Stefano Pioli has given a long interview to il Corriere della Sera, discussing Zlatan, how he motivates the squad, what Paquetá needs to do and more…
2019 ended for Milan in the worst way possible as they were humiliated 5-0 by Atalanta away from home. Tonight, the decade turns, and the Rossoneri fans will certainly hope that the 20’s will be much better for the Diavolo than the 10’s.
The coach leading Milan into the new decade is Stefano Pioli. The coach gave an interview to il Corriere della Sera’s Arianna Ravelli, who described him as a ‘very good guy’. But Pioli doesn’t like that nickname – “It is like when I ask what a player is like and they say ‘he is a good guy’ – it means that he is poor. Being a good person should be normal, but I’m here to coach.”
Everything can be said except that Zlatan Ibrahimović is a good guy, do you agree?
“Ibra is a warrior, a leader, a charismatic player who has a great sense of responsibility and a great desire to win. He will stimulate the whole team and his contribution will be fundamental.”
Is the personality aspect where your Milan has shown the biggest gaps?
“Being the youngest team in the league, we have found some limitation in terms of competitive nastiness. Ibra is the kind of player, as a person and as a leader, who can help us fill it. I thank the owners. Gazidis, Maldini, Boban and Massara have worked hard during the holidays.”
And from a technical-tactical point of view, what can he give?
“He can do everything, he knows how to send his teammates on goal, he knows how to fill the penalty area well, and he knows how to be the point of reference for our offensive phase. I spoke to him on the phone, he’s fired-up, and he can’t wait to train with us, just like I can’t wait to have him.”
What did he say on the phone?
“I welcomed him, he informed himself of the conditions of the team, of the next training sessions, of the next situations to face. He told me: ‘Coach, do not worry, I am fine’.”
You have to overcome the beating of Bergamo. How do you do it?
“With the desire for redemption, because we finished 2019 in the worst possible way. Ibra gives us all the more reason to be positive.”
Another label that you don’t like is that of a ‘normalizer’, what’s wrong with it?
“It’s the concept of putting a label that I don’t like. I’m described as more detached than what I am, I’m much more passionate, and I’m alive with emotions, with enthusiasm. But sometimes it seems to be that education and respect are confused with a lack of personality, or that to be a good coach you have to be arrogant.”
If you look at your 2019, what are you most satisfied with?
“About how I was welcomed here, about the availability of the players. How I feel involved. I arrived the week of the international break, there were very few players here. When it was time to debut against Lecce, it seemed to be that I’d been here for a long time.”
But what is the urgency to face in 2020?
“We must become more concrete. We are forced to play a game too great to win, we are one of the team that takes its opportunities created the least. It’s a big limit, we dropped 3-4 points for this.”
Is that a concept that ended up in one of your [Helenio] Herrera-style signs? Can you explain them better?
“One of the most important things is to motivate, to stimulate the team. Since the first days of the week, I’ve been trying to throw anchors, lifebelts to help me get the motivation to the maximum in the final days of the week.”
In what sense lifebelts?
“I do like Hop-o’-My-Thumb: if every day I throw a principle, a concept, a slogan, a photo, a declaration by an opponent or by one of my players, at the end of the week it’s easier to remind the players of what I’m pressing them to do.”
At Milanello you hung up the standings, and then what?
“The stimuli are different from week to week. It can be a summary of our last performance, one of characteristics or one of the opponents. Even a statement, which can make me angry. I read the interviews of great coaches, I often use coaches from other disciplines, especially volleyball and basketball, and I find that they have great communication skills. Now Ettore Messina has arrived in Milano, I hope to meet him. In the past I took many ideas from Julio Velasco.”
Speaking of coaches, have you read Sconcerti’s interview with Allegri? Do you agree that the schemes are of little importance and that the coach is the one who ‘watches’ the game and who must not do too much damage?
“I completely agree halfway with Allegri. It’s true that the great coach is the one who knows how to read the game, who manages to intervene with the right changes or directives, and that the quality players are the ones who make you win. But I think that the preparation for the game, on a technical-tactical level and on a motivational level is just as important.”
What about technology? You keep a tablet on your nightstand…
“To write down something that comes to mind and I risk forgetting! Technology is useful, I think of video analysts. But I think that the use of the staff that has changed the job. I have 11 people. So I can concentrate more on managing the team, even the invisible ones – from the sanitary staff to the warehousemen. On Thursday there is a discussion, because there are many choices to make – defensive phase, offensive phase, dead balls…”
So it’s no longer true that the coach is one man?
“He’s alone in defeats. And it’s also right, as it happens to those who have a responsibility and have to live with the weight of their choices. It’s clear that the results remain decisive, but I think I’ve acquired the balance to be able to admit if I made the wrong choices beyond the result. Sometimes I recognize my mistakes even after wins.”
Would you like to lead a long-term project?
“Yes, very much. My longest experience was in Bologna for two and a half years. I’d like to coach a team for 4-5 years, because there’s so much to create in terms of spirit and culture. You can’t do without results, but I think the biggest difficulty is assessing the objectives at the beginning of the year, because if you think your team is better than it is then it becomes difficult to reach the objectives and consequently keep the coach. The lucky coach is the one who goes to a club that has a realistic judgment of the team’s objective.”
And did Milan ask you for realistic objectives? They started with the Champions League…
“The club asked me to do my best to achieve the highest possible objectives. They didn’t necessarily ask me for the Champions League, but to take advantage of the players available, being aware of having a team with quality.”
To do this, you must make the most of who you have: where does Paquetá have to play and what does he lack?
“There’s no doubt about it, he’s a mezz’ala. He works with commitment and generosity, but he has to become more determinant. That means he has to either score goals or create them.”
With Ibra’s arrival, Piątek, if he remains, is not likely to get depressed?
“If you play for Milan and a quality player arrives then you must be stimulated and happy. The more there are, the better your chances of winning.”
Also at Inter you arrived in the middle of the season: differences between the two experiences?
“Inter are a much more experienced team, with defined dynamics, therefore even more difficult to change. Here I found a younger, more open, team. I would say more ‘malleable‘.”
What do you do in your spare time?
“My typical evening would be cinema and then pizza. I just saw The Irishman, I loved it. Now I watch the TV series Peaky Blinders.”
Let’s close with a wish to the Milan fans and to yourself…
“To live together a better 2020. And who knows if my long cycle won’t be born here…”