Pioli: “My renewal is not the priority, we’ll talk about how to improve the team, we need a fourth striker, Kessié is the reference point for his teammates”

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Stefano Pioli during Milan-Cagliari at Stadio San Siro on May 16, 2021. (Spada LaPresse)

Stefano Pioli spoke to La Repubblica as he starts to think of next season, in which he’ll compete in the Champions League for the first time in his career.

Pioli led Milan to their best season in years, as the Rossoneri finished in second place in Serie A and finally managed to qualify for the Champions League.

The Diavolo are already planning for next year and one of the priorities is to tie the coach to a longer contract.

Stefano had an interview with La Repubblica today, which you can read in full here:

Stefano Pioli, stable in the cyclone of the benches: awaiting the renewal with Milan beyond 2022…
“It’s not the priority. With Maldini and Massara we will talk above all about how to improve the team.”

On August 26th, you will be at the Champions League draw after seven years…
“The Sleeping Beauty will awaken in her home: in the midst of the biggest clubs. Before Atalanta, I asked the guys: do you want to play again against Rio Ave, or is it time for Manchester City, PSG and Bayern Munich?”

Stefano Pioli and the players celebrating at the end of Atalanta-Milan at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on May 23, 2021. (Daniele Buffa)

Milan are 53rd in the UEFA rankings…
“It’s a bit strange to be the vice-Champions of Italy and be placed in the fourth pot. But we want to grow: facing the strongest teams helps, it will have to be the year of our confirmation.”

Do you feel like a magician, an exorcist or a cyclist with the sprint to the photo finish?
“I’m just lucky to work in this club and with this group. I would have liked to retract the Giro d’Italia of my idol Gianni Bugno – in the pink shirt from the first stage to the last. But the drop was normal. We never had any doubts about our principles of play, working on details.”

Stefano Pioli celebrating at the end of Atalanta-Milan at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on May 23, 2021. (Daniele Buffa)

You seemed too unbalanced…
“The system is much more fluid than the formations say: we often change the construction of play to obtain numerical superiority. Preparing the match, with the players always involved, is the best thing for me. The adjustments are learned.”

Like on the decisive night?
“When we were going at a thousand miles per hour, we could attack the opponents up to their area. Against Atalanta we avoided defending in a numerical tie, with humility.”

Stefano Pioli and the squad before Milan-Cagliari at Stadio San Siro on May 16, 2021. (FCI Fabrizio Carabelli)

You said: I cannot imagine Milan without Donnarumma…
“He’s an exemplary professional, focused on the field. Then a negotiation may work out or not. We spoke and thanked each other, it is a sincere relationship. I wished him well in the EUROs.”

Maldini says: forget about Berlusconi’s mercato, you have to be creative…
“My directors have already shown their creativity. Apart from Ibra, on had I had obviously expressed a positive opinion, I’m thinking of Kjær and Saelemaekers, of Tomori who I did not know, expect for a short clip. Whatever the budget will be, the name Milan continues to be an attraction. The important thing is to have built a foundation of 10-12 players worthy of a top team, like Theo Hernández, Kjær, Kessié, Calabria, Çalhanoğlu and Ibrahimović. Now we have to improve the group: confirmation is the most difficult thing.”

Do you fear similarities with your second year at Lazio, when you fell in the Champions League play-offs?
“I’ve already passed the second year here, at that time I didn’t face some group dynamics head-on. From there I stopped mediating, at the cost of unpopular decisions.”

Stefano Pioli and Zlatan Ibrahimović before Atalanta-Milan at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on May 23, 2021. (Spada LaPresse)

Did the 2-0 win Bergamo close the cycle of the 0-5 in 2019?
“Big disappointments help you grow. That difficult Christmas gave us the cue to change the system of play, take Ibra and make a targeted mercato of exists.”

Ibra played half of the matches…
“I’m sorry for Mandžukić’s injuries, he was chosen to alternate with him without dropping the level. Zlatan will not be able to play them all. He knows when to force it: the relationship is sincere. The Champions League is less happy than the Europa League on Thursdays. But we need a fourth striker.”

Mature names or a young line?
“If in the top 5 leagues we are the youngest team among the top sides then it’s because we have shown maturity. Which is not a question of age, but of attitude. In modern football you need players with two qualities: intelligence and the ability to accelerate. Before, Milan was one step ahead, today we need to hold up one-on-one in the open field.”

Stefano Pioli during Torino-Milan at Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino on May 12, 2021. (Matteo Bottanelli)

Box to box football?
“The ‘better not be heavily-defeated’ era is over. Abroad, you prepare the match to enhance your own qualities.”

Is Kessié the new leader?
“We have more than one, Kjær is one too. Franck is the reference point for his teammates when they’re struggling. Until a minute before training he is there dancing and it seems that he doesn’t care, and then he’s an example for everyone.”

Stefano Pioli and Franck Kessié celebrating at the end of Juventus-Milan at Juventus Stadium on May 9, 2021. (Spada LaPresse)

How long to return to the top of Europe?
“Milan must get back there. The only regret is the elimination against Manchester United: the Kessié goal annulled and the return leg without Ibra, Rebić and Leão. It is said that the Italians lack pace and intensity, but we never experienced difficulties in Europe. However, from here to thinking we can play against Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Manchester City… there is a path of growth, made up of years in the Champions League.”

Is the top of Italy closer?
“One step at a team. Inter too years and investments, Juventus will be among the favorites again. We must not lose determination and enthusiasm.”

The Serie A podium is all Lombards…
“Milano is at the center of everything, it drives the economy. It’s right that it’s back on top. Our ownership supports and protects us. Atalanta is a very strong club and they support Gasperini, who’s a great coach.”

But they were excluded from the Super League…
“Meritocracy is the basis of sport, but UEFA and FIFA must ask themselves why such important clubs have thought about splitting. It means that the system has failed.”

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus risk the Champions League…
“To me, it seems inevitable to have a table of the components or European football; to develop the product conversations and changes are needed.”

Stefano Pioli celebrating during Juventus-Milan at Juventus Stadium on May 9, 2021. (Matteo Gribaudi)

Meanwhile, the fans are returning…
“End of a nightmare. I think of what we missed in the empty stadiums of Celtic, Red Star and Man United, and of the warmth of the fans at Milanello, before Bergamo. With the fans at San Siro, we wouldn’t have had to wait until the last Matchday to qualify.”

And the glaring differences in the home-away performances, which are virtual concepts behind closed doors?
“We never lacked control of the game, but at home we have very negative data in the one-on-one offense: we don’t have many players who take on their opponents.”

Is it fair to keep the five substitutions?
“Yes, with 23 players on the squad it’s not good that 8-9 feel extraneous to the game.”

Shevchenko suggests evaluating only chest and knees for offside…
“In fact, the millimetrico offside puts me in difficulty, I also struggle with the replay.”

Stefano Pioli during Milan-Cagliari at Stadio San Siro on May 16, 2021. (Spada LaPresse)

VAR and penalties: the accusations against Milan for the 20 penalties in favor?
“They don’t affect me: we deserved more. The VAR system should go back to its basics: intervening in the event of an obvious error by the referee. And then you just need to trust the freeze image: on the momentum, you can always see a contact in the picture, but football is not static. I would also like to make a suggestion to designator Rizzoli, whom I respect: fixed referee-VAR pairs, who alternate in the two roles to refine the same way of referring. Today they change all the time and often you notice little symbiosis.”

On August 26th, 2015, Leverkusen eliminated your Lazio from the Champions League: will there now be compensation?
“It will be my first Champions League. It’s a continuous growth: the passion allows me to be curious and willing to improve. I feel complete. But I want to test myself against the greatest coaches.”

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Deku
Deku
19 days ago

Grande Mister! Forza Milan!

Milan10
Milan10
19 days ago

remember when i said years ago that a serious team needs 4 st no matter the formation? i even mentioned the examples: milan had san marco, papin, massaro and simone, man utd had yorke, cole, sheringham and solskjaer, madrid had morientes, raul, suker and mijatovic. apparently pioli finally gets it now. shame he didnt understand it way earlier otherwise andriy “the giant” silva could’ve stayed. ah well, ditching 4-3-3, playing kessie and hakan as dm and am respectively rather than attacking cm and lw, relying on complete st like ibra as lone st instead of classic #9 piatek, and now… Read more »

Ac milan
Ac milan
19 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

I also want Silva to come back. Tbh, Rebic did well for us too. I just wish we still have Locateli.

Milan10
Milan10
19 days ago
Reply to  Ac milan

correctamundo mate. andriy, paquelme, loca, cristante, hell even kucka, gomez and petagna would make milan much stronger.

Nesta1
Nesta1
19 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

I could never understand why we let kucka go, strong bk up off bench and always gave 100 % and could score as well.

Milan10
Milan10
19 days ago
Reply to  Nesta1

correctamundo mate. that guy can play as dm, cm, am and even ss at parma. he has heart and is much more reliable reserve than krunic. another disasterclass by fassobelli + morontella legendary combo

Nesta1
Nesta1
18 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

Agreed

AC Milan
AC Milan
18 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

At one point we had Luca ocampos, he is worth 45mil mil now.

Last edited 18 days ago by AC Milan
Milan10
Milan10
18 days ago
Reply to  AC Milan

yeah he does well with sevilla, the collector of milan’s garbage. and seeing as how frankfurt sold jovic to madrid for 60m, andriy silva is at the very least worth 50m now. as is donna. 30-40m for paquelme. see, this is why i said milan were being unmilan10ian when they let these young gems go way too easily

Mario
Mario
19 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

Urm, silva left when giampaolo was still our coach. Pioli had nothing to do with his departure

Milan10
Milan10
19 days ago
Reply to  Mario

uhm, WRONG. andriy left on 2 yr DRY LOAN deal during giamfanculo’s reign, with rebic coming from frankfurt, meaning he WAS still milan player when he left. both of them then did so well at their respective clubs that milan wanted to redeem rebic after he had just finished his 1st year with milan. so, during 2020/21 preseason (pioli was already milan’s coach), frankfurt asked for 25-40m (depends on ur sources) but milan basically offered andriy – rebic straight swap deal, basically as simple FU to fiorentina who co own rebic. i know the double deal was not that simple… Read more »

Elliotazzuri
Elliotazzuri
19 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

Is pioli in charge of transfer activity

Milan10
Milan10
19 days ago
Reply to  Elliotazzuri

are u seriously asking me if a head coach of pro sport team has influence on his own team’s activities in mercato? i know the uninitiated are mostly allergic to books but i still have faith in u mate; i suggest u to read ‘moneyball’ to find out for urself how influential and revolutional billy beane was.

JaRossoneri
JaRossoneri
18 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

I respectfully disagree.

Silva, at the time, was lost at Milan. This move benefited his career. Only thing we could have done differently was a loan or buy back clause, in which case we might not have Ante.

We would not be where we are without Rebic. Theo /Rebic on the left is a problem for every Serie A defence. Plus he brings a toughness that Andre will never bring. Even Ibra respects Ante’s toughness.

Milan10
Milan10
18 days ago
Reply to  JaRossoneri

then ur respectfully wrong mate. andriy wasnt given enough chance to prove himself. ffs even simone, gilardino, ganz, niang and now leao were given way more chances than him to shine. let’s make it very simple for u: milan could’ve gotten both andriy and rebic (imagine how strong milan would’ve been last season) had they had common milan10ian sense to cough up mere 25m to redeem rebic. 25m down the drain but they’d have andriy and rebic, both easily worth 40m now. but now its too late. yes milan has rebic but they hypothetically lost potential profit of 40-50m from… Read more »

Nesta1
Nesta1
18 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

I thought we got it wrong selling silva, especially when cr7 was saying how good he was. I know he was used in exchange but as u say we could have bought rebic outright and kept silva cos boy did we need a striker with zlatan injured this season. Hindsight is a wonderful thing I know, does silva play lone striker or as a 2 up front?not sure why he struggled with us.

Rossi
Rossi
18 days ago
Reply to  Nesta1

He didnt really strugled, he just wasnt given the playing time since Cutrone was a youngster as well plus Italian, so yea Cutrone was given the playing time. Just wrong time in the wrong place for Silva. He scored like 8goals in the EL when we played him in the group stage.

Nathan Graegin
Nathan Graegin
17 days ago
Reply to  Rossi

Cutrone was given time bc he was scoring with his chances while Silva wasn’t. Silva was given more than enough chances to prove himself. I wish we played him and cutrone together but in the end, we lost both of them. I’m glad Silva left bc now his career got back on track. He would struggle in our system with the players we have at atm and rw.

JaRossoneri
JaRossoneri
19 days ago

I see you Tommaso !

What else could this kid possibly do to earn a roster spot ?

Tonali/Pobega behind Kessie/Bennacer.

Ac milan
Ac milan
19 days ago
Reply to  JaRossoneri

Pobega’s problem is that his agent is Mino.

Deku
Deku
19 days ago
Reply to  Ac milan

no he’s not. check your facts sir.

“https://www.transfermarkt.com/patrick-bastianelli/beraterfirma/berater/2246”

AC Milan
AC Milan
18 days ago
Reply to  Deku

Thank you for the correction, I saw someone made a post that Mino is his agent.

Rossi
Rossi
18 days ago
Reply to  JaRossoneri

Little known fact Pobega scored against Juve, Napoli and Roma. He won a penalty against Napoli as well. All of this and Spezia didnt even played him that much. If i compare him to Locateli and Cristiante, other two simmilar players that we let go, Pobega seems like the most talented of them all. He is physicly strongest, two footed, good passer and has an eye for goal. 6goals and 3assists are great stats for someone with such a limited playing time and young age.

Nathan Graegin
Nathan Graegin
17 days ago
Reply to  Rossi

Those qualities don’t matter apparently. Only the fact we can sell him for 15 mil is all that matters. We keep saying we need back ups but we have brecianini, pobega, gabbia, kalulu all more than capable of stepping in. Gabbia for sure since kjaer will get injured again. Gabbia stepped in and stayed until he got hurt near December. Let’s not forget that

Ac milan
Ac milan
19 days ago

Milan Scout team, please check: Pedro de la Vega and Reiss Nelson. Both are worth 11mil now.

Last edited 19 days ago by Ac milan
Oluwashevy
19 days ago

Well a good mercato can save us in any competition we are Milan and we need to dominate very well Europe most especially to represent Italy well

Suracho
Suracho
19 days ago

I HAVE DETECTED SOME FIGHTS ON THIS SUB WHICH I WILL NOT TOLERATE AT ALL. I CANNOT SEE TWO MILANISTAS FIGHTING WITH EACH OTHER. IF SOMEONE WANTS TO ACT TOUGH, MY REPLIES ARE OPEN, BULLYING WONT BE TOLERATED ON THIS BLOG ON MY WATCH. RESPECT OTHER MILANISTAS AND THEIR OPINIONS OR ELSE YOU WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH ME.
YOU ARE WARNED.

Serpent of modinna
Serpent of modinna
19 days ago
Reply to  Suracho

Who are you

Milan10
Milan10
19 days ago

this blog’s legit veteran and the wisest, an author of legendary ‘suracho analysis’ series. who are YOU?

Serpent of modinna
Serpent of modinna
19 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

I don’t care what he says or who he is, this is the 21st century we all have freedom of speech and nobody can take that away from us, i refuse to be intemidated so stay out of my way (suracho)

Last edited 19 days ago by Serpent of modinna
TruRossoneri
TruRossoneri
18 days ago

Shouldn’t you be using a spell checker in the 21st century? WTH is “intemidated”?

Suracho
Suracho
18 days ago
Reply to  Milan10

THANKS MILAN10, OF COURSE YOU ARE ONE OF MY FAVOURITES OVER HERE. YOU MAY HAVE DIFFERENT OPINION THAN OTHER’S SOMETIMES BUT I HAVE NEVER SEEN YOU ATTACK ANYONE PERSONALLY. YOU MAY MOCK SOMEONE SOMETIMES OVER HERE BUT YOU HAVE YOUR OWN STYLE AND I FIND IT VERY HILARIOUS AND WE ALL CAN PROMOTE DEBATES ON THIS BLOG AS LONG AS THEY SET A LIGHT MOOD UP HERE. THE OTHER BABY WHO HAS REPLIED TO MY THIS COMMENT, HE CAN CRY AS MUCH AS HE WANTS, HE DOES NOT DESERVES SURACHO’S PRECIOUS TIME. HE CAN REPLY AS MUCH AS HE WANTS… Read more »

Last edited 18 days ago by Milanshaarawy123
Serpent of modinna
Serpent of modinna
18 days ago
Reply to  Suracho

Are you referring to me, am not your mate FUCK YOU!

calm down
calm down
19 days ago

I would’ve loved to see us sign Douglas Costa. Such a dangerous attacker and exciting to watch . But he’s gone back to Brazil. Shame Now I don’t know any other rw or let’s say any winger who’s as good, experienced and as affordable. Pioli said that Milan’s records has shown a shortage of action of his players taking opponents on one-on-one. Well that’s exactly what Costa did provide and more with his deadly left foot. Don’t know why Milan didn’t sign him.

calm down
calm down
19 days ago

Now moving on to possibilities. After Maignan I’d retain all the players who were on loan (Tomori, Dalot, Tonali, Meite, Diaz) either buy or loan for another season with option to buy.. With that the squad will have the advantage of more continuity.. Besides almost all those players have at least had a good run of form/adoption in the closing stage. So unless they will be replaced with top players which is not likely to happen, I’d keep them all and add 3 new top signings. I don’t want a summer of radical changes with the same quality. I’d get… Read more »

SJF
SJF
18 days ago
Reply to  calm down

I think your right. It’s also better not to change too many players as it upsets the balance.
A solid investment in a RW, AM and striker and we will be a lot stronger.
I hope we keep Hauge, Kalulu and Gabbia also.
Think Pobega would be a great asset to have back too

Nathan Graegin
Nathan Graegin
18 days ago
Reply to  SJF

I don’t think this is going to happen my guy. We will get giroud, and prob adil. I really don’t think we will get de Paul. Athletico Madrid will make it very difficult for us to get him. I keep seeing Milan are trying to use gabbia and hauge in make way deals. This is incredibly stupid considering gabbia was fantastic when filling in for injuries and I belive he should be starting with tomori. We all know hauge should stay and at least be tried in practice as a cam since he’s not getting time on the left. Could… Read more »

Nino
Nino
17 days ago
Reply to  Nathan Graegin

“Gabbia should be starting with Tomori”? You’re serious?

Do you understand leadership on the field? Do you understand why Baresi, Nesta, Maldini, Costacuta all played so long at the heart of Milan’s defence?

So you think Kjaer should stop playing? Obviously you don’t know what the central pairing is all about one bit. Gabbia will grow hopefully and his time will come. But to date him ahead of Simon Kjaer – which is what you’ve done – is gross misunderstanding of football.

Nathan Graegin
Nathan Graegin
17 days ago
Reply to  Nino

My guy chill the fuck out. You seem to have forgotten how good gabbia was when he stepped in at the of last year and stayed in until he got hurt, which was right around the time Roman came back. He was very solid and would be fantastic with tomori. It’s my opinion my guy, if you don’t like it then cool, but damn you came at me like a little boy. All those guys you named didn’t start playing when they were in their 30s. They showed long before then they had the maturity to lead. I see the… Read more »

Nino
Nino
17 days ago
Reply to  Nathan Graegin

You’re apparently drunk on your own piss. Gabbia needed to have Kjaer right beside him at the moment he replaced Romagnoli. Imagine a Gabbia and Mussachio pairing – that was the only other choice available last season.

One season is not enough for Gabbia and he can’t command the backline. Tomori as good as he is, still needs Kjaer. That’s what leadership and learning is about. No one us saying Gabbia should be sold.

But a Tomori‐Gabbia is futuristic. Now, you have Kjaer.

Nesta1
Nesta1
19 days ago

Keeper, tonali, tomori and giroud pretty much done I’d say. That’s champions league money gone, so leaves a right winger, midfielder, striker and probably a left bk to sign. We probably going to keep diaz on loan, hakan leaves. Striker 40 mill, mid 20 mill, winger, 20 mill, left bk 15 mill. That’s close to 100 Mill still needed, I just don’t see it guys. Not many clubs want loan deals cos of covid and skint, they want straight cash deal. I hope Elliott backs us because next season crucial as well, just don’t see that amount being made available.… Read more »

Ac milan
Ac milan
18 days ago
Reply to  Nesta1

I think Elliott’s next year target is top 4. It will target to spend the money wisely.

Nathan Graegin
Nathan Graegin
18 days ago
Reply to  Nesta1

Prob is 20 mil for a mid and rw won’t get us a player that’s ready for ucl. Honestly I’d keep Laxalt this year as lb back up, we don’t need a rb since we have Kalulu, and gabbia is more than ready at cb. If we spend, we need to go 30/35 mil. Just those 3 would be 100 mil but it’s seriously needed. I get they don’t want to over spend but we barely, and I mean fucking barely made it to the top 4. Only player I see under those amounts is daka at 20 mil. Not… Read more »

dejan10
dejan10
19 days ago

Pioli in.

Ted
Ted
18 days ago

So 40 millions from CL qualification are more or less gone (Maignan, Tomori, Tonali) and we still need ST, RW, AM and backups to RB, LB and DM. Sales of Castillejo, Conti, Laxalt won’t bring in much. Maybe something from salaries of those two putas Dollaruma and Hakan and a sacrifice in shape of… Romagnoli? We need to strengthen this team cause we play on several fronts coming next season.

Nathan Graegin
Nathan Graegin
18 days ago
Reply to  Ted

Yup. I get they don’t want to over spend but I don’t think they are taking this seriously again. We need real back up. We need a rw that’s fast and can score and assist. Ikone is the cheapest best option there is at 30 mil. Atm will be another headache bc Athletico Madrid are going for de Paul to. Cf, we missed brobbey but there’s daka at 20 mil. Maybe isak or en neysiri(can’t spell his name) we may need to keep Laxalt as back up lb and use kalulu more on rb

Oluwashevy
18 days ago

Can’t imagine we didn’t cash out from Donna and Hakan that would have been a big boost in this mercato I feel the management didn’t see this coming Donna would betray but I feel there should learn from this now beside romagnoli as a year with his contract either there cash him now or renew to sell for future purposes rather than letting him go for free.

Serpent of modinna
Serpent of modinna
18 days ago
Reply to  Oluwashevy

They should do the same also for kessie and Calabria before the season starts their contract need to be renew

Rossi
Rossi
18 days ago

We should focus on the main position that needs strenghtening and that is the RW. Without that i dont see a top 4 finnish next year. Ikone should be the priority or maybe Berardi if we cant get Ikone, but Berardi will cost more for sure knowing the italian market lol. Anthony from Ajax is a good option too, no matter a real upgrade is needed for the RW if we want to improve the team. As for the AM it could be replaced more easily with Tonali or even Hauge being tried in that position. Bring Papu Gomez as… Read more »

Last edited 18 days ago by Rossi
Nathan Graegin
Nathan Graegin
18 days ago
Reply to  Rossi

Yup, you are correct. Thing is we should keep Laxalt and use him and kalulu as lb and rb. Ikone for sure but knowing this management, we will only get adil. We can also get daka, he’s only 20’mil and a goal machine from Salzburg. Like you said use hauge and tonali in that position. Don’t forget we have maldini that pioli seriously needs to try and improve. The guy is ass at developing players so far.