MILAN, GAZZETTA – The newspaper Gazzetta today reports the long interview that the Rossoneri coach gave to the newspaper, for the future.
Milan, Gazzetta: “Pioli’s words that set the environment on fire”
Last year he had a motto: “To score more points than last season”. This year?
«To win you need talent, to repeat yourself you need character. And then I confess: a year ago we didn’t just believe we could improve the ranking of the previous season. From day one we thought we could win. This year motivating the group will be easier: we must have passion, enthusiasm, desire to grow, them as a team and I as a coach. We will fight to defend the Scudetto, in the Champions League to improve. Sacchi is right in the “Gazzetta”: the Champions League is a competition involving 4-5 teams. With the others there is a difference in height: we will treasure the last experience. Since then we have grown a lot ».
Italian competition has strengthened: worried?
“No, because we are the first to be stronger than a year ago. You can buy the best players but the difference is the organization, the desire, the spirit. Last year it seemed strange to me that they didn’t hold us in high regard, I didn’t suffer it but I exploited it in our favor. This year we will focus only on ourselves. Does John Elkann see Inter ahead? I respect the opinion, but today’s predictions have little value ».
Will the anomalous season, with a sprint start and then the long world stop, have an impact?
«It will be another long and difficult race, even more balanced: it will be difficult to repeat a high score because so many teams will take away points from each other. I am worried about Atalanta, which for the first time does not have the cups. And there are many strong teams, even Fiorentina which is well trained. I don’t mind doing three months at full throttle and then switching off, it will be more difficult with the players who will go all the way in the World Cup. With them you will need a particular sensitivity. Before the break there are 15 Serie A matches, many: they will not decide the verdict, but they will give an address ».
The coup of the Rossoneri summer was De Ketelaere: first impressions?
«We met at Milanello on Wednesday morning, together with the staff I showed him some videos with our game concepts. He was very careful, from what he said it shows that he is very intelligent, that he understands football. And then he has great talent, you can see how he touches the ball: he is elegant, beautiful to look at. I asked Origi, my national team mate, about him, and he said: “He is half Havertz and half Kakà”. He is unbalanced … he will play for a few minutes in Vicenza and once on Sunday with Pergolettese. There are important expectations but it is right to give him time, I was the first to tell him not to be in a hurry ».
Another young man who will lower the average age of the team: does he marry the philosophy of the club?
«Only in Italy are twenty-year-olds young. Tonali is 22 years old, Leao 23, Theo almost 25. They are full-fledged players. Which certainly must be hungry to grow because they have not reached their full potential. But young people are at 17, 18 years old. And then in the group there are also experts: Maignan, Kjaer, Ibra, Giroud, Origi, Calabria, Messias, Krunic, Rebic. Theo himself is very mature, he is more present. In the locker room Ibra makes himself heard, the one who talks the most is Florenzi, I don’t know if he is listened to… (laughs) ».
What contribution can Ibra make?
«Zlatan is not there but he is there, because he is always in contact with everyone. He is a champion who can still make a difference: first he must be fine, in the final of last season he made some crazy sacrifices. People don’t know, but he could only train for a quarter of an hour. He has superior technique and intelligence but above all he is still very hungry. From mid-August he will be at Milanello to continue his path ».
Meanwhile, he finds Kjaer again: what does he add?
«A very important ability to read the game and a communicative presence is a point of reference. I am very happy to have him back even if he will need time to regain condition ».
Is breaking up the Tomori-Kalulu duo today a gamble?
«They had an exceptional performance, Pierre has grown incredibly, he seems bigger on the pitch than he really is. He is mature and humble. But it will be played every three days, the rotations will be automatic, there will be 20 owners ».
Will Leao be a staple even in full negotiations for the renewal?
“If he keeps this level, yes… otherwise there’s Rebic. I am not at all worried about contractual matters, it is clear that he is happy to be with us. He is potentially a champion, for strength and ability to jump the man. He has many goals in his legs, even more than last year (14 in all, ed). He has grown a lot without the ball, now he must be able to occupy the area better ».
«I read that he rightly defined himself as an atypical midfielder: he is very intelligent, he plays vertically. He is fitting in very well, sometimes he moves too much but he is learning fast. And let’s not forget Diaz, from whom I expect a lot and from whom I am very satisfied: I want more precision from him in the last pass and more goals ».
What do you expect from the market now?
«On paper, two roles are missing, the defender and the midfielder. We do not want to replace those who have left with doubles, also because another Kessie is not there. We need two characteristics: explosiveness and intelligence ».
Were you looking for an even more substantial “Scudetto gift”, maybe a shot at Vlahovic worth 80 million?
«De Ketelaere in perspective, in two or three years, can become a European top. Each company makes its own assessments: with a sustainable project we have shown that we can win. Beyond a certain level, I believe the club does not want to and cannot get there. I certainly never feared that the new ownership would come and sell the most important players: we were told from the start that the philosophy would remain the same ».
Were you afraid of breaking off your relationship with Maldini and Massara? The negotiation for their renewals was very long …
“Never. I heard them every day. The change of ownership and other dynamics that I am not aware of have led to longer times, but I never thought it could end differently ».
Have you resented Cardinal?
«No, I only met him the day before closing. But even with Elliott’s top management it worked the same way, my references are Paolo, Ricky and Gazidis ».
They often follow her to Milanello. Is that where the magic was born?
«Every day I arrive worried, in quotation marks, about the spirit with which the players will work, but when I see them on the pitch all the doubts go away. If we continue like this we will be competitive, it does not mean that we will win the championship again but that we will have a chance to win every game. In the last training session I had to stop them because they were going too fast. So it’s beautiful, engaging, we have our concepts inside by now. As long as I see this attitude I will be calm, if we move back even one centimeter we become a normal team ».
What do you consider the strength of the team today?
«We have many top players. Giroud is a complete player, Rebic is very good at giving depth, Origi knows how to do everything. Divock is very attentive, I like him and he will give us satisfaction. In the middle he does not count so much physicality in terms of centimeters but leg and intelligence and we have him in Tonali, Pobega, Krunic who is often unfairly underestimated and instead has incredible tactical skills. Obviously Bennacer: he can become a player of the highest level. And Maignan moves: not only in the parade but with the sole presence of him. He was the best goalkeeper in the league, even if I also like Szczesny very much ».
Pioli has become a cover coach: has he changed anything?
«I have never worried about what was said about me, the experiences have brought me to this level. Milan made me grow and I can do it again, I feel young, with a great desire to test myself. Besides, my players are sponges. I use a method that I define as sharing, I make ideas available to the team and try to understand with them if they work or not. So we found motivation and balance. I enjoyed reading in the Gazzetta that, seeing Milan play, it seems that the players are enjoying themselves. That’s how it is. “
And Pioli off the pitch, what are you passionate about?
«I stay in Milanello all day, at home I leave with the usual film. I’m only off to have dinner with my wife. I like Milan and I like to go out, however, if she’s not there, I don’t go out ».