Ralf Rangnick said it would have made “little sense” to keep star Milan veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic had he replaced Stefano Pioli as head coach.
Rangnick was set to take over from Pioli until Milan opted against a change in the dugout amid the club’s 13-match unbeaten streak to end the 2019-20 season.
Ibrahimovic was instrumental in rejuvenating a struggling Milan side following his January arrival, the 38-year-old finishing the campaign with 11 goals.
The former Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain striker, who scored seven goals following the restart, is in talks to extend his stay by signing a one-year deal.
However, Rangnick said he would not be in favour of prolonging Ibrahimovic’s career with the Rossoneri.
“What you should be asking is: why did Milan turn to me? What did they want to do? Maybe they were looking for a change of direction,” Rangnick told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“It’s not my style to focus on a 38-year-old player, not because of talent, but because I prefer to create value and develop talent.
“It made little sense to me the idea of relying on Ibrahimovic or [defender] Simon Kjaer, but that’s just my way of seeing things, it’s not necessarily right or wrong. When Ibra said he didn’t know me, he wasn’t wrong. I’ve never met him.”
Milan’s pursuit of Rangnick – who is a free agent after leaving his role at Red Bull – caused tension within the club.
Technical director and club great Paolo Maldini voiced his displeasure, while chief football officer Zvonimir Boban was sacked after clashing with chief executive Ivan Gazidis.
“I was first contacted [by Milan] at the end of October, when the team was three points off the relegation zone,” said Rangnick, with Milan only appointing Pioli in October to replace Marco Giampaolo.
“I never talked about it in public. I do want to make it clear that I never signed a contract or had a clause. Up until three weeks ago, I was tied to Red Bull. As for Milan, they were the best team post-coronavirus lockdown, so changing would not have been wise or respectful.
“Pioli deserved to keep his job and I appreciated the kind of person he is, as in interviews he was always focused on objectives. Whether this is the right decision for Milan in the medium and long term is another matter.”
Milan ended the season sixth and outside of the Champions League places – the Rossoneri have not won the Scudetto since 2011, while they have not featured in Europe’s premier club competition since 2014.
Asked what he would do to do lead Milan back to the top of Italian and European football, Rangnick highlighted Atalanta’s achievements and Antonio Conte’s Inter.
“Set a concrete objective, such as Champions League qualification, because nobody enjoys playing in the Europa League,” Rangnick replied.
“They have a perfect example just 30km from Milan: Atalanta have a third of Milan’s revenue, but keep finishing ahead of them in the table. It’s because they make intelligent investments, have one of the best youth academies in Europe, and it’s not just about Gian Piero Gasperini. It’s a team sport.
“I am also impressed with Antonio Conte’s style of football at Inter, which is sophisticated, active and aggressive. My idea of football has always been about keeping a high tempo, pressing and counter-pressing, something in America they now call ‘Ralfball’. All the young players in our academies grow up with that now.”
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