Leonardo Semplici reveals how he transformed Cagliari’s fortunes and neutralised Milan at San Siro, even if they did take the time to ‘have a few bottles’ this afternoon.
The Sardinians knew they were safe even before kick-off, as Benevento were held to a 1-1 draw by Crotone, but they still gave their all to ruin Milan’s Champions League surge.
“We did have a bit of a celebration when the news came through we were mathematically safe,” Semplici confessed to Sky Sport Italia.
“We had a few bottles… I have to give credit to these lads for all they’ve done. We challenged ourselves and proved it again tonight against a great Milan side with a strong performance.
“We prepared well and thought we’d be coming here fighting for our Serie A safety, so we didn’t change that approach. We didn’t just defend, because Gianluigi Donnarumma had to make two fantastic saves and we ran very few risks. We kept the lines tight and prevented their players from doing their usual moves in the final third.”
When Semplici took over from Eusebio Di Francesco in February, Cagliari were in 18th place with 15 points, 10 behind Benevento and five adrift of Torino. How did he transform their fortunes?
“Something clicked in their mentality when I showed them clearly what some players were pretending not to see. Over 95 minutes, we were not always working as a team.
“There was an atmosphere of malcontent in the locker room and we didn’t want to say it. When I arrived, we had 15 points, reading the table it seemed almost impossible we’d save ourselves.
“I realised there were problems, and with the President and the director, we resolved those problems. We need something different, above all mentally, so that we’d all feel joy at running a little harder for our teammates. That transformed us into a team.”
Considering their form with him at the helm, will Semplici remain at Cagliari next season?
“I hope to take another step, but we must be calm, celebrate safety and then afterwards can think about the future.”