He may have lacked Andrea Pirlo’s vision or technique, but Gennaro Gattuso is still considered one of the best Italian midfielders of the last 20 years, and won both the UEFA Champions League and the Scudetto twice during his 13-season spell with AC Milan.

Never been known to shirk a tackle, ‘Ringhio’ (translation: snarl) has taken on a new challenge at 39, after being promoted from leading the Rossoneri’s youth academy to replace former Italy team-mate Vincenzo Montella as Milan head coach. “This team can do well,” he said upon meeting the press for the first time in his new post today. So why is the former Sion, Palermo, OFI Crete and Pisa boss the right man for the job?

They say

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“The club have made a brave choice with ‘Rino’. In some cases charisma and personality can have a big impact, and in this case his personality can help a lot.”
Massimo Ambrosini, former Milan team-mate

“It’s a natural choice. He has been with the club for 20 years and I think he knows how to motivate and improve performances.”
Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus captain

“He used to give me advice on how I could position myself to avoid knocks. In more than one training session, he would kick me just to teach me how to defend myself. Gattuso helped me a great deal.”
Paulo Dybala, former Palermo team-mate

Who is he?

Filippo Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso with Milan

Filippo Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso with Milan©Getty Images

A strong, spirited defensive midfielder who helped Milan lift plenty of trophies from 1999 to 2012, Gattuso was a FIFA World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, yet he started small when he went into coaching. Initially player-manager at Sion in Switzerland, he was briefly at the helm of Palermo and Greek side OFI Crete, before leading Pisa to Serie B promotion – followed by relegation the following season. Gattuso promptly rejoined Milan in May to run their ‘Primavera’ team, saying: “It is not a step back. I think it’s the right choice.”

Why is he Milan’s man?

Having spent 13 years with Rossoneri as a player, Gattuso knows what it takes to shine for this famous club and its demanding fans. He will bring passion and intensity to the role and fire his players up after a disappointing Serie A start. “He knows what his job is and has accepted it with humility,” said Milan CEO Marco Fassone. “He knows he has Milan’s first team in his hands, something very important.”

How do his teams play?

Gattuso moved into coaching with Sion

Gattuso moved into coaching with Sion©Getty Images

Gattuso is expected to adopt a bolder 3-4-3 system, with a view to creating a bit more dynamism than there was under Montella. “We will play with a three-man defence,” he confirmed. “I had a good relationship with Montella, though some of our ideas are different. Montella loved controlling possession; I do too, but it is important to play vertically.” ‘Ringhio’ may also be keen to bring some of his ‘Primavera’ charges up to the senior ranks.

He says

“To win major trophies like the Champions League, you have to have champions in your team. At Milan, in my time, we could afford to have the likes of Alessandro Costacurta, Jaap Stam, Rivaldo, Rui Costa and Filippo Inzaghi sitting on the bench.”

“My dad was a Milan fan and adored [graceful playmaker Gianni] Rivera. I think I was a disappointment to him because his son was totally different from Rivera. But personally, I’ve always liked a combative style.”

Did you know?

Gattuso is married to Monica Romano, a Scottish woman of Italian descent, whom he met while playing for Rangers at an exhibition game in Toronto, Canada.

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