Pioli: “We made the game seem easier than it was, Theo has everything to be one of the best in the world, Leão must continue to be very ambitious”

Stefano Pioli during Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)

Stefano Pioli celebrated his 400th game in Serie A with a 3-0 win over Venezia.

Milan went to Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on Sunday with the intention of giving consistency to their good performance against Roma on Thursday, and they did.

The Rossoneri got on the scoresheet already after 2 minutes, when a Theo Hernández through ball sent Rafael Leão running; the Portuguese went inside the box and found Zlatan Ibrahimović for an easy goal to make it 1-0.

In the 48′ minute it was Leão who sent a great ball for Theo and the Frenchman ran all the way to score past Sergio Romero. In the 59′ minute Milan got a penalty (which also resulted in a red card for Michael Svoboda) and Theo stepped up to score his second.

Milan won the game 3-0 and they did it again without 11 players missing, due to COVID (5), injuries (3) and the Africa Cup of Nations (3).

“We see 2022 as the year of confirmation, that we are a competitive side,” Pioli told Sky. “We won’t hide the fact that there’s a step between being competitive and winning, but we’ll see over the course of the campaign if we manage to bridge that gap and therefore to be successful. It was only apparently an easy game, we made it seem easier than it was thanks to the right approach and determination.”

The squad celebrating at the end of Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

On the growth of some individuals: “We had an emergency period from November onwards, there was some fatigue because the injuries forced us to keep using the same players. We made the most of the Christmas break to recoup some energy and fitness levels. We are happy with these two wins, we have to go on like this.”

On the standings: “Our fans must be proud of how the team plays and of the spirit with which they take the field. We thanks them for their closeness, it’s a pity that there won’t be many of them in the next home games.”

On Tonali’s yellow card which makes him miss the next game: “It was a normal playing situation, we were aggressive and therefore it can happen; he got the timing of the tackle wrong. When you are one yellow away from a ban it happens sooner or later that you get a yellow card. It would’ve been sillier to get a yellow card for dissent, I tell him off for other things. Someone else will play against Spezia. Every game is worth three points, so if we want to stay at the top, we have to face everyone the same way and we are not thinking about Juventus or Inter.”

Sandro Tonali and Stefano Pioli during Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

On if it’s advantage to be out of Europe: “I always believe it’s better to be in Europe. We had a very difficult group, had managed to give ourselves a chance with a great victory away to Atletico Madrid, but made too many mistakes. It is true that you have more time each week to prepare for the games, but we would naturally prefer to be in Europe. Inter had an extraordinary second half of last season, but it wasn’t just because they were out of Europe, it takes more than that to put together 50 points in the second round of the season.”

On Milan’s awareness: “The awareness has come from all the experiences we’ve been having, both positive and negative. We’ve also seen younger players reach a level of maturity they didn’t have before. For example, Theo Hernández has more concentration, focus and maturity than he did a year ago. We are a young team but mentally we are more mature. There is still a long way to go in order to win. Allegri said Inter are clearly the favorites for the Scudetto, he was absolutely right, as we can only work on ourselves with this enthusiasm and intensity. The important thing about our style of football also is that the players enjoy themselves.”

The squad celebrating during Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

Speaking to MilanTV, Pioli said: “The team deserves a lot of credit for the way they approached the match. We’re fully aware of our situation and how a game can change by taking the lead or conceding a goal. We made this match easier than it would have been because we played as a team for the entire match.

On the performance: “We kept our level high for the entire 95 minutes, overcoming tricky moments in both games which are normal to encounter. We worked a lot and all together which is the most important thing, not forgetting our ideas and concepts of play, as well as our way of taking the field. We need to continue thinking about how to be dangerous and how to attack. When we’re out of possession, we need to work like crazy to win it back.”

On Kalulu and Gabbia: “Most of the time, if you don’t concede it’s because the entire team worked hard and was focused and doing that helps out the backline too. The defenders did very well, too, obviously but we must continue working with this focus and dedication because dangers are always around the corner.”

The squad celebrating during Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

Pioli also had an interview with DAZN: “I expect this kind of performance from my team, I know the attitude of my players. It wasn’t easy or obvious, but we showed great maturity and attention. It became an easy game because of us.”

On Theo: “I think Theo must have a clear objective. He has everything to be one of the best fullbacks in the world, when you have this option you don’t need to settle. And he is working with great attention and determination. He gives a really important contribution. I told him that he is already a very good player but it would be a pity if he would be satisfied. I told him he can become a Top Player.”

On Leão: “I don’t want to be repetitive but the same things that I expressed for Theo apply as well. He has to work to become a world-class player. He’s more lucid, he makes the right play in the right situation, and he is in the game. Before, on dead-balls he used to give away a few inches, but now he has a great sense of responsibility. It’s a part of the growth, a long one, but he is growing a lot and he must continue to be very ambitious. It takes a lot of time, work and sacrifice to get the best possible results.”

Rafael Leão during Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

On the designated penalty taker: “Today the penalty taker was Theo, it was right that he shot. Theo knows how to kick them, he also kicked a good penalty. He kicked well, a precise, strong shot. It’s good to have more options to be more effective.”

On this being his 400th match as a coach in Serie A: “I didn’t know that, it’s a lot. But you can see how many wrinkles I have [laughs]. It’s a satisfaction to have reached it with this club, which gives me so much support, it’s the ideal environment. The first game in Serie A? It was Torino-Parma, 1-1 in 2006… many years ago.”

The squad celebrating during Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

The Milan coach held a post-match press conference, saying: “It was a victory that the team sought with determination; I say attention and concentration.”

Great performance on the left for Theo and Leão…
“It’s an area of the pitch where we have a lot of quality, with Rebić too who will soon be in top condition. It’s clear that we have our characteristics and we try to exploit them. We created many scoring chances.”

Theo Hernández celebrating during Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

Milan are currently at the top of the table…
“The league is still long, there is a lack of recoveries… this was a tricky match, difficult, after spending so much against Roma. We won it with conviction. Now let’s think about the next game with this mentality.”

Will you recover someone for Genoa on Thursday?
“It depends on the swabs. We’ll also try to do well against Genoa.”

How do you rate Venezia’s performance?
“Venezia faced the match well, but it’s difficult to play against a team that takes the lead immediately and has great breakaways and great qualities.”

Stefano Pioli during Venezia-Milan at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo on January 9, 2022. (@acmilan.com)

400 matches in Serie A for you…
“I hope to make it double. I’m not that young anymore but inside I feel very young. I hope to go on and do it with this club that is putting me in the conditions to work at my best.”

Who do you see as the protagonists for the Scudetto?
“It’s still long. I think Inter are clearly favorites, then behind there are teams who can be there to the end.”

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Dare I say these players are now our fundaments – Maignan, Theo, Tomori, Calabria, Tonali, Bennacer, Leao with Ibra, Kjaer, Florenzi and Giroud as their tutors.


I’m glad you left out the mercenary Kessie. With Pobega returning and Adil joining we’re looking good for next year. I think both Botman and Faivre want to join but making it happen is another matter.


Indeed, I have high hopes for Pobega as well. I dream of seeing Tonali and Pobega partner in both Milan and Italy NT