AC Milan are now hardly strangers to new ownerships and new faces coming about in short times. Stefano Pioli is a newer one- like Marco Giampaolo was some months ago. Not long ago, Leonardo was a newer face, but now he’s somebody Milanisti knew.
While Leonardo wasn’t exactly a new figure since he had been at the club in a different capacity, he took over a new role. The Elliot Fund takeover last season saw Leonardo come back to San Siro as a sporting director. The Chinese ownership had left the club in a financial mess. Elliot were seen as the saviours.
The club though came up with another rejig. Leonardo left the club and so did Rino Gattuso. When the Brazilian left, club CEO Ivan Gazidis said (via FootballItalia):
“Leonardo joined AC Milan in its hour of need a few short weeks before the closing of the summer transfer window. Under very difficult circumstances he put his heart and soul into addressing a highly complicated situation and transmitting his energy and his ambition to the team. I am very grateful to Leonardo for everything he has contributed to our great Club and wish him well in his future endeavours.”
Ricky Massarra came in and Paolo Maldini stepped up a level in the management.
The reshuffle also brought in Giampaolo. But after mere months of going one way, the Rossoneri management decided to reset again. Pioli came in, as Giampaolo’s possession-based system went out of the window. All the signings that were made in view of Giampaolo’s presence were laid waste because of a reactionary decision.
As things stand, Milan are 12th in the Serie A. They are 11 points off fourth-placed Cagliari and have scored just 12 goals in the whole season. Those aren’t impressive numbers by any means.
They will look over to what their former sporting director is doing and it shows what they could be missing. Now at Paris Saint-Germain, Leonardo is at another one of his former clubs. The same club where he was given credit for spotting talents like Adrien Rabiot.
PSG’s summer recruitment shows a plan. It was a plan the Parisiens had not been following before. Their recruitment under Antero Henrique laid emphasis on superstar signings and big-name captures. This tussle of egos on the pitch took PSG nowhere in their quest for European success.
Despite having a star-studded line-up, PSG are yet to go beyond the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League.
Leonardo though brought a change in policy. The club went for players like Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye, Pablo Sarabia, Abdou Diallo, Marcin Bulka, and Keylor Navas. Mauro Icardi also came in on deadline day, with a possible view of him being the replacement of an ageing Edinson Cavani.
They spent only €95 million but made a net profit of €10 million. To put that into perspective, this was the first time they made a profit since the 2008-09 campaign. It was the first time since the 2014-15 season that they spent less than €100 million, as per Transfermarkt.
Gueye earned immense praise for his performance against Real Madrid. While Sarabia recently got PSG’s equaliser in the reverse fixture. Diallo has been a regular at centre-back.
PSG have sealed qualification to the knockout stages and there is promise that they can go further than they ever did. There is a group of dogged characters like Herrera, Gueye, and Silva there. There is a group of world-class players and there some emerging players. There’s the attacking system of Thomas Tuchel that binds them together.
Leonardo did make some errors at Milan. But every sporting director does that. Premier League’s high-flying Leicester made signings like Vicente Iborra, Adrien Silva, Islam Slimani, Nampalys Mendy and the likes before coming where they are.
More than that, there was a massive financial burden at San Siro too. The club recently did post record losses of €145.9 million. It’s obvious that the room to manoeuvre isn’t there at Milan.
Things could have been different if he had stayed longer. Sky Italia (via MilanInfo) did later reveal that disagreements on multiple issues was the reason for Leonardo’s exit. Whether it turns out to be a regret for Milan, it will become clearer as the season wears on.