Ralf Rangnick has given an extensive interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport, revealing the first contacts started in October and discussing his vision.
For weeks it was almost a fact that Rangnick would become the new coach Milan and the strongest person in the Technical Area of the Rossoneri, pushing directors Paolo Maldini & Frederic Massara and coach Stefano Pioli aside.
However, for various reasons, Elliott decided to continue with the trio mentioned above, gave Pioli a new contract and cut the contacts with Rangnick.
Alessandra Gozzini conducted an interview with Rangnick, who has a vocabulary focused on the letter C: “Cash, competence and concept.” The interview was posted on today’s La Gazzetta dello Sport:
C for Champions, the objective that Milan had decided to entrust to you. When did the first contacts take place?
“At the end of October, when the team was in a complicated situation: three points from the relegation zone.”
Did the contacts then continue for months?
“If you wrote that, it’s because someone told you. I never mentioned it in public. But to make it clear, there was no contract or clause, up until three weeks ago I was busy with Red Bull.”
Before the twist: Milan confirmed Pioli, were you surprised?
“The team was the best post Coronavirus. Changing would not have been wise or respectful. Pioli deserved confirmation, also for the person that he is: I appreciated him in his interviews, always focused on objectives. Whether it is the right choice in the medium and long term is another question.”
Both Maldini and Boban spoke about you, in tones that were not exactly positive. Are you sorry about it?
“One of my rules in life is: don’t talk about people you don’t know personally. As for my part, a half word has never been said about Milan, ever. I can talk about Maldini as a former player: extraordinary, a real legend. But I can’t say the same as a sporting director: I simply don’t know him in this role. As an outsider, one may wonder if the ownership is happy with the results in relation to the money invested in recent years. Did I cause the divorce between Zvone and Milan? You have to ask whoever represents the club.”
Had you arrived at Milan, would you have ‘cut’ Ibrahimović?
“The question to ask is another. Why did Milan turn to me? What did they want me to do? If they did it, perhaps because they were looking for a turning point. I work on growth, and young players learn much faster. It’s not my style to focus on 38-year-old players, not because they’re not good enough, and Ibra certainly is, but because I prefer to create value and develop talent. For me it makes little sense to focus on Ibra and Kjær; but that’s my way of seeing things, neither way is right nor wrong, simply different. When Ibra said he didn’t know me, he was not wrong, because I also don’t know him personally, having never spoken to him.”
What do you think Milan should do to return to the top permanently?
“Set yourself a concrete objective, in this case the Champions League because no one is happy to play in the Europa League… maybe on Thursday you’re in Baku and on Sunday in Cagliari. It may be paradoxical but the example is 30km away from Milano: Atalanta has a third of Milan’s turnover but they’re ahead. They make smart investments, they have a Youth Sector among the best in Europe. If someone is good, I try to understand which path he followed. Gasperini is very good but he is not the only one. You win as a team. Among the Italian coaches I’m straight away impressed by Conte: he has a sophisticated, active and aggressive style of football.”
Is it also your style?
“If you want to be successful, a club must know what its values are. At Red Bull the idea of the game has always been high-speed football with pressing and counter-pressing; in America they now call is ‘Ralfball’. Every young player has been trained like that.”
A model that worked in Austria and Germany, where clubs unknown to international football such as Salzburg and Leipzig have arrived among the big names in Europe. Is there a secret?
“In June 2012, Dietrich Mateschitz [co-founder of Red Bull] called me to coach Salzburg. He insisted on arriving by helicopter at my house in Backnang. He asked me how he could have the same success in football that he had with Sebastian Vettel in Formula 1. My answer was to focus on the players on their first or second professional contract, not their last. Then I suggested that all the teams in the group have the same common style of play and scouting. He convinced me act as the director of sporting of his teams. We took Leipzig from the fourth division and we got to where we know, with players who have been with us for years: Lukas Klostermann, Diego Demme, Yussuf Poulsen, Marcel Halstenberg, Péter Gulácsi, Marcel Sabitzer, Emil Forsberg, Timo Werner and Dayot Upamecano. We have never had a crisis in Leipzig: in the next 100 years it will be difficult to repeat what has been done. Today the club is worth €800 million. I’ve always said to Mateschitz: ‘I spend your money as it were mine’. On safe investments, like Erling Håland, who I saw for the first time three years ago at Molde. Between Hoffenheim, Leipzig and Salzburg, the increase in value of the players we have acquired went from €120m to €1200m, 10 times more.”
In the future you see yourself as a coach, director of sport, or both?
“It depends on the project. Over the past 36 years, I have always been more successful when I could be more than just a coach, a ‘trainager’, a coach and a manager. But I consider myself a part of a cog with many pieces. I’m looking for the best people, the strongest professionals, from staff to nutritionists, from psychologists to video analysts up to obviously the scouting sector.”
Would it also work in Serie A?
“Anywhere, if there is support and sharing. Jürgen Klopp doesn’t bring in a player whose mentality doesn’t fit the game ideas he has. Pep Guardiola is the same. Players who are not looking for the best salaries, but a coach who knows exactly what he wants to do with them.”
Your maestros take you back to Serie A: More Sacchi or more Zeman?
“I once played in a friendly [as a coach-player] against Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s Dynamo Kiev and I was impressed: they were running as if there were 14 players on the pitch. In 1991, I was with my wife in Trentino and I discovered that Zeman’s Foggia was training nearby: I went back and forth every day to follow him. And then there’s Sacchi. I have a memory of him that ties me to Milano: with Schalke we won 5-2 at San Siro against the Inter of the Triple, we eliminated them in the Champions League quarter-finals. The night before, at the hotel, I met Galliani who had read some of my interviews and suggested I talk to Arrigo on the phone. I told him that his Milan had impressed and shaped me more than any other team. Today the satisfaction is to have worked with 8 of the 18 current Bundesliga coaches, plus others who are abroad: Roger Schmidt, Ralph Hasenhüttl, Gerhard Struber and Zsolt Lőw, the assistant of Thomas Tuchel.”
Can we conclude with an ‘arrivederci’ to Italy?