Paolo Maldini reveals Milan had already tried to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic in January 2019, Stefano Pioli is unexpectedly harsh with players and he feels the responsibility to ‘safeguard’ this club’s history.
The Rossoneri are top of the Serie A table and lost only one competitive match since March, a successful run that prompted the club to abandon talks with Ralf Rangnick and extend Stefano Pioli’s contract.
“Plans change along the way. I am tied to the image of a winning Milan and that means I cannot only focus on keeping the books balanced,” the director told DAZN.
“I must also safeguard that history and what the fans expect of me. This is where I push the club to do some things rather than others. The results show they were right in some things, I was right in others, but at this moment we have one single idea going forward and that helps the project.”
Maldini and Zvonimir Boban were also in favour of signing Ibrahimovic and Simon Kjaer in January, who would make a huge impact on the team’s fortunes.
“Ibra was already an idea the previous January with Leonardo, as we’d talked about it with him and Mino Raiola. However, he’d already given his word to the LA Galaxy and said we’d talk about it again in a year’s time. He kept his word.
“Of course, it was a gamble, because Zlatan had spent several years in MLS and, with all due respect, that’s a completely different level to Serie A. When we proposed an 18-month contract, he told us to go for six months, as he wasn’t sure what he could give us.
“Ibra is extremely competitive, to an astonishing degree. He raises the level and drives the other players crazy by pressuring them.”
The biggest break between Maldini and the club owners came in the choice of coach, but Pioli has won everyone over now.
“He has this way of transmitting his thoughts with a vigour you wouldn’t expect from someone so calm. In his career, he hasn’t always maintained the promise of what he showed at the start of experiences, as he seemed weak with his players, but the truth is the contrary.
“At times, we have to hold him back a little bit. It’s a characteristic I wasn’t expecting and he did well to bring it to an important club like Milan.”
Maldini was one of the world’s best defenders, both as a left-back and centre-back, so if there’s anyone who can guide the Milan scouting network on this area, it’s him.
“They used to look for a defender who could fit well into that team, whereas now I’d go to find a player who is good at one-on-one situations and then teach him to fit into that role. The most difficult thing to teach is how to take men on, because it’s about concentration.
“At this moment, due to the way we play and also the general football situation, I’d get a defender who is good at taking men on and then the coach can teach him to be part of the defence.”