The director of AC Milan's youth sector, Vincenzo Vergine, who was recently hired by the club, has given a lengthy interview to the club's official channel.
Here are his words:
On his goal at Milan:
"For me, it's a great honour to have received the call from one of the most important clubs in the world, with one of the most ambitious projects worldwide. The primary objective of a great youth academy is to develop resources for the first team internally, which means nurturing men and women dedicated to this project with a unique direction and vision that places the player at the center, aiding their improvement and performance. Everyone must understand that the final goal of our work is to extract the maximum potential from each player. Saying it is simple, doing it is an ambitious mission."
On his past, Vergine said:
"I began as a fitness coach in the '90s alongside Corvino, an experience that shaped me and made me understand the importance of details. Then, I went to Fiorentina, where this path expanded into managing the athlete, taking care of both on-field and off-field activities, a project that was successful. After Florence, I moved to Roma, where I successfully implemented an important model, interrupted by Milan, which brought me here to recreate the right conditions and offer my expertise. I am confident that together we can achieve something extraordinary. The primary goal is to become protagonists in Italy because Milan can only be a leader and protagonist, and then on an international level."
On whether the result is the most important thing:
"This is a very complex issue. The true result of a great youth sector is how many players you've brought into the first team. Obviously, the results on the field for the youngsters are essential tools because for a young player to become a top player, they must be a winner, which is why they need to be part of groups accustomed to winning. A high-level player must always aim to outperform the opponent and win, not just avoid losing. There's a subtle line between the insignificance of a youth-level result taken individually and its functionality at a broader level. Everything must work so that the player improves in every aspect, but it shouldn't be overlooked that Milan plays to win and dominate games. If all components work in this direction, we achieve what I want to see: a unique winning model for the entire Milan."
On the importance of belonging, Vergine said:
"It's extremely important: it helps to make a player feel the jersey is tailored for them. If when we acquire a talented player, they and their family are Milan supporters, we are advantaged, but that doesn't always happen. My task is to immerse every player in an environment where they live and breathe Rossonero and make them understand the importance of the jersey, of which they should always be proud. If the player grows with these values, by the time they're 20, the jersey fits them perfectly."
On the importance of a perfectly functioning staff:
"It's exactly what a great club should do: constantly invest in staff training. Our youngsters are the raw material on which we must focus our efforts, so every staff member must be trained and up to the task of what they offer the players. It's not just about how good our coaches and trainers are on the field, but also how good those who manage the players off the field are. I've found a club very attentive to these dynamics, with an administrator like Furlani, very sensitive but also very ambitious because he wants Milan to be an undisputed leader. I've discussed these issues with Moncada and D'Ottavio, with whom we often confer to understand how to connect ourselves and the first team. For a path with as few obstacles as possible, a unified vision from the entire top management is necessary, and here I've found an important rapport that will expedite the process."
On whether his approach is scientific and not just sports-oriented:
"Yes, absolutely. We can only have a scientific approach because today we have tools and parameters to use in reducing the variables that impact a player's development. To understand those variables, studying and having an academic approach is necessary. Football isn't a science, but it uses all the sciences to have a better player."
"Milanello has just finished a superb sports center for the youth team; we are cutting-edge because we have everything for what is currently the reserve team. All other teams train at Vismara, an excellent center that, however, needs targeted interventions to pay even more attention to the player and make it a center of belonging, where every youngster can live the Rossonero experience with their family at any moment. That's why we've already started a restyling process that will completely renew Vismara by the end of this season to align it with Milan's heritage."
On whether the youngsters train enough:
"Absolutely not, we live in a context where both academically and institutionally, nobody does much for our youngsters. When we recruit talented players, they come from backgrounds with little physical activity, which is one of the causes of the depletion of sporting talent. When we recruit them, we bring them into a training regimen where we practice less, but we can't do more for various reasons. However, I've initiated an individual program called 'performance,' which is a significant effort by the club, and I thank my colleagues who are trying to increase training hours during a season, which is necessary because without this intervention, we risk not providing that crucial piece in the athlete's development. Besides this, the other significant effort we're making is to take care of the youngsters' free time and other hours of the day."
On his dream, Enzo Vergine said:
"Dreams should be kept in a drawer; in the next interview, I'd like to say we've achieved it. The dedication that I and the entire structure will put in is aimed at making it achievable. Working at Milan and being up to Milan's standards are already dreams. What I try to instill in my colleagues is the awareness for the players to always recognize the privilege they have of being in this reality."