AC Milan's season deserves respect regardless of whether a top-four finish in Serie A is secured, according to a proud Gennaro Gattuso.
Gennaro Gattuso claims AC Milan have outperformed more fancied teams this season and that Champions League qualification is not a condition of his employment.
Milan visit SPAL in their final Serie A fixture on Sunday knowing victory is essential to their hopes of sneaking into the top four.
Third-placed Atalanta and city rivals Inter both take a point advantage into winnable home matches against Sassuolo and Empoli respectively.
Gattuso has already guided the Rossoneri to their best points haul since the 2012-13 season and, having never fielded Champions League demands from the powers above, already views the campaign as one of positive progress.
"Apart from Atalanta, who are enjoying a sporting miracle, we're ahead of more highly rated teams," Gattuso told a pre-match news conference.
"I was never asked to reach the Champions League in an obligatory manner, but rather to try, and we're fighting for it right until the final day.
"We're just missing the cherry on the cake. It's been an important campaign. My players deserve a big hug and a lot of respect.
"We'll take stock of everything next week but, for now, we're only focused on SPAL. First, we must do our duty and then we'll see."
Gattuso, whose contract runs through to 2021, is coming to the end of his first full season in charge and speculation continues to cloud his future at San Siro.
The former Italy midfielder hopes to continue in his "dream" job, adding: "Taking charge of this team was an honour and I would do it all again.
"I'm not one to make calculations, I'm spontaneous and I prefer it that way. There have been some stressful months since taking over at Milan, but I think I've improved a lot in terms of character. Perhaps I've committed some technical and tactical mistakes and I'll look to correct them. I was the first to raise the bar and we've done so. It's not been a negative season."