Pioli recalls emotions of Scudetto win and targets defence of crown in 2023

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has recalled some of the emotions he went through during last season’s Scudetto win, and also looked ahead to 2023.

Pioli was the protagonist of ‘The Kings of football’ – a new programme broadcast on SportMediaset – together with his colleagues Simone Inzaghi of Inter and Carlo Ancelotti, coach of Real Madrid.

He spoke at length about a number of different topics including the end of last season which culminated in a first Scudetto win for 11 years and also what is to come, such as the battle to retain the title of champions and a tie against Spurs in the Champions League last 16.

His comments were relayed in full by MilanNews and we have translated them below, starting with how the episode began as a crown was put on Pioli’s head.

“I’m not used to having anything on my head!” he began.

How was 2022 for Milan?

“We arrived at this prestigious victory ahead of its time, because when you invest in young players you expect to win a little further over time. We managed to do it almost immediately, so it’s clear that 2022 has been a very important year for me and for us and with many satisfactions.”

Has Pioli changed too?

“I’ve certainly changed. I’d like to see the players see how I coach now; this is part of the professional and human growth of any professional and I think it’s been the negative experiences above all that have improved me the most.

“I think I’ve improved in many things, especially in two-three that I consider the most important in my job: different tactical solutions, relationship with my players and probably even better communication towards the outside world than I could do at the beginning of my career.”

Rewatching the run to the touchline after Giroud’s goal against Inter…

“Reviewing it, I feel a bit like Mazzone when he made that run, that’s more or less the pace… We set off to win the title, because the previous year we had finished second and we wanted to improve our position.

“Reaching the second half in a derby, in which the gap is seven points and it could potentially go to 10… winning it like this was important for the season.”

How do you evaluate Ancelotti?

“Carlo is a top in everything. He has won in all leagues, he has trained and improved the players, he has style, class, common sense, intelligence. For me he remains a coach of the highest level and a point of reference.”

How much motivation will there be for the challenge against Conte?

“It will certainly be a very important and stimulating meeting, partly because it’s been a long time since Milan made it to the round of 16, partly because we face a great team coached by a great coach.”

Can you confirm that after Giroud’s goal you didn’t touch a cigar for a month?

“Absolutely yes and I struggled because I smoke two a day and they are moments that I like and relax me. But it was worth it… it’s a foil that I hope to repeat in the future.”

Simone Inzaghi succeeded you at Lazio…

“When I could, I followed his training sessions a bit and when he could, mine. There has always been a very good relationship, great collaboration… Then it’s clear that the paths went their separate ways, we met many times as opponents. We faced each other with great respect for each other.”

What stimulated your team for the Scudetto race?

“We’ve always been ‘disinterested’ in what they said outside. I tell you that I relied on the motivations of the players: even when we won, everyone gave other teams higher win percentages, I told my players every day. I have to say thanks to that they didn’t believe in us because it always gave us something extra to achieve this great goal.”

Did Steven Zhang compliment you?

“Yes, it’s true he did. He always had a correct attitude. He wrote me ‘Congratulations mister because you deserved it’.”

Pioli receives the gold disc for ‘Pioli is on fire’…

“It’s a difficult thing to describe, especially when our fans bring it into the San Siro I experience very strong emotions and I honestly struggle to stay calm and control what my reactions could be. It’s an even more beautiful thing because it started from the players and I see the players happy when the fans sing it.

“It’s something that binds us, it’s not just mine. The song is that, it’s our thing. It’s a pleasure to tell you that in the summer it was everywhere, it’s absolutely pleasing. Every wedding, every party, they sent me the videos and I was pleased… I appreciate it so much, there’s no point in pretending nothing happened.”

Where were you during Bologna-Inter?

“I was having dinner with Maldini and Massara because we have our habits and our appointments. But we weren’t watching the match, on the contrary we pretended to be thinking about something completely different, we had unplugged our cell phones and we didn’t even know the result. It’s true that it is It was an important episode in our favour, but it’s equally true that we amassed 86 points to win the title and we were the only ones to do so.”

Do you have any regrets?

“No, I think I did everything. I think on that day and the next day that I absolutely enjoyed the moment. We did everything we had to do, we rejoiced with each other, with our relatives and friends, with all the our fans who gave us an unforgettable day.

“Even if I truly savoured the Scudetto victory in a deeper way when we returned to Milan at two in the morning, I was smoking a cigar with my son and we saw people passing by with flags. We then realised what we were able to do.”

How much did you miss your father?

“A lot. He was the first person I thought of because I always felt protected and safe with him. It’s a very important thing as a child, but also as an adult. He has always followed me with a discretion, a positivity that he deserved to live this beautiful satisfaction with us.”

What did your mum tell you after the Scudetto?

“She was very happy. Mum can’t express emotions, criticism is better for her, but I know she is very proud. I have a family and a group of friends who have really followed me throughout my career, they too have lived positive and negative experiences. When you get to such a prestigious and important victory, the satisfaction, the joy, I think is even greater, if possible.”

What are the professions of the Pioli family?

“My dad did a lot of jobs. We are three brothers, my mom worked. When they got married he told her to stay at home with the children and he’d take care of it. I would have been a postman if I hadn’t been a player. Or rather, what I would have done after the player. I think it’s a job that could satisfy me.”

Your son now works on your staff…

“His was a prepared entrance and not immediately revealed in person. Those who know him appreciate his professional qualities, that’s the important thing. He’s a guy with a great will and who is making his path to make his way in the future.”

Do you believe in the Scudetto?

“We have to think that we can think about winning the Scudetto. Then it is clear that if Napoli continues at this rate they will reach 100 points and deservedly win the championship.”

Would you like to wear the crown again in 2023?

“Let’s hope. We are here with great ambition, certainly. We have no intention of giving up, we want to score a lot of points and try to get this beautiful ornament back on our heads.”

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