Paolo Maldini during his presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (
Paolo Maldini during his presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (

Paolo Maldini has talked at length about why he chose to return to Milan, explained what he would do at the club and claimed there ‘will be no crazy expenditures’ this summer.

Yesterday it was officially announced that Paolo Maldini – perhaps the greatest legend in the history of Milan – is returning to the club as the new Sporting Strategy & Development Director.

Today at Casa Milan, Maldini was presented to the press as he sat alongside General Manager of the Technical Side, Leonardo, and Milan President Paolo Scaroni. Maldini answered the journalists’ questions, explaining in detail what led him to finally decide to return.

“What is it about the new project that convinced me to return? I never actually said ‘no’ without talking to those involved,” Maldini said. “I held negotiations with Barbara Berlusconi’s Milan, a year and a half ago I talked to the Chinese owners, but we weren’t even able to define a role for me. That was the reason I chose not to join them. Now, the situation is different: Leonardo called me, he explained the project to me, I talked to the owners and they also described the project – and I believe in this project. I am firmly confident that their beliefs, their plans will work.

Leonardo, Paolo Maldini and Paolo Scaroni during Maldini's presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (
Leonardo, Paolo Maldini and Paolo Scaroni during Maldini’s presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (

“When the idea of bringing me back became a reality? Leonardo’s role was fundamental, I’m a great friend of Leo, and we will share this experience together, as we did in the past. This time around we have different roles, we have separate roles but we are friends and we will work together. He called me 9 years ago, but this time he called me when they called him. We didn’t have much time since the change in ownership. But I met with the owners and everything worked out very quickly.

“How will I approach my new role considering I was known as a silent captain? Well, my character is the same as it was, although I’ve started talking a bit more over time. The role is very different, but it’s important to have this sense of belonging to this team. With this team, with this squad, with this ownership, with this club, it’s important that everyone here shares this sense of belonging.

“What did I like about this project and my role? The project and the role are connected. The role was an important element in my agreeing. I don’t have an experience as a director, but I’ll be working with Leonardo, which is very important: he knows his job, he knows the club.

“Working alongside someone like Leonardo, in a club that will follow our suggestions is something very important and it’s what led me to say ‘yes’. What exactly is my role? I will be working with the first team, the youth team, I’ll be working on the market, with the coach. I’ll be doing a lot of the things that Leonardo does too. We will share the responsibilities for the entire sport’s area.

“If I feel the burden of the responsibility to make Milan great? Of course. Every position comes with responsibility and I’m a person who feels a lot of responsibility. However, there is also the beauty of returning to an environment like this club. As Leonardo said, my father was captain of the club, my sons have played in the youth teams, and I have a very strong link with this club.

Paolo Maldini during his presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (
Paolo Maldini during his presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (

“How football has changed since I retired? Football always evolves, if you fail to understand that you stay behind. Anyone who is passionate about football knows that things are always changing; this has to be understood and analyzed. In terms of technique and tactics, some things come back from the past, some things are new, but I haven’t seen any major changes from this point of view.

“Objectives? The first objectives is to stay within the lines of the FFP, so there will be no crazy expenditures. I’ve only joined the club today so there will be time to talk about transfers and strategy. The owners want to keep hold of this club for a medium-long term, which is part of the reason why I accepted to return. My personal history forces me to accept jobs and roles that are not short-term.

Leonardo, Paolo Maldini and Paolo Scaroni during Maldini's presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (
Leonardo, Paolo Maldini and Paolo Scaroni during Maldini’s presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (

“Gattuso? I talked to him, we will meet-up soon. The current level of the team? The results are clear, we finished 6th two years in a row, and we certainly need to improve the team. I’ve only just joined, although we have been talking on the phone and in the next days we’ll know more about the market.

“If there are other macro-themes, like sense of belonging, which can return to the club with my return? I think certain philosophies and themes are important and should always be a part of the club: a sense of belonging and fighting for a common goal are two of those. Working together as a team is another. However, there’s always an evolution: even the approach of how football players face games is different from how it was when I played, but it’s perfectly normal.

“What led me to this decision? Well, the foundation is my love for this club and for football. My personal history forces me to be here. That doesn’t mean I have to be chosen, but if I have a choice then I can only work for Milan or for the national team. Added to that, there is my friendship [with Leonardo], this project, there is the objectives and all these things together bring me here.

“If I know who will be chosen as the new captain of the team [Alessio Romagnoli and Giacomo Bonaventura are the likely choices]? A lot of people will have to be involved in taking the decision, the coach and the players need to be involved, so it’s a difficult question to answer.

“How do I feel at the dawn of a new job? The reason I was always able to be calm and collected on the field, was because I was always at my ease. Once I get used to the job, it’ll be very easy to adapt to the new role. I’m here to learn and to give my best to the club. This is the start to my career as a director and I don’t believe I could’ve had better companions to share this adventure with.

Paolo Maldini during his presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (
Paolo Maldini during his presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (

“My relationship with the Curva Sud? I’d like to start by saying my relationship with the fans is fantastic. The fans love me and they always showed it. I think that incident [the Curva insulting Maldini on his last match] stayed where it was. I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be repaired, I believe that I’ll be judged on my work, like when I was a player, and that is my philosophy for life. How do I expect the fans to react to the change in ownership and to my return? I don’t expect anything. I never expected banners when I was a player, I certainly don’t expect them now.

“What I missed the most in my 9 years away from Milan [since he retired from football] and what were the biggest mistakes made over this period which must be avoided? I had a very, very long career. So, when I decided to end, it was simply a new chapter. I did lack the feeling of the dressing room, I did lack the anticipation before the games. I’ve always been a passionate fan of football, I’ve always followed Milan. I don’t want to talk too much about the past, what happened, what went wrong, I want to focus on this new project and what are objectives are.

“If Romagnoli-Caldara can be the future of Milan and the national team? Absolutely, the two, alongside Rugani, are the two most promising young defenders. Higuain was certainly a great signing, but Caldara is a young guy who has great potential. If you were to ask any football expert, which young defender would be good for the national team, they’d most certainly say Caldara.

“What player am I most curious about? I have to say Cutrone was the one who made the biggest impression. When I followed my sons, I followed him in the youth team, and what he did last season was incredible. He is a guy with the desire that very few have, it shows he’s a great champion.

“If this is the circle that comes to a close as in the first match after my retirement Milan won 2-1 with Leonardo’s debut as coach? The cycle didn’t necessary have to close in this way. What I achieved on the field didn’t necessary mean I had to become a director, there is some logic behind it but there’s also the possibility that it wouldn’t have happened. As Leonardo mentioned, even a few months after he took over as coach, we met up at the headquarters.

“If there’s something that needs to be improved or changed in the youth sector of Milan? I think things can always be improved, although good work has been done; a lot of players have reached the first team. We haven’t gone into detail on this issue yet [who will be in charge of the youth sector], there’s a lot of things to deal with and we’ve only been working for a few days.

“If my presence can be helpful to Donnarumma, to explain what it means to be a symbol of a glorious club like Milan? Donnarumma came all the way through the youth teams, every story is different. He’s been under a lot of pressure over the last two years. The objective is to help these players and to help settle the relationships which can be quite complicated in our environment.

“If I see some similarities to my time as this Milan is too founded on a strong core of Italian players? There are certainly some similarities. I was extremely lucky to join the first team when there were defenders like Baresi, Tassotti, Galli, Costacurta, so the level was incredibly high at that time – perhaps the strongest ever. The young Italian core currently in the team will be extremely important going forward. A lot of them came through the youth team so they know what it means to be here.

Paolo Maldini during his presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (
Paolo Maldini during his presentation at Casa Milan on August 6, 2018. (

“What will I say to Gattuso when I see him as he wasn’t in the best of moods when he left to the USA? We only spoke briefly but we’ll be meeting-up soon. If Gattuso will be calm with my return? Gattuso is never calm. I don’t think you’ve understood that yet, he doesn’t know what it means. I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll stay coach of Milan. He’s an important foundation upon which we can build this club. What I’ll say to him depends on what his requests are.

“How will my presence affect the young defense with Donnarumma, Caldara, Romagnoli and Calabria? The roles at the club are well-defined. There is a coach. All I can do is talk to the club and talk to the players, but players born in the mid-90’s are already in their mid-20’s. That’s the right age to show what they can do. They are young players, so they will certainly improve this year.”

Speaking to MilanTV, Maldini added: “To the fans: I’m happy, and excited. I’m coming back to my home. Milan is my family, and I never went away.”

Meytar Zeevi