Pioli confirms Leao will start; makes pledge for next season as he reflects on 2019-20 – full transcript

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has vowed to fight for a better finish than sixth next season as he reflected on his time as Rossoneri head coach.

Milan will be looking to end their season with a bang on Saturday night as they face Cagliari at San Siro in the final game of the 2019-20 campaign.

The Rossoneri are undefeated since the resumption of Serie A having won eight of their 11 games, the most recent being a 4-1 win against Sampdoria on Wednesday night.

The Milan boss will be without the suspended Ante Rebic for the curtain call, during which Milan will wear their new home shirt for the first time, as well as injured trio Mateo Musacchio, Andrea Conti and Alessio Romagnoli.

Pioli spoke to reporters at his usual pre-match press conference at Milanello, and his words were transcribed by MilanNews.

Did you expect this continuity of performance?

“It must be our common thread in the next season. We have worked hard to find this continuity and this game philosophy,” he began.

Do you have anyone to thank for this season?

“I have many, but I really want to thank my staff who helped me so much. Then I also thank the people who work at Milanello.”

Are you satisfied with the mentality created?

“Creating a mentality is the most important and complicated aspect. We have succeeded and also in not brilliant times. This mentality must be the basis for the next season.”

Are you sorry that the season is over?

“Yes, sorry. The boys have given everything and they need to rest. Here there is great harmony between us, there is a desire to work and this gratifies our work. I am sure that I will find the same atmosphere when we will resume.”

Who will play tomorrow?

“The best Milan will go on the pitch tomorrow too. I don’t know who will play, I have to evaluate a few things. Rebic will not be there, so Leao will play from the beginning. There will be some changes, but everyone is ready.”

What family has been created in the last few months?

“A nice family. Yesterday’s dinner is a testimony. It is right to gratify those who allow us to do our best. We have done a lot, but we expect a lot from Milan and therefore we must improve because Milan must always fight for the top positions.”

On the evolution of Rebic, Kessie and Calhanoglu: “Many players have grown and shown their qualities. I was sure we had a quality team, we just needed time and confidence. The game has grown and has allowed players to grow and vice versa.

“Milan must fight to return to the Champions League. We must aim for that next year. We will have to work hard and well and prove that we have these qualities.”

Do Milan deserve more than sixth place?

“We had an excellent 2020, but it is not over. We have to finish well and get points tomorrow night. We are tired both mentally and physically, unfortunately we cannot improve the ranking, but we have a duty to do well tomorrow as well. What we don’t have reached this year we have to reach it next year, sixth place will not be our goal.”

Will there be young players in your plans?

“Yes, some of them will have to join the squad of the first team of next year. This means that they will have to be ready to play. If we have good and strong young people we will have to let them play. Next year we will also focus on young people.”

Do you also hope that tomorrow’s game will not be Ibra’s last for Milan?

“Yup.”

What does tomorrow’s game mean?

“It is a personal satisfaction. We worked hard and we need to grit our teeth to do well tomorrow. Cagliari beat Juve, there will be difficulties, but we have the duty the pleasure of ending well season.”

What is the message for next season?

“We have to work, think about growing and improving. What we are doing will be only partially enough to achieve the goals we have in the next season.

“We have to play three games to go to the Europa League groups which in case will be another important goal of our season. Bennacer said yesterday is that he had fun. It means we have worked well and that we must continue like this.”

And finally, a message to the Milan fans…

“I salute all Milan fans in Italy and around the world. Thank you so much, they have always followed us. Sorry not to have shared with them the last beautiful moment of the season. The new shirt attracted a lot of attention. We will be stronger with them. I hope to see them again as soon as possible. If without them we were strong, with them we will be even stronger.”

Tags AC Milan Stefano Pioli