Milan with a different energy. Today there is an evolved and ambitious Milan which, thanks to the coach, has improved many players: the ambitions have changed. Milan today are no longer the team they were five years ago. Expectations are high.”

What was it like working under Stefano Pioli?

“I had faced Pioli a few times as an opponent in the teams I played for, but I didn’t know him personally. He brought energy and the right mentality to seek victory, he taught us the right way to play matches and how to coach the team. This was instrumental in many of us turning a corner.

“This applies to many individuals, but especially to the team. The year of the Scudetto was the one that brought about a turning point for players, clubs and fans. That year was decisive for everyone: for us and for him.

“In that year we were the team that had the fastest growth path; we won a title in a season where we didn’t start as favourites.”

How would you rate the 2023-24 season?

“The matches against Roma in the Europa League were disappointing compared to what we expected. It was a disappointment for everyone. There are matches that affect a coach’s evaluation, but unfortunately this often happens in our football.

“The matches won against Paris Saint-Germain, the victory over Atletico in my first year in Madrid are matches that demonstrate the work done by Pioli over the years.”

What can you tell us about Paulo Fonseca, who could be the man to replace Pioli?

“Fonseca is a coach who likes to play football, he is an attacking coach and has a good approach with the boys. I had him for two years at Roma, with all the problems linked to that period in that place and in my opinion, despite everything, he did well.

“He is a coach who goes straight his way; he is pragmatic and ambitious. Milan are a club that aims to win, the objectives are important and therefore Fonseca – or whoever takes over – will have huge responsibilities inherited from Pioli.

“We are less informed than you and it’s not easy, but I think it was a thoughtful choice. Milan are a club that stays with you for its charm, history and working environment. Milanello and San Siro in recent years have been fundamental environments in which to grow and improve.”

What is Zlatan Ibrahimovic like?

“There are players like him who have a charisma and an aura that precede him. He’s a super smart guy who understands football. He approached us with great humility and responsibility, until recently he played with us. I have the feeling that he is very competent even if I don’t know the management dynamics.”

You shared the department with Mike Maignan, and you know Gianluigi Donnarumma…

“Maignan and Donnarumma are very strong goalkeepers, different, but with great talent. Gigio made Italy’s fortune and he will certainly do it again. Mike is an incredible professional, a total goalkeeper who is destined to improve even further in the coming years.

“His charisma can be perceived just by looking at him. In the dressing room you know he’s there, he conveys certainty and this quality is essential for his role.”

Finally, a thought on Leao?

“Leao lacks a bit of hunger and consistency, he needs to not be satisfied when he plays incredible matches like against Paris Saint Germain; I think this is the only thing he’s missing, otherwise he’s an incredible player.”

Tags AC Milan Antonio Mirante Paulo Fonseca Rafael Leao


  1. Rafa lacks hunger and consistency at 25 years of age. This is why you need to spend big money on winners in the transfer window or never let your best go no matter what. Guys like Ibra keep a player like Leao under pressure and force him to wake out his mental slumbers. The value of having a perennial winner to push players around them, on the pitch and around them day to day is crucial. Maldini being around the team helped too. You can’t look at someone of his stature and status in the eye everyday then disappoint them or ignore his advice as a player.

    Can you say that for Pioli? What will Furliani or Moncada say to a kid like Theo or Leao that will hold any wait in their esteem? What have they achieved in the game that holds credibility and comes from a place where players can relate to the message and want to emulate the source it is emitted from? Maldini pulls you to the side in training or after a game and asks you to do something, or Ibra roars then shouts something out at you, you stfu and do it, you don’t question it. Piolo, Fonseca or any former midlevel, unaccomplished player turned coach tells you something, without a leader that glares at you saying kid do what he says, to instill respect into a young talent, the impact isn’t quite the same.

    Anyone who understands sport psychology see Ibras, Tonalis and Kessies, you recognized they were the engines, the sparks, the leaders who gelled the rest of the team, made up for the others missing that consistent effort, plugged the holes they left on the field. The first tier and grade of players in the locker room and on the field. The others, personality wise, mental make up, skillset combination, were followers and secondary figures. Bennacer, Theo and Leao were never leaders or as unrelentlessly driven. Ibra, Kessie and Tonali were the generals that pushed the others further.

    1. Exactly. The management values money over everything else, including grinta and dedication to our colors. Tonali scored the Scudetto-winning game against Lazio. We need guys with grinta to surround our world class players. Gattuso, Kaladze, Ambrosini, Brocchi, Abate were that kind. They fought for this jersey.

      We already lost Tonali to replace him with guys who don’t understand that. Without Maldini, there is nobody who can teach them. Zlatan seems lost. Maignan, Gabbia, Calabria or Bennacer are like this. Kjaer and Giroud as well. They are all in transfer rumors or already left.

      1. “We already lost Tonali to replace him with guys who don’t understand that.” Exactly! The new guys haven’t figured out how to bleed for the colors of the club as yet. Hopefully in time but there are far fewer of those figures around to pass down those values

    2. Nonsense.
      The same stuff that Mirante said about Leao when it comes to hunger and consistency existed when Paolo was there, when Zlatan was there as a player and now as a director, and when Kessie and Tonali were there.
      Also, having hunger to go out there and be the best player you can be, strive for more each and every game has nothing to do with being a leader.
      Leao plays a good game and his head gets too big so then he lives off of that for a month. Giroud have said that in the past and now Mirante said it again. Zlatan said that he couldn’t get thru Leao.
      If you lack hunger and ambition on your own you will never be top at any profession not just football. The greats are self motivated, they don’t need someone else to motivate them. Look at Cristiano. Even at 40 in a Saudi league shows hunger that Leao never have at 25.

      1. That is why he is excellent at times and not great, consistently. You need to surround talent with leaders and players that lack for what they do not possess. It is no coincidence we went down to disgrace after Ibra and Thiago left. Only surged again when he came back. It’s called psychology and team building. Those who have psychological profiles to match their skillset, with versatility, the complete package at the best level are few and far between. They are worth their weight in gold and give more to a club than financial figures can count. That is why they command a higher market value in wages and fees to acquire. Not many players win often and perform consistently at their best. The time it takes to acquire and gel a set of players who complement eachother is no less than 4 years. It is called a cycle. To continue one and add to it cost less than to tear it down and rebuild with lesser prepared players.

        When you land these players and groom them, it cost less to pay an agent fee and a slightly higher salary than you would like to keep them, than to buy 8 other players without that package you have in one player. You generate the income you put in by attracting spomsors who want to be tied into a winner organization. It is company and sport asset management 101. Opportunity cost, basic economics. Bankers and number fiddlers with computer programs directing, instead of guiding their choices don’t unerstand or value that, they only do strict calculations with parameters that lack consideration for the fundamental aspects of building winning teams.

        Which is why you need the right people in your organization to put them in their place and push them as well off the field, behind the scenes. Maldini had to fight these Scaronis, Frulianis and Gazidises of the world to land Tonali, Theo, Leao, Bennacer, Ibra and Giroud. Gazidis is infamous for being a narrow minded, complete tool. A moronic manager of epic proportion. Destroying Arsenal for 10 yers minimum. No Maldini I’d bet my life on it, we’d still be in the banter era. Maldini mentioned how they didn’t want to sign these players and wanted to go for plugs and cheaper alternatives instead. They lacked vision and comprehension of the sporting psychology and team building components. He mentioned this after being canned. He challenged them in the media because he knew they were uneducated and lacked perspective when it comes to the art of winning. That is why Furlianis and Scaronis felt threatened and intimidated by him. That is why Cardinale got rid of him. He let the vultures run the yard.

        The management figures at our club outside of Maldini never accomplished anything in Football. Absolutely nothing. They never kicked a ball to bring trophies into a club’s history books.

      2. Gazidis, Furliani, Moncada and Scaroni, left to their own devize, have never excelled to the highest levels of achievement, on a regular basis. Close to the top, on the outside circle of it maybe they did well. There are levels to excellence. None came close. None of them all together. Mr. Beane got lucky, once in 20 years. Lived off that one accomplshment since. None of them, in sports management nor as professional players WON CONSISTENTLY. NEVER. 0. They are good and decent doing their functions, but ONLY when someone with KNOWLEDGE OF WINNING IN A SPORTING ENVIRONMENT keeps them in check. THEY NEVER TOOK RISKS AND HAD TO MAKE DECISIONS IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT THEN SUCCEEDED. THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WINNER AND THE BEST OF THE BEST.
        SOMEONE who understands every aspect of a sport as a player, that almost no one else has, at the team you are manager as well, you follow his advice. When he TELLS YOU SHOOT NOW, ASK QUESTIONS LATER, YOU STFU AND GO ALONG WITH HIS DIRECTIONS. If he says we have to take risks and spend more to ensure we maintain momentum that will take another 8 years to gather, you listen and do as your told. You can’t undo the damage of not capitalizing on a cycle when it is in full motion. To continue it after, you need players from the previous one to pass it on to the next batch of players. Breaking that is a death wish.

  2. Another criticism I might add about Leao is that he so far displayed a total lack of versatility. the man seems to be ONLY capable of playing as a left winger.
    If we look at the great left wingers of the current generation, Mbappe played as a left winger but also often (and sometimes more often) as a striker and was quite prolific.
    Foden played in every flank, as an attacking midfielder and even sometimes as a central midfielder.
    Rashford has done well also as both striker and left winger.
    And we don’t need to look further than our own Pulisic to see a player capable of playing in either flank and as an attacking midfielder. Heck even 19/20 and 20/21 Rebic gave us options in both attack and left wing.
    And now Leao, who was brought in as a striker, doesn’t seem be able to strike from that position anymore (pun intended), and I suspect that in his case, it’s more due to him unwilling to get out of his comfort zone and work on his weaknesses rather than a true technical limitation.
    A Leao capable of playing as a LW/SS/CF would have allowed us to test/use many tactical configurations depending on the game, but as we currently stand, we will always need a system that uses wingers.

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