CM: Pioli’s bold call and an explosive impact – Leao and Theo’s ‘strange 48 hours’

By Oliver Fisher -

There was some surprise when Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez were not named in the starting line-up for yesterday’s game against Cagliari, and yet at full-time everything felt a bit more positive after the 5-1 win. have published a piece about ‘the strange 48 hours for Hernández and Leão’, and what it means for the present and future of the two left-sided players, who have been among Milan’s best performers over the past five years.

Stefano Pioli, although not mentioning them directly, justified the choice to initially leave out four established starters (Davide Calabria, Fikayo Tomori, Hernandez and Leao) by saying they were not in the best shape physically commitments of a long season.

Many, however, have interpreted the decisions to leave them out – especially of Rafa and Theo – as a signal that the coach wanted to send to the club: in the big games the performances of the ‘star’ players was not up to the level and that is what will likely cost him his job.

However, what remains in the memories above all are the wonderful 45 minutes played by Leao. He got a delightful assist for Pulisic’s first goal, he hit the crossbar and then scored his eighth league goal from Bennacer’s through ball.

The emotion of the night was underlined by the applause of part of the crowd to establish peace with the Portuguese winger after the jeers in the previous match against Genoa. Regardless of this controversial end to the season, Rafa is the only big name certain to remain at Milan next season.

Who knows, maybe he might start working differently with Sergio Conceiçao who has the same surname as his mother, highlighted yesterday by the special initiative of the Rossoneri ahead of Mother’s Day and something that Pioli joked about.

It is a different story for Theo though because the feeling is that something has changed this season between him and his coach. The Frenchman is at a crossroads: he must either stay and strengthen his attachment to Milan (with a renewal too) or give it to the temptations of potential suitors like Bayern.

Tags AC Milan Rafael Leao Theo Hernandez


  1. From the big stars of the team, Theo is really the only one I can’t remember even slightly to show frustration or disagreement with the coach, nor I’ve read anything of the sorts before. Another filler article.

  2. This isn’t rocket science and the fact that Pioli in just now discovering this effect, 4.5 years into his stint is ridiculous.

    Bench the players who are dragging. Leao should have been on the bench more often, along with RLC, Giroud, Calabria and so on…

    When you keep fielding the same players, they get too comfortable and don’t elevate their game. Each and every practice, they need to be performing to start. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    You don’t have a vice-Theo, throw in Bartesaghi, Jimenez, Terraciano for that matter – will only do them good.

    Players need to be picked based on merit and performance each and every time. I sincerely hope the next coach does this.

    1. Agree 100%.
      My biggest criticism of Pioli is how stubborn he has been with continually relying too heavily on the same few favourite players.
      He generally only deviates from his ideal line-up for:
      – injuries
      – suspensions
      – mass rotation events.

      Players not in the ideal line-up only get a genuine chance to force their way in during injury crisis. E.g Kalulu in scudetto season. Thiaw last season.

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