AC Milan may be preparing to return to the UEFA Champions League with an inexperienced coach and missing two star names, yet Leonardo is confident he will get the best out of the Rossoneri.
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Hours after Carlo Ancelotti held a first press conference as Chelsea FC coach, his successor Leonardo officially began a new era at AC Milan in which the Rossoneri will compete for honours without two huge names from the club's recent history.
The seven-time winners are preparing to return to the UEFA Champions League after a one-year absence. They will do so with an inexperienced coach and without the player who lifted five of those trophies – the retired Paolo Maldini – and the Brazilian who proved a ten-goal inspiration in their most recent triumph in 2007 – Kaká, sold to Real Madrid CF for €68m earlier this summer.
"I was appointed coach one month ago and today I'm even more convinced that I made the right decision," said Leonardo, the elegant former Milan and Brazil midfielder. "I'm very close to Carlo [Ancelotti] and his opinion was very important when I accepted this job. We talk often, even yesterday we joked about how I should build the team. I laughed when I parked my car in his old parking place and when I entered his old room here at Milanello. He was the coach and I was a director, but we shared great moments and great emotions."
The 39-year-old continued: "I was also very close to Paolo [Maldini], and I had a great relationship with Kaká, but football is not mathematics. We don't have Kaká anymore, but it doesn't mean we're weaker. In the last month I've had dreams – and nightmares – about tactics. I have plenty of confidence in this team. I will do plenty of work on the intensity of our game this summer. Talent is certainly not missing in this squad, we just need to change our mentality a bit. You can only win if everybody is ready to make sacrifices and work for the good of the team."
Leonardo also announced that Massimo Ambrosini will be the new captain. "Maldini's legacy is very important," the 32-year-old midfielder said. "I thank him for everything he has done for me and for us all – his presence was more important than a thousand words in the dressing room. I'm very excited and honoured to take his armband as this side has huge potential. We've lost a few players, but we all know we have to give something extra and we're ready for it. In the last Champions League final I saw the most talented players sacrificing themselves for the good of the team. That's the key to success, and we'll have to do the same." The Rossoneri enter the competition in the group stage.