AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has praised the impact of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and insisted his side would rather avoid Europa League qualifiers after Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Sampdoria.
Ibrahimovic rolled back the years again as the Swede scored his second brace in three Serie A games, netting either side of the break and of Hakan Calhanoglu’s scissor-kick effort that made it 2-0 early in the second half.
Christopher Askildsen ruined the clean sheet with a fantastic late strike from distance, but there would be revenge as substitute Rafael Leao added a fourth goal with a sublime finish as Milan put the pressure back upon Roma for the time being in the battle for fifth.
Pioli spoke to Sky Italia in the immediate aftermath of the win, and his words were transcribed by MilanNews.
“The important thing was to play well and win. We could only think of us. The outcome of those in front of us is crucial. We won a game that we could have ended earlier, but we did well,” he said.
“We are a team. We have confidence in the results, even with strong teams, who have helped us.”
On Ibrahimovic: “Ibra has been instrumental in our growth and his condition is improving. It is proving to be crucial. There are the conditions for moving forward on a technical level.
“On the economic side, I can do little. He tells me that he feels good, that he is happy and shows it with the work he does every day.”
On Rebic: “He was taken off both because of the sparks with Ramirez and because he will miss Cagliari. I wanted to give Leao minutes, who hasn’t had many. There was no need to put the match at risk with a possible second booking.
“From Sunday, the boys will have three weeks of rest. Not having qualifiers [for the Europa League] could allow us to recover well. If we have to do it, we will play six games immediately in the first 20-25 days.
“It would be a tiring start, but I have young and right-minded guys. I’m not worried if there should be more commitments. We should not aim for one competition rather than another.”
There has been speculation in the media that the club will look for another natural centre-forward in the window, but Pioli remained coy on the idea of any additions.
“The club is focusing on continuity and I believe that some improvements can be had. But I think we don’t need many interventions, but there are situations that need to be addressed. We have to end well.”