Gennaro Gattuso believes that Milan are facing a situation now that midweek opponents Barcelona were in at the turn of the century.
The Italian, who spent 13 years with the Rossoneri before leaving last summer, sat down with Mundo Deportivo this week, ahead of his old side facing Barca in the Champions League.
First up, the 35-year-old was asked if he saw much difference between the two teams at the moment. Since the two sides’ meetings in last year’s competition, the Italians have dramatically changed their playing squad, with Gattuso one of a number of notable departures last summer.
“Today there is much difference. Barcelona are the best team in the world, the team to beat,” asserted the veteran.
“They have completed a dramatic transformation and now everyone wants to copy their football and their work with their youth team. Everything began with Cruyff and is now taking off.
“Are Milan taking the same direction? Yes it is the path to follow when there is no money, as in the case of Milan.
“But the youth set-up is not done in a day. It takes time. And patience. As they had in Barcelona.
“I remember in 2000 when we won at Camp Nou with goals from Coco and Bierhoff, their fans complained that the team was not competitive and Real Madrid won the titles.
“Now the tune has changed. This is what can happen to Milan. After 25 years of success, they must wait two or three to return to the top.”
The midfielder was asked of his former team’s chances this midweek as they prepare for the first leg of their Last 16 clash against the Catalans.
“In football you never know. Football is not a logic that is written down, football is played. In principle, Barca are much stronger, but last year Nocerino made it 1-1 on the scoreboard… Football is strange.
“Is Messi the best ever? Yes, and I hate to say that for Cristiano, who is also an incredible player. But Messi is from another planet.
“A player who scores 90 goals in a year cannot be real. He is from the PlayStation. My son Francesco, who is five, asks me to play every day. And when I see Messi he seems to play with the other players. He is faster, has more class and scores when he wants to.”
Gattuso compared himself to Barcelona’s centre-back Carles Puyol.
“Our story is similar. We have always worked, never spoken off the field, in our private lives. We’ve spent our whole life for football because it was our dream and we knew that this was the way to succeed.
“Do we miss reference points like him at Milan? Definitely. Barca have Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and others, just as Milan once had Maldini, Costacurta and Co.
“It is important that the mentality and history of the club are also on the team. Barca will not find it easy to replace this generation. They are good and lead Barca and Catalonia in the heart.”
The Wednesday evening fixture is significant for Bojan, who is currently on loan at Milan from Barcelona.
“He has played some good games, but the modern game has a problem – no-one respects what you have done, you always have to prove yourself.
“He has few minutes but he is very young. He has talent and he needs to be patient, as must the fans.”
Milan were in talks to bring Pep Guardiola to Serie A, before he opted for Bayern Munich.
“For Calcio he would have been an emblem, the reference of rebirth. But from the first moment they contacted him I thought it was impossible for him to come. We need Coaches like him.”
Luis Enrique spent last season coaching in Italy with Roma, before resigning at its end.
“He brought a new concept of football and taught us that he is a great man, with discretion, with discipline, with good ideas. I liked this guy. A lot.
“He is a person with values and a culture of effort. I followed him very closely, because Roma is not an easy place. He will be a reference for me when I start coaching.”