Pioli: “I liked what I saw and how we played, the new players will allow us to play an even more attacking style of football, Okafor is a strong player”

Stefano Pioli during Real Madrid-Milan at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, on July 23, 2023. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Stefano Pioli was happy with the performance against Real Madrid and he likes his new players.

Milan played their first pre-season friendly of the summer over the night, taking on Real Madrid at Rose Bowl Stadium as part of the Soccer Champions Tour 2023.

The Rossoneri had many of their starters on the bench but had a good showing in the first half, scoring twice through a Fikayo Tomori from a Christian Pulisic assist in the 25′ minute, and a wonderful curler in the 42′ from Luka Romero, who came on to replace the injured Junior Messias.

In the second half, the non-optimal physical condition of Milan showed and Real Madrid took control of the game as they changed many players on half time. Two defensive howlers from Marco Sportiello and Tomori allowed Federico Valverde to score twice (57′, 59′) in two minutes.

In the 70′ minute, Pioli replaced 10 players, bringing on Mike Maignan, Theo Hernández, Tijjani Reijnders, Rafael Leão and Olivier Giroud among others. Milan nearly scored from Giroud but ended up conceding after Simon Kjær failed to stop Vinícius Júnior in the 84′ minute and allowed the Brazilian beat Maignan. The game ended in defeat, but there were many positives.

Milan players celebrating during Real Madrid-Milan at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, on July 23, 2023. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

“After just 10 days of preparation, we saw some good stuff from the group that started the game,” Pioli told the press. “I liked what I saw, I liked how we played and I liked how we moved the ball and played with personality. Of course, there’s a lot that we need to work on but we gave time to do that.”

On the performances of Simić and Romero: Simić only found out this morning that he’d be playing. He played with personality and conviction. I’m pleased for a guy who is working really hard. Luka looked good, not just for that great goal, which was technically outstanding, but he came on and worked really hard. They need to keep this up. The friendlies we’re playing are of a really high level; we want the challenge, we want to show that we can grow and compete against these top teams.”

On the new players: “I think we’ve brought in some really good players: Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Reijnders, Luka is a really promising talent… Good players who will allow us to play a more technical style of football, an even more attacking style of football. Clearly, we’ll still need some time in order to work better together and probably, we’ll still need to make use of the transfer market, both new signings and departures. We are on the right track and working well, I liked what I saw, I liked seeing the new players adapt and seeing the team develop.”

Rafael Leão and Dani Carvajal during Real Madrid-Milan at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, on July 23, 2023. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

On Pulisic: “I expect a lot from him, Christian is a great player, he can play in various positions and we will try him out in different ones. We will see how the team can be further reinforced but I expect quality, personality and a noticeable presence on the pitch, which is what he is already showing every day in training and also in tonight’s game.”

On Okafor: “I like the new players who have arrived and the way they have adapted to our style of play and in the team. Okafor is a forward that can occupy various roles. He is a young player who has already shown his worth. He is a strong and fast player with some good 1v1 skills, so he will be useful in various positions both as a center forward and as a winger, but I will make my analysis when I start training him because only then can I understand where to place him technically and tactically, including motivating him character-wise, in order to bring out the best in him.”

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