Ralf Rangnick confirms he was first approached by Milan just days after Stefano Pioli was hired, wonders if the Rossoneri are ‘happy with the results’ and outlines why keeping Zlatan Ibrahimovic ‘makes little sense.’
Just as the deal was seemingly done after months of negotiations, the plug was suddenly pulled and Stefano Pioli saw his contract extended.
Now the former Red Bull director has spoken to La Gazzetta dello Sport about what really happened behind the scenes, including ex-Milan chief Zvonimir Boban’s claims CEO Ivan Gazidis had been in contact with Rangnick at the very least from November, despite the denials.
“I was first contacted at the end of October, when the team was three points off the relegation zone,” confessed Rangnick.
Pioli was hired on October 9, so this was just days after the new coach had been brought in to replace Marco Giampaolo.
“I never talked about it in public. I do want to make it clear that I never signed a contract or had a clause. Up until three weeks ago, I was tied to Red Bull. As for Milan, they were the best team post-Coronavirus lockdown, so changing would not have been wise or respectful. Pioli deserved to keep his job and I appreciated the kind of person he is, as in interviews he was always focused on objectives. Whether this is the right decision for Milan in the medium and long term is another matter.”
Both Boban and Paolo Maldini were vocally against the idea of hiring Rangnick, largely because they had only just brought in Pioli, while Boban claimed Gazidis was in talks with the German without informing his fellow directors.
“I never said a word about Milan in public. Never. I can only talk about Maldini as an ex-player: extraordinary, a genuine legend. But I cannot say the same about him as a director of sport, because, quite simply, I don’t know him in this role.
“From the outside, you can ask if the owners are happy with the results compared to the money invested over the last few years. Was I the cause of Boban leaving Milan? You’d have to ask those who represent the club.”
Rangnick was asked if he would’ve tried to keep hold of star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but brushed off the question.
“What you should be asking is: why did Milan turn to me? What did they want to do? Maybe they were looking for a change of direction. It’s not my style to focus on a 38-year-old player, not because of talent, but because I prefer to create value and develop talent.
“It made little sense to me the idea of relying on Ibrahimovic or Simon Kjaer, but that’s just my way of seeing things, it’s not necessarily right or wrong. When Ibra said he didn’t know me, he wasn’t wrong. I’ve never met him.”
So what would Rangnick do to get Milan back to the top of Italian and European football?
“Set a concrete objective, such as Champions League qualification, because nobody enjoys playing in the Europa League. They have a perfect example just 30km from Milan: Atalanta have a third of Milan’s revenue, but keep finishing ahead of them in the table. It’s because they make intelligent investments, have one of the best youth academies in Europe, and it’s not just about Gian Piero Gasperini. It’s a team sport.
“I am also impressed with Antonio Conte’s style of football at Inter, which is sophisticated, active and aggressive. My idea of football has always been about keeping a high tempo, pressing and counter-pressing, something in America they now call ‘Ralfball.’ All the young players in our academies grow up with that now.”
There had also been reports that Milan proposed carte blanche to Rangnick on the transfer market, making him more of a Sir Alex Ferguson figure who was both coach and director of sport.
“In the last 36 years, I’ve had more success when I could be more than a simple coach, but I do consider myself just part of a wider engine with many different pieces. I seek the best people, from staff to nutritionists, from the psychologist to the video analyst through to obviously the scouting sector.
“This approach would work in Serie A, if there is support and a shared vision. Just look at the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp won’t sign a player who doesn’t have the right mentality or characteristics to suit his playing style. Pep Guardiola is the same. They want players who want a coach who can prove exactly what he wants to do with them.”
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