Pioli: “I want to be happy and to coach happy players, Maignan a leader, different characteristics can give a team more unpredictability, Pulisic…”

Stefano Pioli during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Stefano Pioli spoke to Sky Italia before Milan’s trip to the United States as pre-season shifts into a new gear.

A new season starts in a month for Milan and today the squad got on a plane to fly to the United States for a training camp and three friendlies, against Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona.

A new Rossoneri is being built, as many new faces have already joined the squad, while others are no longer at Milanello – from Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara to Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Ahead of the USA Tour, coach Pioli sat down for an interview with Sky Italia:

What adjective would you like to attach to the Milan of 2023/24?
“A happy Milan. I have an objective and I’ve told everyone: to be happy and to coach happy players. Happy to play together and to play a certain kind of football. And happy to wear such a prestigious jersey. There is enthusiasm and excitement, as is normal at the beginning of the season. We are Milan and the 2023/24 season will have to be important. We are approaching the year with changes, but I see everyone motivated.”

The emotions of the Scudetto and the Champions League dream…
“Winning a Scudetto is very difficult and very beautiful, it gives you an idea of the work you’ve done during the year. Winning the Champions League would be something exceptional, but it also takes some luck. I think that there are more merits to winning a league, and that many other situations are also needed for the Champions League.”

Stefano Pioli during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

What will Milan be like without Ibra, and who are the leaders today?
“Ibra was the pack leader of this team. And there is no one who can take his place. If I had to name one player who is a leader, then it’s Mike Maignan. He has a mentality, a determination and an obsession with being the best that can be contagious. He is a point of reference.”

What do you expect from Leão?
“For what he is showing, on the pitch and in attitude, I expect further growth from him. He still has room for improvement, although he is already at a very high level.”

Stefano Pioli and Tijjani Reijnders at Casa Milan. (@acmilan.com)

Thoughts on Loftus-Cheek?
“He is a strong player. He combines physicality and quality, he likes to make inserting runs [into the penalty box]. I would like to see him consistently in the opponent’s penalty box. Based on the characteristics, we will try to develop a proactive playing style with more offensive players and be able to find the winning play; that is someone that perhaps we lacked in the past in some tactically-complicated matches.”

“He is a quality player, he moves well, he is intelligent and he can give the right solutions to his teammate when in possession of the ball. He can also be dangerous in the offensive department. He has shooting and knows how to play vertically. He knows how to link the play, send on goal and he also has goals in his own legs.”

“He is a player. And when I say that, I mean he is someone who can do the right things at the right time. And when you have someone like him at your disposal, things become easier. He can play in various roles. He is certainly intelligent and can skip his man, both in 1v1, in give-and-go, and in inserting runs. He is a player of level and he is different from his teammates. I continue to believe that different characteristics, in a well-defined play system, can give a team more unpredictability.”

Stefano Pioli during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

What midfield is taking shape in the transfer market?
“In the midfield department we were looking for new names, new positions and new characteristics. The arrival of Loftus-Cheek and Reijnders complete it. We believe we have embarked on a path of quality players, with better management of the ball and attacking situations. All this to be an even more offensive and dominant team. In the attacking half of the pitch I would like players capable of making the right choices at the right time, something that wasn’t always successful.”

Milan have restarted without Maldini and Massara…
“The club has decided to turn the page, but history is not forgotten. We know what we did together, we know the path the brought us to certain levels. All the people who have worked with us have made a contribution. They have been very present, positive and important. Clearly now another situation has been created, there are different people and I see in them great enthusiasm and the will to do things well. We all want to do the best possible job every day.

Stefano Pioli during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

What is the connection with the fans like?
“When we had difficult times, they showed that they are a unique, special and fantastic fan base. There was a time when it was difficult to stand by us, but they did, with passion and incredible trust.”

Can the 4-3-3 be a change towards the upcoming season?
“The 4-3-3 can be a change, yes, but a lot will depend on the knowledge we will have on the pitch, or if other players arrive. We’ll also use other formations, but we are already used to changing within the same game. It will take great spirit and time, as new players are coming in, albeit already mature. They know how to be on the pitch and relate to the rest of the team, which has had a solid foundation for many years. They are smart guys, they want to learn, from the language to the pitch, and they join a cohesive group. I have positive sensations.”

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