I didn't suspect anything – Montella surprised by AC Milan sacking
Vincenzo Montella was surprised by AC Milan's decision to sack him and suspects it was a move instigated by the club's owners rather than the directors.
The club announced Montella's dismissal on Monday, a day after the 0-0 draw at home to Torino, to end weeks of speculation, with Gennaro Gattuso stepping up from the Primavera youth team to take over.
Montella had been under pressure for much of the season due to Milan's underwhelming form, the club having spent heavily in pre-season to no discernible effect.
The former Italy international was taken aback by Milan's decision, however, and feels he survived periods when it would have been "more plausible" to get rid of him.
A @VMontella vanno i più sentiti ringraziamenti per l'attività svolta, l'impegno, la serietà, la correttezza professionale https://t.co/wXlIimcqcz— AC Milan (@acmilan) November 27, 2017
We are very grateful to Mr. Montella for all the work done, for the commitment and professionalism https://t.co/uA0uIPN4K9 pic.twitter.com/4JwoNbNttx
"I was calm and I didn't suspect anything, I swear," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. I was ready for training as always, on a normal day like any other.
"The timing [surprised me most] – there were other times where it would have been more plausible. This time the team was giving answers, both technically and in terms of temperament.
"When I arrived at Milanello [Milan's training base], I was greeted by [Giuseppe] Mangiarano, our secretary general, who came with me to see the [sporting] director. Then [Massimiliano] Mirabelli told me they'd made the decision in the night.
"I think it was a choice made more by the owners than by the directors."
Montella does not feel like he is leaving the club on bad terms with anyone, however, and revealed that the atmosphere was "affectionate" as he said goodbye to the players.
6 - AC Milan have lost 6 league games so far this season - the last time they collected more defeats after 14 Serie A match-days was in 1941/42 (7). Dismissal.#Montella— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) November 27, 2017
"The players greeted me with great affection," he added. "I don't like goodbyes and it was certainly a bad thing, but everyone - and I mean everyone - was affectionate.
"Even [Riccardo] Montolivo, who had been out [of the team] for some time, and [Gabriel] Paletta, who, like some others, hadn't played much [were affectionate]."
Ultimately, Montella believes he has fallen victim to an increase in expectations, though he is adamant he enjoyed a good record at the club.
"The expectations were raised too high," he added. "As Milan coach I won 33 games out of 64 [matches], so 50 per cent between the league and the cups.
"After that I certainly remember the win in the Supercoppa Italiana, the return to Europe and finishing first in the group to go through.
"These were results Milan had been missing for several years and we all shared in them.
"There's no culprit, though. In fact, the group is to be defended because there are no slackers, everyone wanted to grow and follow me."