Keep Maldini Out of Your Fu**ing Mouth

There is a cancer of misinformation and hate spreading amongst Milan fans right now. Fans attack other Milan fans on social media for saying anything positive about Maldini. This is not new, when things go wrong, people are always looking for someone to blame. It happened this whole past year. Fans selectively chose what they wanted to hear of the truth and filled in the rest. The result was blaming Maldini for everything that went wrong with personnel, and blaming Pioli for everything else. When Cardinale fired Maldini, for them, that was proof that they were right. With the help of gaslighting from current management, they are doing everything they can to disparage his work and cancel the club's culture. Maldini was not just another director, he was specifically brought in to restore Milan's culture. Those who wrongly criticized him in the past eventually reconciled their wrongs. But their behaviors 14 years ago still remain as a dark stain on the history of the club, known worldwide by rivals and neutrals alike. With the value of hindsight, I think they might think about metaphorically slapping these people now and telling them to "Keep Maldini out of your fu**ing mouth."

The obsession with damaging his name and reputation is actually disgusting.

As a club, Milan has long been known as having "family values." This was a culture that was represented by great men who served as captains, from Gianni Rivera to Cesare Maldini to Franco Baresi to Paolo Maldini. On and off the pitch, they were known for being great players and even better men. They fostered a dressing room of positive peer pressure, where players rarely attracted negative media attention, and they were taught that representing the Milan badge extended past the final whistle. Winning was not an entitlement, but an achievement based on excellence, hard work, and unity. That unity was a family, where players supported one another and always had each others' backs. To wear the Milan shirt was an honor, and players were expected to behave with dignity and class.

That culture began to erode when Paolo Maldini retired in 2009. When the Senatori made a mass exit in 2012, it all but disappeared. As Berlusconi and Galliani further neglected the squad and brought players in and out of the Club like a revolving door, we saw more and more "mercenaries," those players who were here for hire, with no real attachment to the shirt, and who did not understand the Club's values and culture. When Berlusconi sold Milan to Yonghong Li in 2017, it was like he sold the last remaining bits of the culture along with it. 

We went from paying for Galliani's dinners to signing young players who doubled or tripled in value or more.

Enter Elliott Management, one of the most reviled "vulture funds" on the planet. Galliani had blocked the return of Paolo Maldini since his retirement over his pathetic need for control. Other potential buyers had courted Maldini, but he refused, unconvinced of their plans. But Paul and Gordon Singer hired Leonardo as their Sporting Director, and under his tutelage, Paolo Maldini returned to Milan. He was convinced of their project to restore Milan. Not only were Elliott acutely aware of the fans, they honored the Club's history, values, and culture.

During his five years as a director, Maldini worked with Leonardo, Zvonimir Boban, and Frederic Massara to entirely rebuild the sporting sector. He reduced the wagebill immediately and consistently, while increasing the quality of football exponentially, as well as increasing the overall value of both the individual players and the squad as a whole. Every player that came into Milan said at one point how Maldini being at the Club was influential in their choosing Milan. This was important to note, because he was offering lower wages than other clubs, so players needed to be convinced of the project.

And then there was one... (Ironically the one who played for Juve)

Through the excellent scouting team led by Geoffrey Moncada, and using data and analytics as thy had for years, young, talented players were identified. Then Maldini convinced them to join Milan, helped sign them, and mentored them, having an individual relationship with each player. He and Massara were at Milanello regularly and spoke to players often, as well as attending every match. Many players said he was like a second father to them, giving them advice about life and their careers as well as football. Players often spoke of how they continued to be in awe that they spoke with a legend like him almost daily.

Maldini fought many battles behind closed doors, only a few of which became public. The most obvious one was the one Boban was sacked for, when Gazidis went behind their backs and spoke to Ralf Rangnick about a possible position as manager/sporting director/technical director/exactly what we may never now. But we do know that he did this just a couple of weeks after Maldini and Massara hired Pioli. Who is still at the Club. We also know that Gazidis blocked the initial signing of Ibrahimović, but now brags about his signing as one of the pillars of success under his tutelage. 

How many battles he fought behind the scenes, we may never know, but we do know that Milan won thanks to him.

There were many other players blocked as well. Maldini kept asking for more autonomy, because his judgment was always questioned, despite his invaluable sporting experience. Then came the beautiful Scudetto win, something that all parties acknowledged was a result of the efforts of everyone from the top down, including he support of the fans. But it was very clear who was putting the ship back on course both technically and as far as club culture, and that was Paolo Maldini. Both he and Massara even won awards for their work as technical and sporting directors, because they turned things around in such a short time and with such limitations. 

Of course, there were criticisms all along the way. Maldini was blamed for allowing Donnarumma, Kessié, Calhanoglu, and Romagnoli all walk away on free transfers. Yet no one acknowledges that management would not allow him to offer the wages or contracts they were asking for. Those players were all signed by previous managements, who offered them a project based on money, and Elliott was not offering that to them. People especially cite allowing Donnarumma to go, saying he was worth up to €100 million, and as a homegrown player that would have been all profit. But no one complains about Maldini ridding the Club of Raiola's big fat paycheck, and signing Maignan for a mere 25% of the wages Donnarumma was asking for. Most importantly, what the club saved in agent fees and inflated salaries over the years was more than they would have profited from selling them. So why the hate? Why are people still talking about this?

This management says he didn't work as a team, but they were inseparable, Maldini protected Pioli always.

Yes, Maldini made errors, he was certainly not perfect. We all remember Giampaolo. As a technical director, he was solid, though. He modernized the sporting sector after Galliani tried to put it in a retirement home with his all of his (not so) free transfers, returned the Club to the Champions League three years running, and even helped Pioli get this team to a Champions League semifinal this year. All completely overperforming based on the budget and massive nature of the rebuilding project. And while Gazidis was out doubling and then doubling again our losses his first two years by spending money painting the dressing rooms, commissioning fonts, and building an app, it was Maldini's work in the sporting sector that actually increased the marketability to see those losses finally come down. And it was the profits from the run deep into the Champions League this past season that pushed our budget into the black for the first time in years.

All of the sporting success aside, Maldini also brought what it means to be Milan back to Milan. With the efforts of the despicable Elliott group and the backstabbing Gazidis, they created a culture of respect for the fans that was unprecedented in my lifetime. Sure, it was good business for them, but it was also great for the Club as a whole. Just like the players bought into the project because of Maldini, fans bought into the project for Maldini. Even the Curva Sud reconciled their differences with the former captain.

Cardinale came in fighting.

But five years of tireless efforts to rebuild the Club's integrity, image, and culture disappeared overnight when Cardinale suddenly sacked Maldini. Right after he finished renewing the last of the core players for the American owner. The outrage intensified when they sold Sandro Tonali, a fan favorite and a player that fans envisioned as a bandiera and future captain. That was just the beginning, however. With the force of nature that is Ibrahimović also retiring, it was immediately clear that everything at the Club would change this summer. (Now there are even reports that even Caspar Stylsvig, Chief Revenue Officer, could also be moving on, which is also huge.)

And everything has changed. As of this writing, 13 players have left the first team, and only nine have been brought in. The spending has been heavy on the attack, with €66 million spent on wingers, and €57 million spent on seemingly attack-minded midfielders. The signing of Pellegrino makes €3 million spent on defense. That is €126 million spent, with only €64 million brought in for Tonali (less some small fees for Brescia.) Combine that with the whopping €4.5 million the Club is receiving for the exit of 12 other players this season, this is hardly a fiscally responsible mercato.

An investment banker trying to erase the legacy of a Milan legend by overspending.

Just like Kessié was never replaced, Tonali was not, either, and with Bennacer out until January, we are incredibly limited and vulnerable in terms of defensive midfielders. The concept seems to be to score more goals than we concede, which worked so far against Bologna and Torino, but may not work against stronger opposition. Pioli even said we are always playing with essentially five attackers. Which is fun to watch, but is a distraction from what has happened and is actually happening at our club.

What has happened is that Cardinale, who came in last year and negotiated with Maldini and Massara until literally 11:59pm on the final day of their contract, actually inhibited their work. Fans widely believe that they were given complete autonomy, but Maldini even said they were not given everything they wanted when they renewed their contracts. This negotiation cost them time, transfer targets who had already agreed to come to the Club, and money. Cardinale immediately cut their transfer budget, in spite of the need for reinforcements. And he did not fund a January transfer window, either. The fact that seven players were on expiring contracts in June did not help when Maldini tried to get players to leave to make room for new signings, either. 

Fans say "let them cook" as they put a very expensive roof on the house that Maldini built.

Despite reports that it was Moncada who pushed so hard to sign De Ketelaere, who was also a player who met all of Pioli's ideals for that position, Maldini has been blamed for him not immediately coming good. Pioli's choices not to play Adli or Vranckx for whatever reason have also been blamed on Maldini, although both were solid signings. But this week, just like with the myths around Tonali's signing, fans once again took a piece of unverified trash journalism from the Athletic and heaped on more hate to Maldini, blaming him once again for Origi not coming good. The claim is that Maldini did not listen to the analytics team, but signed Origi because he was a low risk signing. He was low risk. He was a free transfer, a Champions League winner that needed a new club. His failure to produce is not an indicator that Maldini failed at his job.

No one is talking about the fact that Maldini signed and mentored Thiaw for only €5 million plus €2 million in bonuses, and now, after one season, he is already worth €20 million and his wages are only €800 thousand per year. No, fans are ignoring the sustainable, Mount Everest- sized mountain of evidence that Maldini actually did a great job. They ignore that he did it with transparency, dignity and class, as well as planning and foresight, and are taking every opportunity they can to continue to attack him, to discredit his work, and to disgrace the most Milan person to ever play and work for Milan. They are also attacking fellow fans, acting entitled to win, and generally acting like Juventus fans. 

Cardinale is suddenly present and making sure fans know how much he spent, promising wins.

Why is that? Because some narcissist American businessman with virtually no football experience fired him. Not that he had just cause, just that he did. So fans have stepped up to help him to justify that sacking. Nevermind that Cardinale was completely absent last year. He refused to support Maldini's work and actually inhibited it. He was largely absent from the stadium, and made very few public statements, primarily talking about getting a return on his investment. The most shocking statement was when he publicly said he wasn't even aware that Milan had won the second most Champions League trophies in Europe. Imagine investing €1.2 billion and not knowing the most basic facts about a club's history. But he was that disinterested and disengaged.

After sacking Maldini, and not even making a professionally appropriate thank you, he and Furlani made a mockery of the Club. They put out very few statements, keeping people in the dark about important staff and other decisions, but what they did say was a complete clown show. First they talked about doing things differently - a "working group" instead of a set technical director and sporting director. Then they found out that legally, in order to register for Serie A, they actually had to have a licensed sporting director, so they promoted someone from the youth sector. Now, reports are that Moncada has officially been named technical director. (They had also never even announced when he renewed his contract, something fans had been watching for all year long.)

No one is safe anymore, and Cardinale seems to have warned Pioli that he is next if he doesn't win.

But it is the gaslighting and self-promoting that is frightening. Everything from Furlani's comments that fans should be happy with the signings, to Cardinale making promises to fans that because of his investments, we will win, while vacationing in Capri. Now it is him being at both of the first two matches, as well as him imploring Pioli to win on while the U.S. Tour. He is making public statements frequently now, and everything they are doing, from the players they are pushing out to the way they are conducting themselves and their business seems to be trying to erase the memory of Maldini and the culture of Milan. Their win-at-all-costs, spend-whatever-it-takes-now-that-we-are-in-charge, but without an actual eye to the future or planning for long-term success is very frightening. 

All of this behavior has only enabled the Juve-like fans in the Milan fanbase. I understand that we all went through a lot for nearly ten years, but winning a miracle Scudetto and overperforming to be in the Champions League does not entitle us to win. Blindly trusting an owner who knows nothing about football and an investment banker to run our club while continuing to vilify a Milan legend who actually succeeded is literally something Juve fans would do. Nothing ever justifies turning on one another or attacking other fans for their opinions, let alone turning on a club legend like Paolo Maldini. 

The heart and soul of Milan, but now both are gone.

Not even if he had not bought Tonali, renewed him twice, mentored him, and made him worth the €64 million the Club received for him to fund (part of) this summer spending spree. Not even if he had not rebuilt this sporting sector from the ashes he inherited and mentored and sheltered Pioli and his players for five years. Not even if he had not helped us win the Scudetto, return to the Champions League, and return our budget to the black. Not even if he had not returned Milan's values and culture to the Club. Even if he had done none of those things, no club legend deserves to be disparaged the way fans are disparaging Maldini. 

But he did all of those things and more. And he did them responsibly and sustainably. He did not fail. This new management have already failed to keep Tonali, and he scored in his first match at Newcastle. This management failed to keep De Ketelaere, and he scored in his first match at AtalantaWho is the hero and who is the villain here? Any success this management achieves will be built upon the foundation Maldini created. But for some reason, fans are giving them all of the credit for success and blaming Maldini for everything they can possibly remember that ever went wrong.

One of these men will tell you about himself, the other will tell you about Milan.

There is no need to blame Maldini for anything. He is gone now. The legacy he has left still far exceeds any perceived failures, no matter what this management or depraved fans tell you. So instead of making the same mistake that the Curva Sud did in 2009 and being on the wrong side of history in insulting a Milan legend, why not just enjoy what is going right? Why keep looking to attack and blame other fans who are skeptical if you think this management are so amazing and this team is so incredible? Why be like Juventus fans? Just keep Maldini out of your fu**ing mouth.

This post inspired by the music of The Smith's "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby"

The Champions League Group Stage Draw will be held
Thursday, August 31st at 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 3
Roma vs. Milan
Friday, September 1, 2023 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

Keep Maldini Out of Your Fu**ing Mouth Keep Maldini Out of Your Fu**ing Mouth Reviewed by Elaine on 11:58 PM Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.