Gennaro Gattuso

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Report: Benitez ‘increasingly likely to quit’ Newcastle United

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Newcastle United is going to make one more push to keep fan-loved manager Rafa Benitez, but it’s not looking good for his future on Tyneside beyond June 30.

The Telegraph says Rafa Benitez is likely to walk away from Newcastle United when his contract expires at the end of the month.

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It’s another fight over money, for the most part, with owner Mike Ashley also involved in multiple takeover reports. And Benitez is reportedly subject to a $15 million per-year offer from Asia.

Benitez has been told he will have around ($77 million) in this summer’s window and can also raise money from player sales. But, although exceptions could be made, he was also warned that the club could not sanction long-term deals for players over the age of 28, particularly as he was only considering a one-year extension himself.

That last part makes sense, especially if Benitez were to saddle the Magpies with a long-term deal on a player he favors but may not be the next guy’s cup of tea (Salomon Rondon).

Additionally, the Evening Chronicle has a number of big names linked with taking Benitez’s place, including former French boss Laurent Blanc, recently freed AC Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso, and David Moyes. Believe it or not, Arsene Wenger is also mentioned should Ashley be willing to spend more (so maybe mentioning him is a bit much).

Blanc or Gattuso is believable, and might be palatable for the currently disgusted supporter base, but hiring an ex-Sunderland failure in Moyes would likely send an already livid group through the roof. Then again, the organization did twice hire Joe Kinnear.

Gattuso ‘mentally in pieces’ as he leaves Milan

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Gennaro Gattuso will not continue with AC Milan after missing out on the UEFA Champions League by one point, and the manager doesn’t want his beloved club to fulfill his contract.

Gattuso, 41, played 468 times for the Serie A powers from 1999-2012, and attempted to bring the club back to the UCL when he took over in November 2017.

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He spearheaded a run up the table from 11th to sixth in his first season, and had Milan third before losing a home derby to Inter. That led a dry spell which pushed the side as low as seventh. A four-match win streak to end the season could not save the day.

Prior to AC Milan, Gattuso led Pisa to Serie B promotion in his only long-term managerial post.

Via Goal.com, Gattuso said his love for the club isn’t just why he’s accepting a departure without the financial fulfillment of his contract, but also what cost him his desire to continue in the job:

“I feel I have too much history with this club, I felt more pressure than I probably should have. I’ve barely slept in the past 18 months, mentally I’m in pieces and that is something I must consider.”

AC Milan boss Gattuso insists fifth ‘not a failure’

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For a solid four months, it appeared AC Milan was on track for a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years. Then, it all fell apart.

Still, manager Gennaro Gattuso is insisting their season is not a failure, adamant that a fifth-placed finish would not be considered a disappointment for the club. His reasoning will not be exactly endearing to fans.

“Fifth place absolutely wouldn’t be a failure, not because I want credit myself, plus what would Roma and Lazio say?” Gattuso said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Frosinone. “There’s regret because for two months we’ve had our fate in our hands and we dropped so many points, but it’s not a failure.”

Milan was as high as third place in the Serie A table in mid-March and seemed close to wrapping up a return to Champions League play, but a stretch of one win in seven league matches saw them tumble down into the crowded battle below, with Atalanta, Roma, Torino, and Lazio all in a pack. AC Milan now sits sixth, and while they still remain in the mix for the fourth position, they would need to make up a three-point deficit in just two matches. Fifth-placed Roma drew today, so they can jump to fifth with a win against Frosinone.

Milan was a European powerhouse for decades until the club declined following its 2007 Champions League victory, ultimately falling out of the running for Europe’s top competition, with just a few Europa League appearances since 2014. Gattuso’s comparison to Lazio and Roma, two strong Italian clubs without Milan’s history, is bound to infuriate fans, along with his acceptance of the club’s shortcomings.

The late-season collapse has called Gattuso’s job security into question, but he said that will wait until the end of the season. “Both the club and I have put aside our small talk to reach our objective,” Gattuso said during the presser. “There will be time to talk about the future.”

“There are two games left and we’re still playing for our objective.”

Bakayoko finding delayed success on loan at AC Milan

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On-loan Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko had really been struggling at AC Milan this season, so much so that there was talk of his departure from both Chelsea and Milan on a permanent basis in January, ending his chance of earning a place with the Blues before it really ever began.

Then, things began to slowly turn around. It began after Bakayoko sat a game for a yellow card suspension in late December. He returned to play in a 0-0 draw against Frosinone, and while Milan failed to score, Bakayoko was one of the most instrumental players on the pitch, brought on by a willingness to take players on himself rather than try to find every cutting edge pass. In the 0-0 draw with Bologna just before his suspension, he attempted one take-on; in the Frosinone match after his return, he attempted five take-ons and was successful in them all.

This trend continued, and it in turn opened up passing lanes. Since returning from his yellow card suspension, Bakayoko has attempted 26 take-ons, completing 18 of them, playing all 90 minutes in each of the six games. This has opened the eyes of Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso.

“Bakayoko is an unusual deep-lying playmaker,” Gattuso said after Milan topped Cagliari on Sunday.  “He used to choose the wrong passes, but now he takes men on, can power past people and create chances.”

Milan has been forced to stick with Bakayoko in midfield due to the long-term calf injury to Lucas Biglia, forcing him out since October. That has benefitted Bakayoko, who has been given time to work out his struggles. Unfortunately, he’s rounding into form just as Biglia makes his return. He was an unused substitute in the Cagliari match, the first time he has been part of the matchday squad since his injury.

“If it’s a problem, we’ll resolve it. Biglia has been out for three months and needs time to find his form,” Gattuso said. “We’ll see if we need to use him in a wider midfield role, if there is the requirement.”

The inclusion of Biglia doesn’t necessarily mean Bakayoko’s minutes will fall, but it may force him into a different role. As Gattuso says, he would likely move from his deep-lying central role to the outside of the midfield three, meaning 21-year-old January signing Lucas Paqueta – who scored his debut league goal on Sunday against Cagliari – could be the one to make way.

Either way, the improvement of the midfield at the San Siro is a significant boost for the club as Milan fights for Champions League qualification. The club currently sits fourth after the Cagliari win on Sunday, but just barely – their 38 points are just one above the trio of Roma, Atalanta, and Lazio.

Bakayoko’s recent form in his role at Milan will also give Chelsea fans hope that he can eventually make his way back to Stamford Bridge and challenge Jorginho or N'Golo Kante for a role in the starting lineup. Jorginho especially struggled mightily in his defensive midfield role against Manchester City on Sunday, and fans have started to sour on Maurizio Sarri‘s Jorginho experiment that has forced Kante into a different role from the one he excelled at for so long.

Even if he never finds his way back to Stamford Bridge, Bakayoko’s improvement could be beneficial to Chelsea in another way – Milan now reportedly wants to take Bakayoko on permanently, which could net Chelsea a significant fee and a player in return. According to tabloid reports in England, Chelsea is hoping Milan’s interest in Bakayoko permanently could net them Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who has played alongside Bakayoko for much of the season.

Higuain “rejuvenated” by Gattuso after Juve “kicked me out”

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Gonzalo Higuain is off and running at AC Milan, even if the club hasn’t been finding the wins it needs to contend in Serie A.

The 30-year-old forward has six goals in seven games for Milan after his surprising summer move from Juventus, which came after Cristiano Ronaldo arrived from Real Madrid.

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Rather than feel slighted just two seasons after a $106 million move from Napoli to Juve, though, Higuain is feeling reborn.

Apparently, you can’t feel disillusioned about soccer when Gennaro Gattuso gives you those football eyes.

“I feel rejuvenated,” Higuain said. “I love Gattuso. He looks at you and sends you his love for football.”

Higuain admitted he had no desires to leave Juve, saying the club didn’t give him an option and he still is fond of The Old Lady.

“Mine is a feeling of affection because they treated me very well; team-mates and supporters have given me huge affection,” he said in the interview with Gazzetta dello Sport (Italian link). “But I did not ask to leave. Basically, everyone says it, they kicked me out. At Milan I immediately had a great love and so they convinced me.”

Higuain scored 55 goals in 105 appearances for Juventus, adding 12 assists in winning two scudetto and matching Coppa Italia crowns.