Adli recalls battle to earn his spot at Milan and Zlatan’s ‘shut up and work’ message

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan midfielder Yacine Adli has recalled his journey from seemingly being an afterthought in the mind of head coach Stefano Pioli to now being a valuable part of the midfield rotations.

Adli was signed from Bordeaux in the summer of 2021 but was left there on loan for the season, and then in the last campaign when he finally joined up with Milan he managed just 140 minutes of playing time.

Despite this, and with a summer exit heavily rumoured, he rolled up his sleeves and gradually earned Pioli’s trust to the extent that he is now starting games more regularly.

He returns to France tonight to face Stade Rennais in the second leg of the Rossoneri’s Europa League play-off round tie, and he spoke to L’Equipe. His comments were relayed by MilanNews.

What was it like when you arrived at Milan?

“I was young and exposed. I have matured a lot. What struck me most when I arrived at Milan was the strength of the institution.”

You didn’t play much, did any doubts creep in?

“Never, because I wasn’t in a bad way in training. According to the coach, I had to make a tactical leap, like all the players who arrive in Serie A.”

Why were you used so rarely?

“I had to improve in defence. And then, in the role of attacking midfielder there were Brahim Diaz, who was doing well, and Charles De Ketelaere, who had been the big signing of the summer. I was learning and behind them in the pecking order. It was difficult to gain my place on the pitch.”

How were you able to keep going?

“I never gave up in training and the intensity was maximum in every session. I wasn’t in the Champions League squad list and therefore sometimes I trained alone, with a trainer.

“I didn’t want to waste time, I had to be ready for every eventuality. I had a good relationship with everyone, I had weight in the dressing room, I was a point of reference, even if I didn’t play much.”

Last summer it seemed certain you would leave on loan, how did it go?

“The directors were happy with my commitment and wanted me to stay. Pioli’s speech was also similar, I never had any problems with him, I respected his choices as a coach and the man was always honest.

“Pioli adopted a new system with a deeper midfielder and two central midfielders. At the beginning of the season, he told me: ‘We made other choices, you have to find a way out’.

“I thanked him for his honesty and told him that he could count on my seriousness until I left. But then I stayed in the group because I worked hard, I prepared the starters and the coach he even took us on a tour to the United States.

“There, he told me that the club was looking for a defensive midfielder but he thought I could have my say. I told him that I had already played in that position… although I’m not even sure that it’s true!”

What is it like having Zlatan Ibrahimovic back around the club?

“I’m quite close to him. Anyone who knows him will tell you that he is an extraordinary man and certainly an added value in someone’s life. He can analyse things well and give advice targeted.

“He did it as a player and it’s natural to do it as a manager. Zlatan told me: ‘Shut up and work, it will come’. And it happened.”

And Olivier Giroud?

“A source of inspiration? Certainly, he has always been questioned and every time he has shown character and maintained himself at the highest levels. He is an example of determination and perseverance.”

Yacine Adli is not expected to start tonight’s game against Rennes – a team he knows well – but he could of course play an important role off the bench as Milan look to make the last 16 with minimal fuss.


Tags AC Milan Yacine Adli


  1. “There, he told me that the club was looking for a defensive midfielder but he thought I could have my say. I told him that I had already played in that position… although I’m not even sure that it’s true!”

    For those that keep talking about a DM and saying that the stupid new management signed all these players but not a DM, here is the reason why. Also, don’t forget that they did want to sell Krunic, and sign Dominguez, who waited on them for a long time, but the coach vetoed the Krunic sale, just so 2 months later to have a fall out with Rade and don’t play him at all, costing Milan money from his transfer.
    So, if you think that the lack of a DM is the problem, now you know why you don’t have one.

    1. I read it as Pioli wanted a new DM (because this was in and around the US tour) despite having Adli or Krunic, not that he kept them as his preferred DMs. After all, he REALLY didn’t want Adli to stay. I think Musah was what management got him as a DM (around US tour too) and it didn’t work out. It’s unclear if he wanted more than Musah or not though. Though my guess is that he did

  2. Even in the role of mezzela, which I personally believe would suit you better, assuming Pioli continued with his initial 4-3-3, you had a lot of work to do. Now converting to a regista, you have a mountain to climb.
    I like Adli, but I still think he should find his way back to France if he wants good for his career

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