CARNAGO, Italy (AP) – Known for his intensity and relentlessness on the field, Gennaro Gattuso is hoping to bring that same attitude back to AC Milan as coach.
Gattuso was a gritty midfielder who helped Milan to two Serie A titles and two Champions League trophies. He also won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.
The 39-year-old Gattuso has replaced Vincenzo Montella as coach. Montella was fired on Monday after winning only six of Milan's 14 league matches despite spending more than 200 million euros (nearly $250 million) on new players in the offseason.
''I think this team can do a lot more,'' Gattuso said Tuesday at Milanello, the club's training ground. ''We need to become a team, we have to go onto the field as a group ... we need a battlefield spirit but there is talent.''
Gattuso had that spirit when he was a player, but he won't be playing now.
''I think it's reductive to keep talking about Gattuso as a player,'' he said. ''The spirit and never-say-die attitude has stayed with me. I never want to lose even playing table football against my son, that's always there.
''But I studied to become a coach, they didn't gift me my license. You don't prepare for matches just with heart and determination ... you also need to work on the physical condition and technical and tactical preparation.''
Milan's first match under Gattuso will be on Sunday at Benevento, which has yet to earn a point this season. Milan is in seventh place in Serie A and 11 points behind fourth-place Roma, which occupies the last qualifying berth for the Champions League.
''I have to think about Benevento as if it's the World Cup final,'' Gattuso said.
Introducing SPORTS ILLUSTRATED TV, your new home for classic sports movies, award-winning documentaries and original sports programming such as Planet Futbol TV, SI TV’s weekly soccer show. Start your seven-day free trial now on Amazon Channels.
Gattuso, who has never coached in the top division, previously coached at Sion, Palermo, OFI Crete and Pisa. He resigned from OFI - twice - with the club in financial difficulty and unable to pay wages. He also struggled with poor working conditions at Pisa.
Milan is facing financial fair play inquiries from UEFA because of its spending spree, while there have been questions about the financial stability of the Chinese-led consortium that purchased the club from Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April.
''I have heard it said that the club has problems but the wages for the players arrive punctually,'' Gattuso said. ''I love my job, I do it with great passion. It gives me a lot of adrenaline. For me the dream continues. It's a privilege to coach a team like this.''