Kalac: Giampaolo and Milan bringing back Rossoneri way in Champions League pursuit

Zeljko Kalac sat down with Omnisport to talk about AC Milan and Saturday's derby against Inter.

AC Milan has not featured in the UEFA Champions League since 2013-14 after narrowly missing out on qualification by a single point under Gennaro Gattuso last season.   -  Getty Images

Marco Giampaolo and AC Milan are bringing back the Rossoneri identity as they eye a long-awaited return to the Champions League, according to former goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac.

Milan has not featured in the Champions League since 2013-14 after narrowly missing out on qualification by a single point under Gennaro Gattuso last season.

The Italian giant – seven-time winner of the European Cup/Champions League – has since turned to former Sampdoria head coach Giampaolo in their pursuit of a return to the premier club competition.

Milan great Zvonimir Boban, who won the Champions League and four Serie A titles during his time at the club, has also returned to San Siro as chief football officer, while legendary former captain Paolo Maldini is technical director.

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Kalac – winner of the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup during his four years at Milan – believes the 18-time Serie A champions can build on Gattuso's work with Giampaolo's entertaining brand of football.

"They've appointed a very good manager," ex-Australia international Kalac told Omnisport ahead of Saturday's derby against Inter. "The way I think they'll play and the way Giampaolo will get them to play, it will be very good for Milan.

"Milan have always been known as a footballing team. All the success we've had and in the Champions League, it's because of the way they play football – it's a brand.

"They want to bring that back. With Maldini being back and Boban too, you're bringing back legends. The culture of the club. You can't forget what Gattuso done, he brought back the Milan culture. They'll just go forward from that."

"If they can get into the top four and qualify for the Champions League, that's a very big success," Kalac continued, with Giampaolo's side collecting six points from their opening three games. "They were close under Rino, it was a good push. It's where they belong, a club of Milan."

Milan was active again in the transfer market – Giampaolo trying to shape his squad with the deadline-day signing of Croatia star Ante Rebic after bringing Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leao, Ismael Bennacer, Leo Duarte and Rade Krunic to the club.

Rebic – who scored 10 goals across all competitions during a memorable run to the Europa League semifinals last season – was linked to Inter before joining Milan from Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt.

The 25-year-old returns to Italy, having previously struggled after moving to Fiorentina from RNK Split in 2013, before being loaned out to RB Leipzig and Hellas Verona.

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"I don't see why not. We all have our ups and downs in football," Kalac said when asked if Rebic can be a success in his second stint in Serie A. "The one thing at Milan that people don't realise, the expectations are so high. It doesn't matter who you play against, they expect you to win. You need to win and supporters expect it. The club is built to win.

"Once these players play and train regularly, they work out things together and combinations form. I've seen many great players come to Milan and not be successful because it's a different expectation. When you're the main man or focal point at a smaller club, it's easier because the team works for you. Whereas at Milan, you need to be part of the parcel in the big cog, but he can be a success."

Rebic will have his first taste of a Milan derby against a high-flying Inter side looking to make it four wins from four Serie A matches under coach Antonio Conte.

Inter is two points clear atop the table following the arrivals of Conte, club-record signing Romelu Lukaku, Diego Godin, Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Alexis Sanchez and Cristiano Biraghi.

"They've recruited really well," Kalac, who predicted a draw in the first Milan derby of the season, said. "It all starts with the recruiting of the head coach – Conte is fantastic. They've brought in some really good players who will be successful.

"But I think it will still take time. They won't have instant success but they will go very close. I think [eight-time reigning champions] Juventus this season, if there's any season to win it off them, it's this term."

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