There was turbulence on the flight that brought AC Milan home from Salerno on Friday night, and that wind surrounds Stefano Pioli’s future as head coach.
This morning’s La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) writes that Pioli’s position ‘was in question yesterday like never before and the club are disappointed and worried’ after the 2-2 draw against a team in rock bottom.
How close were Milan to changing coach? The answer came in the afternoon, sanctioned by a phone call between Gerry Cardinale and Giorgio Furlani. In that call it was determined that the club will move forward with Pioli for Christmas and who knows, potentially until the end of the season.
An interesting note emerges in the report: the phone calls that the club made during the day to the most important players, the leaders, were decisive for the confirmation. Many, at least the majority, evidently said they were still with Pioli.
In this story it is appropriate to immediately talk about injuries, because they are a large part of the problem. The club attributes the 30 physical problems in five months to Pioli and his staff, an Italian and probably European record.
Injuries have generated defeats, lost earnings (the Champions League round of 16 above all) and a devaluation of the players. It is a theme also linked to the coach’s ability to motivate the group: seeing Leao and Theo Hernandez far from their peaks is striking.
Milan will continue to try to resolve the injury problem with Pioli – it is certainly difficult at this point of the season – but Gerry Cardinale, in his Christmas greeting message, was clear: “Like all of you, I am not satisfied with our current position in Serie A or the Champions League.”
There is a certain pressure on the coach and there have evidently been evaluations on a sacking, put aside for now due to the players’ responses, but in Cardinale’s evaluations is the difficulty in finding a top alternative.
However, something has broken and at the moment it is very likely that Milan will change coach at the end of the season, and there are two names that stand out above all as being options.
The first is Antonio Conte, a high-profile coach without a job at present, oriented towards returning to Italy, who does not like it when players lower the intensity. The technical conditions would be there, because Milan have many players suitable for Conte, while the problem could be financial.
Conte has earned a lot in recent years, so could he accept a lower salary for a new challenge? It is possible, but then he has always asked for players with high transfer fees and salaries, ready to lend a hand immediately. RedBird has reasoned differently so far.
The second name is Ignazio Abate: he is respected and is having good results – very good in Europe – with the Primavera this season. It may be an interim solution, with the possibility of becoming something more, but the step between Primavera and Serie A is very high.