AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has declared that he wants his side to be protagonists again in the upcoming season, building off a successful campaign in 2021-22.
The Rossoneri were able to secure a second-placed finish in the last campaign, their highest since the 2011-12 season, but more importantly the team were able to secure a return to the Champions League after a seven-year absence.
The work of Pioli has been a big contributing factor in that, as he has given the team continuity and has rightly gambled on certain players in order to move Milan forward as a club and provide a stable platform from which to build.
Before the first training session of the season, Pioli spoke to the media who gathered in the conference room at Milanello so answer some questions about the upcoming season, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.
How much did you celebrate reaching the Champions League?
“We enjoyed it all but for a few days, then we immediately think about the future. The club and I started thinking immediately about the new season. We are happy with last year, but now we think about the new one. It will be nice to see my players again.”
This year you can prepare better…
“We started a little earlier, but we want to do things calmly and in the best possible way. We have come from a heavy season, but we have rested and I’m sure I’ll find the players ready. The start of the new season will come soon, we want to be protagonists again.”
What summer are you expecting?
“The club wants a competitive team. We want to give continuity to the work of the last year and a half. We have to raise the level of the team. I would like to have the whole squad already available, but I know it is not possible. We have to prepare well, I’m sure that we will do our best to have a competitive AC Milan.”
What is your goal domestically and in Europe?
“I hope it is first and foremost a season with the fans at the stadium. We want a return to normality. We want to confirm that we are a top-level team. In Italy there are 7 strong teams with whom we will have to fight, in Europe we want to be a surprise.”
How important is Kessie to you?
“Franck has grown a lot, as have many of his teammates. Kessie has given a lot, but he can still grow a lot. We all know how important he is to us. I have often spoken to him this summer, he is calm and motivated, he will come back as strong as before.”
What attacking midfielder do you need in Calhanoglu’s place?
“I am connected to all the players of last year, Gigio and Calha gave a lot until the last day. I am convinced to find a motivated group willing to do well. The transfer market is still long, we need quality players. With the right quality and spirit you can go far.”
How do you feel to see Calhanoglu at Inter and Donnarumma as protagonist at the European Championships?
“I remain tied to them, but now it’s a new season. We have started a path and we want to confirm ourselves. We want to play the best football possible.”
Where do you start from?
“What matters then is the pitch. Now let’s think about preparing well and completing the team. Then we will think about the league and the Champions League.”
Who will be the captain?
“It’s Romagnoli, but the strength of a team is to have more captains. We will establish vice captains together, I have a team with a great sense of belonging.”
Can you improve from last year?
“Confirming ourselves at high levels is our goal. Talking is of little use, it is the field that must speak. We aim to be the best on the field, we must be ambitious. We must show that we have a fire inside and overcome our opponents. Then we will see which it will be the final result.”
How is Ibrahimovic?
“We met with Zlatan almost every day. Those who operated on him were satisfied. I found him well, it will take a couple of weeks to see him running again. Calabria paid a visit yesterday and it went well. He won’t be able to start right away in a group, but he will be able to do so soon. Bennacer on the other hand is doing well and is ready to join the group.”
Have you heard from Kjaer?
“I often spoke with Simon. He experienced a delicate thing, many were amazed by his lucidity, but we don’t because we also know his human skills well. We will hear from him in these days, he needs rest after a great season and a great Euros.”
Who do you expect more from?
“From everyone, starting with myself. Then obviously also from the players and my collaborators. We can always improve and we must do it. Apart from Ibra, none of the others have reached the top in their career and this gives me hope.”
What about Gigio and Calha’s goodbyes?
“We have to look forward and not back. I am attached to them for what they did last year, but now we are only thinking about the new season.”
Will any young players leave?
“We are only at the beginning of the market. We have our strategy and we want to implement it, then we will see what happens.”
What sort of a season do you expect?
“There is great competition, all with the aim of reaching the Champions League. There are many great coaches, sorry for Conte because the championship would have had an even higher level. It will be a good season.”
Will it be Leao’s year?
“I hope it will still be Milan’s year. I expected growth from everyone. I expect a lot from him, I talked to him again today. I am convinced that I will find everyone motivated and determined to have another great season.”
Is the club ready to make a new sacrifice to keep Kessie?
“These are club things. We all know how important Franck is and how happy he is to be at Milan.”
Could Tonali play later?
“It is not yet official, but I would be very happy with his confirmation. I am open to all solutions, the important thing is to put the players in a position to do their best. We must always want to play the game and dominate it.”
There were a lot of injuries last year…
“Last season was a season in which we played a lot. We start a few days early and therefore we will be able to prepare as best we can.”
Have you already talked to Maignan?
“Yes several times. We have signed an excellent goalkeeper, he is very motivated. He has to pull the plug a bit now, but he will arrive loaded.”
Will there be any new tactics?
“There could be, these are things I’ve always done in my career. Being unpredictable can be an advantage. We’ll try new things, but without forgetting our characteristics.”