Stefano Pioli was pleased after the last game of the season, but said Milan have a 12-point gap to close next season and hinted at midfield signings.
Milan finished the 2019/20 season on a high, beating Cagliari 3-0 at Stadio San Siro. Pioli’s boys are the only side in Italy to not lose a single game and are also the team that scored the most goals in Europa after the Coronavirus lockdown.
The Rossoneri are now off to a short break, before returning to the pitch on September 19 for the Europa League second qualifying round.
“42 points in the second round? The guys have been exceptional, the second half of the season was fantastic with excellent performances any way you look at them,” Pioli told MilanTV after the match. “I’ve told the players that, aside from the positive results, I believe the most important thing is we’ve created a mind-set. The way we seize the field, the way we think and play matches. That is the foundation upon which we must build our future, one that will hopefully be more satisfying than what we’ve managed this year.
“Our offensive production? We’re confident in our abilities, but you need quality too. Our results show that we have what’s needed and we can be proud of how we finished the season, we deserved to finish well although we had hoped to avoid the Europa League qualifiers but we’ll face them with great conviction and determination. However, despite our great second half of the season, we finished 12 points from fourth place. That is the gap we need to focus on closing next season.
“Ibra? Don’t tell him that he’s the oldest player to score 10 goals in one Serie A season… I think it’s clear to all that Zlatan is a Champion, he’s a Champion in everything he does. He certainly made an enormous contribution, all his teammates have improved through their hard work and the team’s development. Our improvement has been in step with the work we’ve done, we improved individually and as a team, we have a clear philosophy of play. Now the guys will get their well-deserved rest, even though it won’t be very long, they’ll soon have to start training as they did during the lock-down when they were at home, because we’ll be playing the qualifiers in 45-46 days’ time.
“What can be improved? There are certainly a lot of things we can improve on, I’m focused on solidifying what we’ve done this season but also improving on it. There are a lot of gameplay situations we can improve on, there were a lot of good performances that could become excellent. Working together means getting to know each other better, it leads to having the same ideas and the same methodology and desire to be together. This team needs to improve because I doubt we’ll be happy finishing 6th next season as well.
“The goal for next season? Our objective is to improve and grow and be aware we’re at a great club. We can’t wait to be reunited with our fans, and we’ll play every game confident in the knowledge we can win them.”
Speaking to Sky, Pioli added: “It’s right to conclude like this for the work and efforts we have made. We’ve been doing well since January, 41 points means we’ve reached very high levels. There’s a lot of satisfaction for what we’ve done, but now we have to look ahead and start from scratch, because we still finished the league 12 points away from fourth in the standings. We have to improve further.”
The coach also held a post-match press conference: “What do I make of this season and what will Milan have to bring with them to the next one? The balance sheet is a very positive one, we need to start from our mentality and from our desire and conviction.
“Who has grown the most since Ibrahimović’s arrival? Everyone. The arrivals of Ibra and Kjær have raised the level of the team, but not only. A great job has been done by everyone.
“What did Bonaventura, who we saw cry in the middle of the pitch at the end of the game, mean for me and for Milan? Jack is a very important player, a great professional who is very attached to the work and to Milan. I thank him for what he’s done.
“What characteristics should the substitutes of Bennacer and Kessié have? It’s clear that evaluations have been made and will be made. The midfield department cannot be made up of only two starters, but rather of four. 22 starters will be needed, it will be necessary to raise the level of the whole squad.
“If making Leão explode one of the most fascinating challenges that await you? Yes, I really think so. We are talking about a talent, an important potential that must and can be definitely unlocked.
“If I expected a league campaign like this? Yes, I expected it because I believe in my work.”