Leonardo departs AC Milan

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ROME, May 14 – Brazilian World Cup winner Leonardo on Friday announced that he is leaving seven-time champions of Europe AC Milan.Speaking at a press conference ahead of Saturday night’s Serie A clash against Juventus, the 40-year-old was joined by Milan’s vice-president Adriano Galliani to confirm what was an open secret in Italy, that he will not be continuing beyond the end of the season.

"We’re here together to communicate our separation by mutual consent in a calm and serene way, as has been our relationship throughout the years," said Leonardo.

"There’s no surprise, everything is very clear, today as it has always been.

"We’ve come to the end. The goal of reaching the Champions League, which was hugely important to me, has been achieved and this morning (Friday) we decided to make the decision official.

"The time has come to part ways but in a calm manner."

Leonardo, who was part of the Milan management before assuming the role of head coach following Carlo Ancelotti’s departure for Chelsea last summer, was in his first role as a coach at a club he served with distinction as a player.

However, he had come under fire from early on this season as Milan failed to seriously challenge for silverware.

They are guaranteed to finish third in Serie A regardless of the result in their final match of the season.

But they crashed out of the Champions League in the second round with a 7-2 aggregate defeat to Manchester United and also fell at the quarter-final stage of the Coppa Italia.

Their title challenge fell away in March and April after a succession of poor results against relative minnows.

"I’m very sad," said Galliani. "Naturally we have arrived at this common decision which is absolutely a consensual solution taken with friendship and respect, as always."

Leonardo, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994, was something of a surprise choice as coach in the summer due to being a complete novice.

And he admitted that perhaps this was not the right role for him.

"I didn’t know what it was to be a coach, it’s been an incredible experience but I don’t know if I will do it again in the future, certainly not in the next few years," he added.

"I have to thank Milan for giving me all the opportunities to do everything I wanted to do."

It was not always so cordial at Milan, though, as Leonardo fell out with club president and Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had openly criticised his tactics and decisions.

"I don’t know what Berlusconi has or hasn’t said but we have a difficult relationship," said Leonardo at the end of last month.

"We’re very different but that’s nothing new. We have different visions, that’s true, maybe we’re incompatible but that’s not important, the important thing is the next three games."

Leonardo, who played in midfield or at left-back, began his career at Rio de Janeiro side Flamengo before moving to Sao Paulo.

He had spells with Valencia in Spain, Kashima Antlers in Japan and Paris St Germain in France before joining Milan in 1997.

Throughout his glittering career he won league titles in three countries: Brazil (1987 and 1991), Japan (1996) and Italy (1999).

He left Milan in 2001 and returned to Sao Paolo (his third stint with the club) and also went back to Flamengo briefly before returning to Milan in 2002.

After hanging up his boots he became a scout and agent for Milan in Brazil while he also worked for BBC TV in Britain as an expert analyst during the 2006 World Cup.

He became a technical director at Milan in 2008 before taking over the coaching reins in May 2009.

Milan’s youth team coach Filippo Galli, assistant coach Mauro Tassotti and former Cagliari boss Massimiliano Allegri are the favourites to take over the hot seat.

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