AC Milan and coach Leonardo today parted company by mutual consent. The Brazilian has been under pressure for several months and today admitted he was leaving the San Siro. He said at a press conference: "We are here to announce that we are parting ways through mutual consent, in a calm and serene manner, just as it has always been in our relationship throughout the years. "There's nothing surprising. Everything is very clear today, as always. We have arrived at the end. "The Champions League aim, which I desired so much, has been achieved and this morning we have decided to make it official. The time to end this adventure has come."
The 40-year-old was under contract with the Rossoneri for a further year. But there have been suggestions he was itching for a move back to South America and that club owner Silvio Berlusconi was in the market for a new coach. Leonardo, a former AC Milan player, has received plenty of plaudits since replacing Carlo Ancelotti last summer despite the fact Milan are set to finish the campaign empty handed. The Rossoneri were knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Udinese earlier this year and suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the Champions League round of 16. Milan had opportunities earlier this month to leapfrog Inter Milan into first place in the Scudetto race but failed to take advantage of them.
Despite losing three of their last four games, the Rossoneri have virtually assured themselves of a third-place finish and direct qualification to the Champions League. Milan go into their final game of the season against Juventus tomorrow three points clear of fourth-place Sampdoria but with a vastly superior goal difference. * PA