Pioli claims Leao’s fate ‘depends on him’ and names where Milan were superior to Napoli

By Oliver Fisher -

Stefano Pioli was full of pride after AC Milan beat Napoli 2-1 on aggregate to secure a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

It has been 16 years since Milan last made the final four of the competition and they went on to win it back then in 2006-07, with fans now dreaming of a similar albeit unlikely run to Istanbul.

Pioli spoke in the mixed zone after last night’s game and was asked for his thoughts on the performance, with his comments relayed by TMW, starting with his emotions after such a historic night.

“I’m very happy because I’ve been with these guys every day for three years, we’ve done many things together and we continue to overcome difficult, important steps,” he said,

“It’s certainly a gratification, we must be happy above all for the quality of Napoli because they are a very strong team, will win the Scudetto very deservedly and if we managed to eliminate such a strong team it means that we too have put in high quality.”

Over the two legs Milan showed that they have grown in maturity and now have a squad that is capable of rising to even the biggest and most high-pressure situation.

“I think it’s the strength of my team, which sometimes scares me because I see them so serene that I wonder if they know we have to play such an important match. But then afterwards they have this ability to be ready.

“In my opinion if we continue to combine this preparation for matches with this attention and serenity, the group can win 100%. Then winning or losing depends on many factors but I must say that I train a fantastic group.”

Rafael Leao ended up being decisive in the quarter-final tie against Napoli as he provided the assist for Ismael Bennacer in the first leg win while an incredible solo run last night saw him provide for Olivier Giroud to get what would be the winning goal in the tie.

“Leao is Leao and we enjoy it all because he’s that kind of player. I asked him for an extra job in the defensive phase and he did it and he can do it more,” Pioli added.

“Rafa is becoming a champion and he will become one. It depends on him. When one is endowed with so much talent, with so much technical and physical quality… talent alone is not enough but he is working hard and he will become one.”

The Rossoneri came into the tie as the underdogs given that Napoli had – at the time of the draw – won the only league meeting of the season and were well ahead in the Serie A standings.

“I think it was quite normal that someone had indicated Napoli as the favourites to go through to the round because there is too much difference between us in the league. But we have always been very confident and I don’t think we should celebrate before is something that can bring good luck.”

Finally, the Milan boss was asked to name the areas where Milan showed themselves to be superior to Napoli.

“I think we’ve managed to take advantage of the chances we’ve created and this changes the games, the inertia, the mental attitude.

“Napoli had a big start, like in the first leg, but we put in that sacrifice, that will to achieve a goal we dreamed of at the beginning of the season, and this allowed us to put everything and more into the field to overcome a very strong opponent.”

Tags AC Milan Napoli-Milan Stefano Pioli

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