Gennaro Gattuso leaves AC Milan with his head held high

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 28 May 2019, 16:46

On Tuesday morning, Gennaro Gattuso announced that he would be leaving his role as Coach at his beloved AC Milan after 18 months in charge.

“They’re months that I lived through with great passion, unforgettable months,” the former Rossoneri midfielder told La Repubblica.

“It’s a painful choice but a considered one. I gave up the final two years on my contract because my story with Milan could never be about money.”

His words only serve to highlight his passion for the club and his integrity as a man, but in truth, his exit was always inevitable following a failure to qualify for the Champions League.

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When Gattuso took his place on the first-team bench to replace Vincenzo Montella in November 2017, most thought that his appointment was just the latest in a line of former Milan greats that had tried and failed to repeat their success on the field as they became Coach of the side.

Yes, the fiery former midfielder had won two Champions League trophies and two league titles as a player with Milan, but those days were long gone and his managerial C.V. did not exactly make for impressive reading.

 

Spells at FC Sion, Palermo, OFC Crete and Pisa preceded a return to San Siro to take charge of the Rossoneri youth team but – in a time of extreme off-field turbulence for the club – the decision to promote him to the first team seemed more out of desperation than on merit.

Yet in typical fashion, Gattuso rolled up his sleeves and got on with it. After Milan dropped as low as 11th in the table by the end of December, he would eventually guide his team to a sixth-place finish, a round of 16 exit in the Europa League and came runners-up in the Coppa Italia.

Serie A remains a highly tactical league, but the largely inexperienced boss learned on the job, adapting his methods with largely positive results. The Coach was refreshingly honest in press conferences, admitting his own failings well before he would point the finger at anyone else.

 

This term, new owners Elliott Management – a US hedge fund that effectively repossessed the club from the unsafe hands of Chinese businessman Li Yonghong – installed former Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis to take charge of proceedings.

The executive had always made it clear that Milan needed to return to Champions League competition at the very least, a target which Gattuso missed out on by just one point.

As for who they will appoint next, rumours suggest that Lazio Coach Simone Inzaghi could become the next man in charge after he has exceeded expectations in his current role, or perhaps even the excellent Marco Giampaolo, who is expected to leave Sampdoria this summer.

Gazidis’ past at Arsenal has also allowed whispers of a return to football for Arsene Wenger to persist, but what’s for sure is that the CEO will think carefully about his next move with FFP obligations yet to be met.

It may seem harsh, but in reality the Rossoneri legend had done all he could. Milan are right to look to the future as they attempt to return to the status they once held. Gattuso is intelligent enough to realise this – which is why he chose to jump before he was pushed – and honourable enough to forego the rest of his salary for the general good of the club.

That the club have ambitions above his abilities must not detract from his remarkable achievements in the face of many external distractions.

Gennaro Gattuso leaves San Siro with his head held high, a man who has achieved so much more than other ex-players who have tried and failed in this high-stakes role as Coach of AC Milan.

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