Stefano Pioli has spoken ahead of the game against Fiorentina, as he returns to the place where he coached in a very emotional time, saying all of the focus is on the present and not on the future.
Milan face Fiorentina tomorrow at Stadio Artemio Franchi (20:45 CET kickoff) and they will have to get the three points in order to keep the momentum going and get closer to a place in Europe.
In the last 10 games, Milan won 6 games, drew 3 times and lost 1 time. Fiorentina, who Pioli knows very well from his time in Firenze, are in great form and they will prove to be a difficult opponent for Milan.
“The fact that there have been many statements from Fiorentina directors and players about me over the week and if the match in Firenze is particularly touching for me? Yes, of course,” Pioli said. “I think it’s perfectly normal considering what I’d experienced in Firenze. While I was coach of Fiorentina, a very, very tragic moment struck us, and I have a great relationship with all the people I worked with there, the entire club; because the tragedy of Davide Astori brought us all together. We wanted to turn the tragedy into something positive in honor of the example Davide was for all of us.
“The fact that we have a crucial match against Fiorentina on Saturday and then Milan Femminile have the same thing coming up on Sunday? First of all, I’d like to wish the greatest luck to the girls and to coach Ganz, I hope they finish the season in the best way possible. We will certainly be facing a tough game against a team that was built very well and has trained very well; they come off a great win so we need to be entirely determent and convinced in our own ability, we are in a good form and it’s another chance to prove it.
“If it’s been a special week for me and if I remember something Astori told me about his time at Milan? Well, aside from my tattoo, Davide is a part of me. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting him. And since he grew up here at Milan, I believe he’s happy that I took control of the club. I came out of the experience in Firenze as a better person and a better coach. We had to handle situations we were not ready for, that we couldn’t be ready for, so it was a brand new experience, one that very few had to deal with in football and one that I never had to deal with before. Certainly not something I would have wished to live, but I came out of it a better person.
“How is the team doing? Well, the players who will not be available are Duarte, Krunić, Biglia and Kjær. Everyone else is fit and it is right to point out that the team is in good shape mentally and physically. They are training very well and in most cases – when you train well, you play well – because the performance is built in training. We need to perform well, we need this game, and we need to win. We need to improve our position in the league. We know that 14 games are a lot but we are in a hurry to improve our position and to do well. There are many things that we still need to work on and build on and I expect to see a lot of attention in tomorrow’s game as well as a lot of determination and conviction. Fiorentina will force us to work very hard.
“Everything from the coach to the owners has changed at Fiorentina since I’ve been there? The new ownership has changed a lot, from the very mentality of the club and the city, they are more determinant, they are more confident and they are more enthusiastic now. The whole club will be on high following their last win so we’ll need to perform at Milan to win.
“If the rumours about the possible division within the club and the situation at the board level hurt and affect the team? Well, we just said the team is training very well which is absolutely true. The environment and atmosphere at the team level is very, very positive, we are very closely-knit, we are working very hard and it’s only through our presents that we can build our future. We can affect our performances and our results in the upcoming 14 games, anything above that we cannot affect. We don’t have the time or the ability to waste energy on such matters, there are so many things we must focus on, we must improve on, that we must dedicate ourselves solely to those.
“If this constant push from Ibrahimović in the dressing room part of the reason why the team has done so well recently? Of course, and that is how you become a Champion. With such a young team, you need examples of great ambition, great determination and desire to do things perfectly. I don’t know if you saw the statistics that came out today, but in the Top 5 leagues, we are the worst team at converting our chances. If we’d done better on that, it would’ve made a very big difference, we could have scored 11 goals more than we have. Ibra is a unique player because he has this hunger to always do better, to always improve, to always make things perfect. And he is helping us in that.
“If this Rebić is different to the one in Firenze? He’d only trained with me for 10 days, having already decided to move on so it’s all different. But Rebić must continue doing what he’s been doing in recent weeks, he has a lot more to give.
“The fact that people see me as the point of reference and that there’s a movement of people supporting me to be a long-term coach at Milan? Well, it’s always great to have your work recognized in a positive way. But the thing that I feel is most important, the thing I want us to do the most, is that the team is the point of reference. No coach can be confirmed regardless of the results, we work week by week, match by match to get the best results we can. In the end, whoever’s responsibility it is, will make the decision… But talking about future in football is a bit pointless, I don’t follow all the rumours and I can’t get dragged in into these discussions. We are fully focused on the present because the present shows us that we can be in charge of our own performance and our own destiny. We need to continue doing what we are doing and then see what happens.
“What is my rapport with Ibrahimović like considering I’ve been seen as a father figure for the players? We have absolute mutual respect, Ibra is a great professional. He often repeats that he is the player and I am the coach, so we have mutual respect and mutual trust, which is the most important thing. If the players don’t have trust and respect for the coach then you can’t go very far, so I have a great relationship with all my players.
“If Musacchio has recovered and the fact that some people say there was an incident and Musacchio refused to play against Torino? There was no case, no controversy. He had a problem with his thigh. Musacchio should have played against Torino in the Coppa but during warm-up, the morning of the game, he had an issue with his muscle, so I played Kjær. He also had a bit of an issue with his ankle on the other leg so it’s better to take it cautiously. If he had refused to come on then he wouldn’t have been called up for tomorrow’s game. He joined the team yesterday again and he will be available tomorrow.
“If I believe that it’s possible to improve on last season’s 5th place finish despite the 10-point gap from Atalanta? I think we have to win a lot of games from here to the end of the season. Where we finish the season, I can’t predict, I don’t know what our opponents will be able to do. We have Roma and Atalanta ahead of us, but there’s Napoli who are not many points behind us and then there are teams like Hellas and Parma who are performing very well this season. So I cannot answer that question, the objective is to get as high as we can and to continue building on our performances, which are showing us that we are reaching a high level. We are playing on a par with teams that are higher than us in the standings. Tomorrow’s game is crucial, we have to pick up points because when you are chasing you need to have the ambition to aim for perfection. In football that means to always win, so that’s what we’ve done, we’ve prepared to win tomorrow’s game knowing it will be a very hard-fought match in a very difficult stadium. It’s very, very difficult to win in Firenze but we are solely focused on that, and that is our objective for tomorrow. We can pick up a lot more points in the second round of the season than we did in the first half. If we work very well over the next eight games, we’ll have a chance at competing at the end of the season.
“If Çalhanoğlu is available and the fact that Kessié has improved over the last games? Hakan is fit, he had a slight injury which prevented him from playing last week but he’s trained since Tuesday and he will be available for tomorrow. And I feel it is right to point out how Kessié has developed and improved. He is performing as he should be performing and I think he needs to be tidier in the choices he makes in building play and that would lead to even better development.
“The fact that the players seem to be performing only when they become emotional and if there’s a secret behind my ability to get them motivated in this way? Well, I like the concept a lot and I think it’s correct and I think our fans feel it as well, they can sense the team’s desire to play, to do their better. I always ask my players to make sure they leave the field exhausted, no longer capable of even walking, because I don’t want them regretting that they could have done a bit more. And obviously we work on a daily basis to improve and create situations that we need to repeat in training. We must be aware that we are worthy of this club, we must prove it and that is the only way we can achieve great results. The secret I think is passion, passion is what makes you do things with more intensity and more attention because we do a wonderful job, but if you only do 9-5 you don’t go anywhere. We must focus on what we must do and give it everything we can, players play at the top level for 10-15 years and they can focus solely on doing well in that. It’s only after their careers that they can think on the rest of their life, so they must focus on eating well, training well and resting well. And if you do things with passion, you can achieve great results.
“The fact that Ibrahimović always demands 200% from himself and from others and if this is why he argued with Paquetá after the Torino game? The thing that was reported is not true, you can definitely motivate and encourage a teammate, but it’s pointless to go looking for incidents that don’t exist. The team is tightly-knit.”