Capello heaps praise on Kalulu, Giroud, Pioli and gives thoughts on the title race

By Oliver Fisher -

Former AC Milan manager Fabio Capello has given his thoughts on the extraordinary growth of the Rossoneri, who are now fighting fully for the Scudetto.

Capello was interviewed by il Corriere dello Sport and he spoke about the title fight and a piece of advice he would like to give to Milan, given that he knows what it takes to go on and win the league from such a position.

“I tell the Rossoneri to put in the usual joy but also something more. There aren’t many games left, there is a group of teams ready to take advantage of the errors of others and nothing can be given up. Maximum attention and concentration are needed, each point can be the decisive one, it can give or make you lose the Scudetto. And you also need absolute conviction,” he said (via

Capello also spoke about the young group of players that Stefano Pioli is coaching, one that some expected to be too inexperienced to go on and mount a real serious title challenge.

“I saw them matured. They have greater conviction, from Maignan to Kalulu, Tonali we don’t talk about… now they have to prove it in the grand finale. In the meantime, they have become very good against the big teams, but when the head is always completely in the game,” he said.

“All the coaches with experience at the big clubs will say the same: when there is the super challenge you have to prepare it technically and tactically but you don’t have to stimulate the players, they do it themselves. It is in the games that are already won on paper that you have to intervene with the motivations.”

One of Milan’s big strengths this season has been their left wing where Theo Hernandez has continued his devastating form at left-back and Rafael Leao is now on 11 goals for the campaign having had somewhat of a breakout in terms of consistency.

“Theo continues to be the extra man. The one that puts the opponent in difficulty. Milan’s left wing is a force, few in Europe are capable of stopping them,” Capello added.

“Quality and speed, two aspects that are fundamental in today’s football. And I find Theo has also grown in defence, I thought he could be improved and actually made progress. And if he wants other advice, he has the best possible teacher at his disposal, Maldini.”

The man of the moment is Pierre Kalulu, who has stepped up and shown himself to be a centre-back of real quality despite being just 21 and arriving as more of a natural right-back.

“I would bet a lot on him. He has an important characteristic such as speed, plus I always see him concentrated, humble. And he has personality even when he plays the ball. He can improve, of course, but I see him in the duo of centre-backs of the future with Tomori. However, the club does well to also look for a reinforcement in the department: Kjaer’s experience, when he returns, will be important but on the physique it will be necessary to test the field.”

Another one of Milan’s emerging young stars is midfielder Sandro Tonali, who had a tough debut season after his initial move from Brescia but has been one of the most impressive midfielders in the league this season.

“He would also have had space in the great Milan teams. Personality, strength and quality, he is intelligent on the pitch. He is very strong on a defensive level, as well as in giving the ball forward: he sees the game, and moves the ball with speed.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future remain somewhat of a mystery at the moment given that his deal expires at the end of the season and he will turn 41 this year, with Capello’s thoughts on the matter clear.

“Let him choose his future. But I still see him charged up, as always, on the pitch or doing whatever he is involved in. Whether it’s Sanremo or advertising. He is convincing in everything. If he stays, it’s not just to participate, but because he feels he can show himself. And he can also be decisive in a role that is not that of the undisputed owner.”

On Giroud: “Am I surprised? The truth? No not at all. I complemented my friends Maldini and Massara when they took him: he is the right player for that role there.”

On Pioli: “I really liked how he managed to cultivate his garden, with serenity and tranquility even in difficult moments. He had many plants and he made them grow at their best. He was believed and followed by his players: this is how leadership emerges.”

Finally, on the title: “There are only a few games left and each one can be the key match. Again, it is a phase in which no one can afford the slightest mistake. And Juventus are back too: on a psychological level they are even fresher. The pressures are more on the others.”

Tags AC Milan Fabio Capello Olivier Giroud Pierre Kalulu
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