Leonardo reveals he was ready to work at Roma and again Inter, but “they made other choices. It was Adriano Galliani to turned me into a Coach.”
The Brazilian sat down with the Corriere dello Sport to discuss his 32 years in football as player, director, tactician and now pundit.
“To be honest, I didn’t like football that much when I was a child, it was my brother who got me into it. I played most often on the beach, my family was from Rio and had Flamengo in the DNA, so my idol was Zico.
“At the age of 17 I made my debut in the top flight and Zico was there. The poster in my wall came to life as a teammate I could pass the ball to or embrace after a goal.”
He had spells at Valencia, San Paulo, Kashima Antlers, Paris Saint-Germain and Milan before becoming a talent scout and turning his hand to management in 2009 with the Rossoneri.
“It was Galliani who had the idea. I was a director and Carlo Ancelotti’s era had come to an end, so Milan had to rebuild and they decided to use me during the transitional period.
“Galliani asked me more than once and I turned him down more than once, but I am very happy that I eventually said yes. It’s fascinating to be a Coach on the field. Every three days it’s a different story, you have to deal with feelings, ideas, games that millions of people feel passionate about.
“At Milan I had a 14-year era really as player, director and Coach. I thought the problems that emerged were also thanks to this lengthy time together. The right moment had come to end that rapport.
“President Silvio Berlusconi had reached his limit, really. It was a difficult internal situation. Of course a President can have his say, he invests huge amounts of money, but it’s more an issue of how you do that.”
Surprisingly, Leonardo crossed over to their arch rivals Inter.
“The first thing I did when Massimo Moratti called me was to alert Galliani, someone I am very fond of. Working with him was like attending the University of Football. I am grateful to Milan for many things and six months after I left, Inter too felt the need to change.
“I couldn’t say no to Moratti and his family. I left the Nerazzurri because Paris Saint-Germain made me a proposal to work as their director of sport. Moratti himself told me it was a unique opportunity, he understood the situation and would never be angry with me.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but with the blessing of the President, that freed me of a sense of guilt.”
Leo now works as a pundit on Italian television, though he reveals it could’ve been a different path.
“Because of my wife and children, I left Paris and returned to Milan. I cannot deny I have the desire to do something and feel ready to do so.
“I gave Roma the all-clear two years ago, then the club made other choices. I did the same for Inter. I’d evaluate whether to return to PSG, because the rapport with them remains strong.
“I turned down other proposals and do not regret those decisions.”