Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Derby about players, says Leonardo

SoccerNews in Serie A 2 Apr 2011

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Inter Milan coach Leonardo wants the focus to be on the players when he meets former club AC Milan in a derby between Serie A’s top two.

Retired Brazil international Leonardo spent five years in two different spells as a player at Milan, becoming a crowd favourite at the club.

The 41-year-old also coached the team with mixed results last season.

He left citing difficulties with owner Silvio Berlusconi, but is still held in high regard by supporters.

On Saturday he will lead arch-rivals Inter – two points behind Serie A leaders Milan – in a match to decide not only local bragging rights, but also with the potential to prove decisive in the race for the Scudetto.

“Of course there are many emotions, but sincerely I don’t think that my emotions are the most important thing of this derby match,” Leonardo said.

“This is just a part of what the derby is, it has an endless tradition and it is an extraordinary match.”

“It’s been a long time since the derby has been played with AC Milan leading the championship and Inter Milan ranked second with a two-point gap. I think this is the best thing.”

Leonardo also argued that the role of the managers is often overstated ahead of key matches.

“I’m not able to give such importance to the coach in such matches,” he said.

“I tell you the truth. This has been my opinion when I was a player and I have the same opinion today as well.”

“I think that the coach has surely an important role, but when such matches start they’re made by the players.”

The derby follows a two-week break for international football, with a host of Leonardo’s squad called up for their respective countries.

But he does not believe their national team duties will have left them unfit for the atmosphere of the Milan derby.

“All players are well used to living this way,” Leonardo said.

“I think that our players find it more difficult to train for two consecutive weeks than to travel and play. It has always been so and they’ve always made it.”

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