Massimo Moratti reveals Leonardo was originally first choice for Inter in June, “but we thought Rafa Benitez could handle the situation.”
The Nerazzurri parted company with Benitez after the Club World Cup victory, just six months after replacing Jose Mourinho.
“It's true, I had thought of Leonardo in June, but it seemed out of place to ask him because he had just said he wanted a break after leaving Milan,” the President told the Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I did believe Leo was the natural successor to Mourinho, as he had broad enough shoulders to sustain such a heavy wait.
“When we chose Benitez, he seemed to have the necessary experience to handle the situation, but everyone handles pressures as best they can.”
Leonardo was appointed on Christmas Eve and will make his debut with Inter against Napoli on January 6.
“Was it easy to convince him? We reached an agreement quickly, even with the doubts he had. However, among those doubts there was not the thought he might be a ‘traitor' to Milan, because he absolutely is not.
“He is enjoying his profession as a Coach and I also reassure the Milanisti that he has always expressed himself in a very, very positive way about the past.”
There were reports that the team pushed against Benitez and did not respect him the same way as Mourinho.
“I thought it wrong to ask for a sign from the players, as that would've put Benitez in trouble,” continued Moratti.
“In fact, right up to the last day before the Club World Cup, I always tried to ensure the team felt they were on the tactician's side and never involved them in these decisions.”
Mourinho declared he thought Leo would do a great job, but was always critical of his old Premier League rival Benitez.
“Leonardo reminds me of Mourinho, as I saw the same great start, attention to detail, enthusiasm and sense of duty,” added the President.
“Could we see them together at Inter one day? I believe Mourinho has in mind a return to this club, just as he does with Chelsea, more in terms of affection than anything else.
“I also believe he needs to take his path and grow constantly. A return can also be growth, but I don't think he's considering it right now and neither are we.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's World Cup tipster competition  - £10,000 to be won!