GdS: Pioli and his magic touch with defenders – from Theo to Thiaw

By Isak Möller -

Since his arrival at AC Milan, Stefano Pioli has been successful in many respects but in light of the recent win against Tottenham, one ability stands out. More specifically, his magic touch with the defenders. 

In the 1-0 win against Tottenham, Milan played with a three-man backline and all three of them were rated very highly in our player ratings. Malick Thiaw was the MOTM with 8/10 but Simon Kjaer also got the same rating, while Pierre Kalulu got a 7.

As highlighted by Gazzetta Dello Sport, Pioli has had the ability to revitalise defenders during his time at Milan. Kjaer, for example, arrived during a low period of his career in which he struggled to get playing time. But at Milan, he became the leader we know today.

Kalulu arrived when he was still very young and with time, he got more and more responsibility from Pioli (also due to injuries). Most importantly, the manager decided to play the Frenchman as a centre-back rather than a right-back. And as for Thiaw, his success may have only just begun but he shares similarities with Kalulu’s story.

Another centre-back that struggled with playing time prior to joining Milan is Fikayo Tomori. He still ended up costing the Rossoneri nearly €30m, but it was money well spent given his amazing development at the club.

Not just centre-backs have done well under Pioli, though, but also full-backs. Theo Hernandez is perhaps the best example as he was a rather poor defender when he joined Milan. Now, however, he’s one of the best in Europe.

And for Davide Calabria there is also a pre and post-Pioli. He struggled with playing time but picked himself up and even though the recent period has been tough for him, his development is clear.

Tags AC Milan Davide Calabria Fikayo Tomori Malick Thiaw Pierre Kalulu Simon Kjaer Stefano Pioli theo hernandez


  1. Well I’m confident in any defender Maldini chooses or wants even Botman even though I don’t rate him. He’s been spot on for obvious reasons. It’s the midfield and attack that is problematic since Boban left.

    1. Agree! In terms of selectiong defenders, it is in Maldini we trust!

      Pioli did not trust Thiaw till he had no one to use. Otherwise he can not explain that he had given Thiaw only 7 minutes to play before Turin game.

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