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Monday August 6 2018
Maldini shows Milan ambition

Paolo Maldini refused to join the Rossoneri board under Yonghong Li, so Gaby McKay says his arrival now represents a big step forward.

One of the biggest red flags in Yonghong Li’s tenure as Milan owner came before the Chinese businessman had even taken over the club.

In October 2016, Li was head of a consortium called Sino-Europe Sports which was looking to buy the Rossoneri from Silvio Berlusconi. With the takeover effectively having to be paid for in instalments and a lack of clarity over who made up the group, the potential new owners sought to bring a club legend on board to placate fans.

The historic club has more than its fair share of iconic figures, but when you think of a Milan legend only one name comes to mind: Paolo Maldini.

The former defender spent his entire career with Milan, making 902 appearances as he played beyond his 40th birthday. Maldini’s trophy cabinet makes for ridiculous reading, with seven Scudetti, five European Cups, four UEFA Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and the Coppa Italia.

When he retired from football in 2009 it seemed inevitable he’d be given a role with the Rossoneri, as Javier Zanetti would with Inter a few years later. Reported tensions with the ownership, and in particular CEO Adriano Galliani, put paid to that, but with a new regime coming in the time was surely right for Maldini to come home.

Except it wasn’t. Paolo Maldini, Mr Milan, rejected the opportunity to work with Yonghong Li and Marco Fassone, blaming a lack of transparency - the former left-back never met with any of the Chinese owners - and predicting that there wasn’t “the basis for a winning project”.

“Milan has always been a matter of heart and passion for me,” Maldini explained at the time. “My history, my father’s history and my children prove it, and no-one can take this bond with the Rossoneri colours away from us. This very strong link obligates me to be careful, precise and professional in accepting a job I’m offered.”

Maldini could never accept being a mere figurehead, far less one for an unstable and shady ownership. Of all the warning signs about Li, many ignored or outright rejected by a section of the Milan support, the fact he couldn’t convince the Rossoneri’s greatest legend to work for the club he loves was perhaps the most glaring.

When the owner was finally ousted by Elliott Management, the hedge fund from whom he’d borrowed money to finance his takeover, there was again concern about how the club would be handled.

The early signs were good, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturning UEFA’s decision to bar Milan from the Europa League, the decision reached in part due to a more stable ownership situation. Former player and Coach Leonardo returned as technical director, and strengthened the squad with Mattia Caldara and Gonzalo Higuain.

Then, yesterday, it was officially announced that Maldini will be returning to the club. The living legend will become the Diavolo’s strategic development director, and the fact he accepted the role proves there is a more convincing and sustainable project in place at Casa Milan these days.

It’s not all sunshine of course. Maldini’s retirement wasn’t befitting of his legendary status, marred as it was by pointed jibes from the club’s ultras. For his final match against Roma, the Curva Sud unveiled a huge banner saying “there’s only one capitano” - but bearing Franco Baresi’s number 6 rather than Maldini’s 3.

Never one to bow to public opinion, the legendary defender had at times been critical of the ultras during his career, with another banner accusing Maldini of having “no respect for those who made you rich”. It was a shameful way for his glorious career to end.

Time heals all wounds though, and Maldini’s return has been met with almost universal positivity. The fact that the 50-year-old refused to bow either to the ultras or to Yonghong Li proves that he’s his own man, not simply a face and a name for others to hide behind.

Paolo Maldini is back where he belongs, and his endorsement of the new regime is perhaps the greatest source of reassurance Milan fans could hope for.

Have your say...
Locatelli is Cristante 2.0, stupid sale they will live to regret and why no Buy back?
on the 14th August, 2018 at 5:02pm
@Me. Agreed.
Higuain-Caldara was a masterstroke, but Bakayoko AND Castillejo, a seemingly carbon copy of Suso, were huge mistakes. Not at all the players we needed.
Locatelli is loved by the fans. Apparently, not so appreciated by the club. A great loss.
Cristante 2.0?
on the 14th August, 2018 at 12:27am
Ambition needs to be meet with intelligent work.

After buying Biglia, selling Locatelli to sign Bakayoko is genuinely stupid. If at least you need a player with Bakayoko's profile, it would make sense. But you have a better one in Kessie, so to sell a younger, homegrown player who is also better and the kind of player you need just reeks of a fallen club liking other shiny teams' leftovers.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 5:38pm
I will become a Milanista now.
on the 10th August, 2018 at 6:56pm
@maldini heir

ultras go to every game not matter where or when and for me they make the game interesting through their chants dances and fireworks.

As for violence hell i work in English stadiums you don't have ultras but you always have a couple thousand drunken morons and there is always a fight hell even stabbings outside the stadiums.

as for running the team they pay the players wages and create the club profit why shouldn't they have a say in their club running.
on the 8th August, 2018 at 8:00pm
Jack and Calhanoglu should be competing for the mezzala position. As it is now, they are competing for both mezzala and winger. Bernard is a true winger with more pace and trickery than either Jack or Hakan. He may not be Bolt, but is perhaps the best we can do in the current market. Borini shouldn't even be mentioned. I'd say bring him.
Halilovic is a midfielder and not competing with Suso (who we have no cover for and was burnt out last season).
on the 7th August, 2018 at 9:25pm
A shiny new 60.000 arena would be a great start for the new owners =)
on the 7th August, 2018 at 10:17am
Deadweight for me would be:
Gabriel, Zapata, Abate, Antonelli, Montolivo, Mauri, Bertolacci, Bacca, Kalinic.
I would sell Rodriguez if €35m came in, Reina and Borini for €10m each if what is reported is true.
on the 7th August, 2018 at 6:49am
The club needs stability in order to attract talent. Leo, Maldini, Higuain are all good signals. I can't judge the board I dont know their Resumes personally but I read that they're credible individuals. With stability you need continuity, so with Gattuso that's another sign. He proved himself to be capable (not worldclass yet) and deserves a chance.
As for deadweight, it is easier said than done. Why would others take your garbage off your plate!? I doubt Leo will be able to sell them all.
on the 7th August, 2018 at 6:45am
@ paolo Many fans go to the matches and spend money and support the club but Ultras are the one's who think they run the club. The Milan one's aren't as bad (when they're not insulting the players) but elsewhere Ultras are actually the one's putting other fans off going to matches and getting into fights and generally causing mayhem, The word "Ultra" doesn't exactly lend itself to moderate behaviour..
on the 6th August, 2018 at 9:08pm
@ Maldini's Heir. and Anonymous How is Bernard any different to the 4 players we already have for that position? If we're playing Bonaventura or Çalhanoğlu or Halilović or Suso (not to mention Borini or Cutrone) and they're not performing what difference is Bernard going to make? Players in a squad need to compliment each other not replicate each other. He's too similar to what we have. We need to cull what we have not create more selection headaches.
on the 6th August, 2018 at 9:04pm
What Milan really need now is to get rid of that muppet Gattuso and hire a proper manager. Conte is still available.
on the 6th August, 2018 at 6:22pm
For me as a fan i felt ashamed the way uncle fester conducted himself in regards to maldini after his retirement it is slap in the face for a man who is probably milan most iconic player off all time. Finally this sore has been healed and maldini has been rightfully been given a chance to prove himself in a important role at milan. What makes it more remarkable is that maldini had the guts to say no last summer knowing he could be used as a distraction for a failing ownership

forza maldini
on the 6th August, 2018 at 5:50pm
@maldini heir

real fans? the ultras spend all their money on milan go to every game making it a spectacle with their chants music and visual displays what most online fans do sit behind a computer scene streaming games and constantly wanting the manager sacked.

I was annoyed at the time but it was 50 morons who decided to disrespectful to maldini but hell the next game against fiorentina they stopped the game and both the fiorentina milan players and fans have maldini a fitting send off.
on the 6th August, 2018 at 5:43pm
Forza Maldini. Those same Ultras who derided him at the end for not indulging their petty, self-serving interests are likely now hypocritically lauding his return.
on the 6th August, 2018 at 1:34pm
After 10 years of wilderness (senile Berlu's last 7-8 years and the chaos after the sale) - this year could be a turning point. I mean lets face it - even the 2007 CL victory - it was clear to everyone the project/cycle was already coming to a slow end with us holding onto ageing stars, failing to balance the squad and signing over-the-hill stars (Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Beckham, yikes)
Fingers crossed for a top 4 finish with balanced books/increased revenues.
on the 6th August, 2018 at 1:09pm
maldini's heir what are yu talking about?..we need a winger, a speedy one at that to help improve our counter-attack..
on the 6th August, 2018 at 12:37pm
Maldini's Heir...Bernard has no pace? What? The little dude is rapid! He can play on the left or the right, and Brazilian players coming from Shaktar tend to do well once they move onto to bigger leagues/clubs. He's a low risk, high reward signing, so why wouldn't you do it? Yes, trim the squad deadwood, but if somebody like Leonardo endorses it, who are we to judge? After all, Leonardo set PSG on their way to where they are now because of his early signings, so I trust his judgement.
on the 6th August, 2018 at 12:17pm
Cant believe it. Paolo's home. Leonardo and Maldini may have been the best summer signings we could have made. Seems like we really have turned a corner. I trust Leonardo to sell the deadweight and if he chooses to bring in another player I trust him to make the correct decisions as he's not put a foot wrong so far. Forza Milan, cant wait to see Paolo and Leonardo sitting in the crowd watching Gattuso coach our glorious club.
on the 6th August, 2018 at 12:12pm
This is a very good sign that Milan finally have real, serious owners who will run the club properly even if it only until they can sell it. I can only presume if Bernard arrives someone is leaving presumably Suso. The big question is whether they go for Conte or not!!
on the 6th August, 2018 at 12:10pm
need to cool it, get the squad down to a manageable size so that every player has a proper role and we have consistent starting eleven. We don't need Bernard. He's got no pace. Unless we sign Usain Bolt I don't want Milan to sign another player this summer. We don't need any more sort of wingers/sort of midfielders/sort of floaty- smoty-lightweight-whats-your-best-positions. Just focus on selling.
on the 6th August, 2018 at 10:31am
Am I the only one who wishes the Ultras would get out of Italian football and leave it to the real fans? Anyway, obviously I'm delighted that my hero is back but I'm not so blinded by hero worship not to be wondering what exactly he's going to do. He made some shrewd comments on the previous two owners and seems to be calling for stability which I wholeheartedly agree with. Stability does mean that we stop making pointless signings. We've made some good signings in Caldara and Higuain and we now
on the 6th August, 2018 at 10:26am

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