AC Milan coach Leonardo sent out a message of optimism to the Rossoneri fans in a press conference ahead of the Tropheo Berlusconi later tonight, but also remained realistic about his expectations and the team performance.
The match tonight against Juventus, for the Berlusconi trophy, will be the last friendly before a long and testing season begins for Milan this Saturday when they face Siena. A string of defeats and worse yet, the lack of goals, has pronounced a drought of hope in the red and black camp. But coach Leonardo tried to send the right message, to the fans as well as his players.
"Realistically what must change in this team is the attitude." said Leonardo. He went on to emphasize that Milan had a lot of quality, and had all the right players. They just need to step up their game and give everything they have, every time.
"The talent is undeniably there in this team. There's also spirit of sacrifice, order and discipline. The ingredients are all there to win."
He sent out a strong message of optimism, and yet, as all coaches must, remained sensitive about the realistic obstacles his club is facing.
"We cannot enter a tunnel of pessimism. The team must do better, but I am calm; now is the time to restart, I believe in it."
"If we give everything we have, we can have a good season. The basis is there, as is the playing idea. We just need to restart."
Leonardo cited Alessandro Nesta's example and praised his attitude and motivation, and expected the rest of the team to follow his lead and play to their fullest potential. The Milan coach was also happy that the new signing Huntelaar had a taste of the Serie A competition in the TIM trophy after just arriving at the club, but also admitted that the striker needs time to settle.
Leonardo also demanded more consistency and dedication from Ronaldinho. The Brazilian playmaker is a shadow of what he was at Barcelona and has been a subject of criticism for not giving his best at his new club. Leonardo has seen improvement in Ronaldinho but for the club to start winning again, he knows it's important that Ronaldinho starts performing well.
Leonardo also hinted at the possible arrival of a fullback before the transfer window collapses. Real Madrid left-back Royston Drenthe has been linked with Milan, but Drenthe has time and again said that he wants to stay with Real.
Even as Leonardo remains optimistic, as his job dictates him to be, he is fully aware that his work is cut out for him. Milan have looked shaky at the back, sloppy in the midfield, and haven't scored many goals. A tough season in Italy, and in Europe, awaits them.
Milan will be facing Siena on Saturday and then just seven days later is the big Milan derby. Any humiliation or poor performances there will definitely leave Rossoneri fans angry. As it is, in the preseason, Milan have lost to Inter twice, once on the American tour and recently in the TIM trophy.
For today, Milan will concentrate on the Luigi Berlusconi trophy encounter against Juventus. Leonardo has called up 20 players, including Inzaghi, Zambrotta, Gattuso and Pirlo. It'll be interesting to see whom Leonardo selects to be in the goal, Storari or Roma and whether he employs the same 4-3-1-2 formation he has used recently or changes things up a bit.
Either way, one thing is for sure. In Leonardo's own words, "Now is the time to restart."