Milan Derby – Leonardo: “I respect the past, but it is only one facet of the derby”

Inter Coach and Milanista for 13 years, Leonardo has said his presence on the Nerazzurri bench shouldn’t dominate the headlines ahead of the Derby Della Maddonina.
The Brazilian who took over the reins of Inter at the end of last year, was frowned upon by many Milan fans for having crossed over the city divide as he was a major contributor at the Rossoneri as a player, a director and as a Coach.
But, Leonardo believes that his past with Milan and his present with Inter are two different issues and insists that the focus should be on the two teams and not on him in what could be a potential title-decider.
“I have many different feelings right now, on the eve of the derby. But my feelings are not the most important thing. I respect the past, but that is only one facet of a fantastic match that will be the derby.
“This isn’t my match, it’s Inter’s match, the players’ match. I’m not seeking revenge. I’m not worried (about the reception from the Milan fans). I respect football and everything it represents for people, and I respect others’ opinions.”

Leonardo was then asked whether he would celebrate should Inter score, and the Brazilian was his usual philosophical self:
“”I’ll react in whatever way feels natural at the time. I feel very much a part of this club, so there’s no reason to hold myself back. I don’t know how I will react but I’ll do it freely and I don’t think there’s anything wrong if I feel happy.”
Moving to the actual game, Leonardo commented that the international fixtures had taken a toll on the players but he expects a game like the derby to render all fatigue and tiredness meaningless.
“The players have all lived very different lives over the last two weeks… Naturally, there is a bit of fatigue to deal with. A derby game goes beyond any sort of tactical consideration, it’s an extraordinary event.
“We all know each other very well, so I don’t think there are any secrets you can work out or plans you can come up with. But we’ll do everything we can to make sure Inter win it, of course.”

There is another derby going on behind the scenes at the two clubs and that is in obtaining the signature of Brazil’s promising playmaker Ganso who is at Santos for the moment. Leonardo revealed his relationship with the youngster:
“I’ve been speaking to Ganso for a while now but it’s not a battle to sign him… What he has to concentrate on now is playing football and recovering properly from a serious injury.
“I’ve been offering him support over the last year and we’ve built up a relationship, but I don’t know what will happen. And like him, we too have other things to think about at the moment, such as the end of the season.”

The Milan derby kicks off at 1945 GMT today and will be broadcast live on ESPN in the UK.

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