May 25, 2017 / 9:45 PM / 2 months ago

Gattuso returns to AC Milan to coach youth team

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File Photo: FC Sion's coach and player Gennaro Gattuso reacts during his team's Swiss Super League soccer match against FC Lausanne-Sport in Sion March 10, 2013.Valentin Flauraud

MILAN (Reuters) - Former Italy midfielder Gennaro Gattuso is returning to AC Milan, where he spent most of his career, to coach the youth team, he said on Thursday.

Famously combative, hard-working and hot-tempered in his playing days, the 39-year-old left his job as coach of Pisa earlier this month when they were relegated to the third tier of Italian football after one season in Serie B.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's the right choice and not a step backwards," the 2006 World Cup winner told the Mediaset Premium television channel.

"I'm returning to a great club that wants to be big again. I hope to transmit a sense of belonging and help the players improve."

"I will be in close contact with the first team because you have to play with the same idea and to have the same identity."

Gattuso, who spent 13 seasons at Milan, led Pisa to promotion from the third tier in 2015/16 and said it was as good as winning the Champions League, which he did twice with Milan.

He quit the club in August because of off-field problems but was persuaded to return one month later.

Pisa continued to struggle behind the scenes during the season and were docked four points over late payment of tax and social security bills.

Gattuso's has experienced mixed fortunes in his coaching career, although it has never been dull.

He began at Swiss first division side Sion in 2013 but was sacked after three months, then joined Italian Serie B side Palermo where he was fired after six games.

In 2014, he tried his luck with Greek Super League side OFI Crete who were beset by financial problems and, according to Gattuso, were "struggling to feed their players".

He lasted six months, during which he gave an infamous expletive-ridden news conference in which he banged his fist on the table repeatedly and said, in broken English, that he expected his players to "play with balls" despite the problems.

Gattuso said those experiences had changed him.

"I have much more knowledge, I'm more mature and I go out there with a completely different mentality," he said.

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris

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