AC Milan legends Paolo Maldini and Ruud Gullit have given their approval to the appointment of Gennaro Gattuso as coach, saying he is the man to bring success back to the Serie A club.
Gattuso was given a new contract last week after turning around the club’s fortunes once Vincenzo Montella was sacked in November.
Maldini and Gullit, who won the Champions League with Milan — Maldini five times, Gullit twice — think their former club have taken a step closer to similar success by placing their faith in Gattuso.
“I think it was right to gratify Gattuso with a real contract as Milan coach for what he has done and what he will do,” Maldini told Sky Sport Italia. “He’s surprised many with his tactical knowledge [and] managerial skills and I would not compare him with anybody.
“Let’s not forget where Milan were when Gattuso took over.”
Qualifying for the Europa League looked unlikely when Gattuso replaced Montella, but now Milan are sixth and in the Coppa Italia final with two shots at European qualification. They are also only eight points adrift of the top four and a berth in the Champions League.
Gullit believes victory in the Coppa Italia against Juventus should now be the priority.
“Winning that could be the start of something big,” Gullit said at an awards ceremony in Florence, according to La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno. “I think it’s still too soon to judge Gattuso’s work but I hope he does well and that Milan are reborn, but it will take time — at least three years.
“Even my Milan were eliminated from Europe in our first season by Espanyol. You need patience and you need talented players to form a winning team.”
Gullit also said Italy is lacking talented players and the Italian FA’s priority should be to find ways of lifting the nation’s favourite sport out of a rut following their failure to qualify for the World Cup.
Another former Milan great, Alessandro Costacurta, is part of a group organised by the Italian Olympic Committee that is running the Italian FA, and Maldini said he would be willing to have a discussion with Costacurta, his former teammate, to explore whether there is anything he can do.
“I’m always willing to listen and certainly I wouldn’t say no to having a chat, especially with a friend like [Costacurta],” Maldini said. “Let’s see if there are the right conditions to do something together, otherwise I’ll always support Italy.
“We need to see what the short-term objectives are, so I don’t know right now.”
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.