Imminent vacancy and the De Rossi effect: What the Youth League could mean for Abate

By Oliver Fisher -

Today Milan Primavera will play the Final Four of the UEFA Youth League and it will be the opportunity for Ignazio Abate to seriously apply to take the reins of the first team.

As our colleagues at write, Milan’s first team might have left Europe last night but there is still a Rossoneri team that can compete for continental glory. This is the Primavera team led by Abate who will challenge Porto today at 18:00 CEST to aim to reach the Youth League final.

“Being here again is a result that cannot be taken for granted,” said Abate on the eve of the game in Switzerland. These correct words underline the path begun in the last campaign which has established Milan as being among the four best sides in Europe two seasons in a row.

Today history repeats itself, hopefully not completely, because aast year it was Hajduk Split (who won3-1) that marked the end of the dream. Today the opponents Porto appear tough but not indestructible.

A positive journey

Milan Primavera’s journey in the Youth League under the guidance of Abate has been an exciting one, marked by challenges and triumphs that have rewritten the club’s history at youth level.

The team, composed mainly of talents born in 2005 and 2006, have continued the Youth League path along the lines of the previous season too which was the first time the club had reached that stage.

Abate was able to instil a winning mentality in the group, uniting the players with a strong team spirit. The key this year was precisely the humility, ambition and cohesion of the group, which worked day after day to improve.

The Rossoneri coach approached the Youth League as an educational opportunity for himself and his boys. Studying foreign teams and understanding their way of interpreting the game has enriched him as a manager and coach.

The victory against Newcastle, a 4-0 hammering, and the two victories against Dortmund, testified to the adaptive abilities of the young Rossoneri. Furthermore, the successes in the knockout phase against Braga and Real Madrid underline the excellent preparation provided by Abate in managing international challenges.

A big endorsement

Milan’s journey in the Youth League was also a test for Abate’s leadership skills, something not unnoticed and in fact much appreciated by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The former defender has shown that he can be a point of reference not only for the Primavera, but also for a future at the helm of the first team.

Ibra, the main leader of Milan’s management heading into the summer will have the task of appointing the next coach and it is not unlikely that Abate himself will be in the running.

The friendship that binds the Swede to the former full-back is just a pretext, the truth is that Zlatan is aware of Abate’s qualities and finds in him the same hunger for victories that he hopes to see in the first team.

Promoting Abate to coach of Milan’s senior side would not be a choice made by chance. On the other hand, an example of how relying on an inexperienced coach who knows the environment can be a good choice was shown by Roma’s resurgence under Daniele De Rossi.

Inheriting a mess left by Jose Mourinho, De Rossi managed to transform the mood and the results of the dressing room with ‘Romanismo’ and some astute tactics. A quality which, in a Rossoneri perspective, is also easily traceable in Abate.

De Rossi, Ibrahimovic and a triumph in the Youth League could be three fundamental keys to allowing Abate to take the reins of Milan’s first team next season.

How Milan would play with Abate

Focusing on a purely tactical point of view, was can start to trace how the team might luck. First of all, the formation – the 4-3-3 or sometimes the 4-2-3-1 – would be the same as Pioli’s, however the ways of interpreting it change.

When not in possession, Abate’s Milan tends to line up with a narrow 4-4-2, thus giving greater coverage in the central areas while allowing them to strike quickly on the counterattack with two strikers ready to attack the depth.

This is a way of pressing that even inspired Stefano Pioli against Fiorentina in the recent 2-1 victory at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The coach had his players line up in such a way off the ball and frustrated the hosts for large parts.

On the construction front, Abate tends to deploy a three-man midfield with a playmaker like Yacine Adli or Tijjani Reijnders supported by two more physical midfielders like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yunus Musah.

The attacking dynamic sees the wingers tend to attack the space in behind by cutting infield when instead it is the full-backs who move up to provide width. In this sense, Diego Sia and Filippo Scotti are two examples of how you don’t always have to demand the ball at your feet to create danger for your opponents.

Francesco Camarda is the striker and the real flagship: he is what makes the difference going forward, as a quick and technical centre-forward capable of scoring in any way. It goes without saying that seeing Abate in the first team could also provide a decisive boost for the renewal of the young striker.


Getting to the point, this week could prove doubly decisive for Milan. The elimination from the Europa League put an end to Pioli’s adventure, today’s Final Four could instead be the impetus to start another one.

However, there are obvious concerns such as a lack of experience managing a senior side and sometimes an inability to balance European and domestic form, as shown by the fact Abate’s side missed out on the play-offs last season and are not certain of getting in this time.

If it sounds like an impossible scenario, we remind you that other sources have already reported the possibility of an internal promotion, perhaps after an interim period at the end of this season if things continue to turn sour for Pioli.

Tags AC Milan Ignazio Abate


  1. Look it’d be a fairytale.

    It’s what gave us Guardiola.

    It’s no more a gamble than the decision to sack a coach who almost guarantees us Champions League football.

    I’d definitely prefer Abate to Conte.

    1. I tend to agree with the sentiments.

      But if what is conveyed in this article is as strong as the case can be put then there is virtually nothing.

      ‘Zlatan likes winning and so does Abate’. Yep, great, we’ve found the 2 guys on the planet who like winning.

      ‘De Rossi came out of nowhere which would be the same for Abate’. How about a little context? De Rossi’s status at Roma, as the prince to Totti’s Ceasar, is a very different thing to Abate’s status at Milan. Abate is a banter era Milan player who, while a good player who would not have had any issues making 300 to 400 appearances in the earlier era, hardly has the presence that will deflect negativity in the way that De Rossi does. That status gives De Rossi a free hit when it comes to getting buy-in from his players. What De Rossi has proven, which is the part that was in doubt , is that he is a very good / possibly elite tactician. Didn’t well all just assume he’s be a Gattuso-style ‘grinta first’ coach? Coaches do not just fail because they are poor tacticians or because they don’t know the game well enough. It’s the innate ability or the wisdom to make the right decision at the right time and to get buy-in from player that is more important.

      I’d say Abate is much more Palladino than De Rossi. Palladino appears to be a good coach but he has had the benefit of taking over a solid, and very well built squad, 10 games into its first Serie A season. He has virtually no pressure to deal with other than to ensure that a squad which is clearly in the top 13 in terms of its quality, does not get relegated. He hasn’t really overachieved, either.

      Does anyone trust Palladino for Milan next season?

      I’d want to hear a much more compelling case for Abate’s appointment before I have faith that it is little more than a harebrained scheme.

  2. why complain, those you called best coaches started from somewhere. guardiola, ancelotti and others can only prove me wrong if one of them can coach one of Everton, wolves, Brighton, sassuolo, bologna, fiorentina to win the league in 10 years. wining matches depends on players commitment too. de Rossi with no experience beat pioli both home and away with ove 15 years experience

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