AC Milan’s under-fire captain Leonardo Bonucci on Tuesday received the backing of new coach Gennaro Gattuso.
Bonucci arrived at the San Siro during the summer in a surprise 40-million-euro transfer after helping Juventus win six consecutive titles.
The 30-year-old immediately stepped into the role of captain as the Chinese-owned club push for a Champions League return, but Bonucci has had a poor season and Milan sit outside the European places in seventh.
That form cost the job of coach Vincenzo Montella.
“The Milan captain is Leonardo Bonucci and will remain Bonucci,” Gattuso said at his first press conference since taking over.
Despite Milan’s stuttering form, Gattuso believes the Italy defender can build the team spirit to turn around their fortunes.
“I spoke with a delegation from the team yesterday and I saw guys with great desire to work and make themselves available,” said the former Milan defensive midfielder.
“I asked them for a great sense of togetherness and discipline, and they gave me their full availability.
“On the pitch I would always look out for a teammate, would have thrown myself in the fire for them. The players have to help each other.”
AC Milan were one of the biggest spenders last summer, also bringing in Mateo Musacchio, Andre Silva and Nikola Kalinic, but have little to show for the 230-million-euro ploughed in by new Chinese owner Li Yonghong.
“I’ve clear ideas,” said Gattuso. “Montella and I have different methods. I like the team to move forward quickly.”
He said he was looking forward to getting the best out of the players.
“Suso. They say he can only play in one role (wing), I want to see if that is true. I also want to see why (Franck) Kessie isn’t creating space like last year.
“André Silva, he’s a player with huge quality.Sometimes he does good things but he does them alone and not with his teammates.
“(Patrick) Cutrone, like Silva, like Kalinic, he’s like a tarantula — he never gives up and has great passion. We need more people with that mentality.”
Gattuso’s first game in charge will be against tailenders Benevento on Sunday.