With rumours regarding a premature end to his tenure at San Siro having persisted for the most part of the season and now increasing in number and conviction, it looks very much as if Leonardo’s time as Milan’s Coach is approaching a dissappointing conclusion. With the Rossoneri clinging to third spot in Serie A and long since dispatched from the Champions League at the hands of a particularly ruthless Manchester United side, this has been a difficult campaign for the red half of Milan, with Leonardo – an unfortunate victim of circumstance in many respects – blamed for the almost inevitable struggles of an ageing squad in a competitive division.
If, as is now almost certain, Leonardo is dismissed by Silvio Berlusconi in the coming weeks (the Milan owner having publicly stated his desire to sack the rookie Brazilian Tactician), what would be the former Milan and Valencia player’s next move with regard to his managerial career? With just one season as a Coach under his belt, it is unlikely that many of Europe’s top clubs will be seeking to employ the South American such are the limits to his experience, something which could restrict Leonardo’s options going forward.
Back to Brazil?
One possible route for the Milan boss might be to return to his homeland to take up a post with a team in the Brazilian Championship, with Sao Paulo and an increasingly star-studded Flamengo, both former clubs of Leonardo, representing the most likely destinations. Indeed, Flamengo are currently without a Coach following the removal of Jorge Luis Andrade on 23rd April and, having recently qualified for the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores, may well represent an attractive option for Leonardo post-Milan.
Although, with a lack of managerial experience at the highest level, the 40 year-old might be best suited to club football at this stage of his career, the former Selecao has been strongly linked with taking over from Dunga as the Coach of the Brazilian national team when the incumbent steps down after this summer’s World Cup as has been all but confirmed. After Dunga was appointed to the job with no previous Coaching experience, Leonardo’s brief time spent in a managerial capacity is unlikely to be a barrier to him being offered this prestigious job.
A legend of the Verde-Amarela, there would be few Brazilian fans who would voice dissent should Leonardo be given the job, although it is obviously a post which comes with huge pressure and responsibility, elements that he has not necessarily shown an aptitude for dealing with particularly well during his time at San Siro.
With his time in Milan not having gone completely to plan, the majority of Europe’s other major clubs, as I briefly touched on earlier, may be reluctant to take Leonardo on, but that would not necessarily stop the Brazilian from furthering his footballing education as a Coach with “smaller”, lower-profile teams on the continent.
One realistic destination could be Paris Saint-Germain, a club Leonardo played for in the mid-1990s and a team struggling in Ligue 1, languishing in the bottom-half under their current Coach, Antoine Kombouare. Despite their recent troubles, PSG are a club with a proud and illustrious history, something Leonardo could attempt to restore should such an opportunity become more viable and a vacancy open up over the coming months.
There is also the possibility that the Brazilian could return to a role as a Technical Director at another European club, a job he held and relished at Milan before his appointment as Coach. If his experiences this season have put him off pursuing management any further, then such a role would be perfect for Leonardo who was noted for his efficiency in the job before his promotion to the managerial hot-seat.
A Whole New Direction?
However, Leonardo himself has cast shades of doubt over his future as a Coach by suggesting that he may choose to seek employment away from the dugout in the years to come. Speaking after his side’s narrow win over Fiorentina on Saturday, the Brazilian was reluctant to discuss his position at San Siro, but did make some veiled references to what may be to come following his almost certain dismissal, saying;
“Do I still want to be a Coach? That’s a good question, but quite honestly I do not know my future and and just want to focus on finishing what we started this term. I must thank Milan for letting me doing so many things during my career, but this is not the right time to think about my future.”
Should Leonardo decide not to pursue a more fulsome Coaching career it would be a great loss to the game, as he has shown glimpses of great promise amidst the general air of negativity surrounding his team this year. The Brazilian is clearly a highly intelligent man who, given more time and a more suitable environment, clearly has the attributes necessary to blossom into an astute Tactician at the top level.
Ultimately, however, whatever decision Leonardo takes following his inevitable departure from San Siro should be respected by the footballing community. The Milan Coach is a legend of the world game and has much to offer the sport whether that be as a manager or in another valuable capacity. What is for certain is that Leonardo will be a man in demand and, you never know, we might even be lucky enough to see him back on our television screens this summer adding a touch of class and reasoned analysis to the narcolepsy-inducing chatter of Shearer and Hansen on the BBC. Every cloud…