Pioli discusses being Milan coach, development of players and how his style has changed

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has recalled his arrival at the club over three years ago and what it was like on that first day at Milanello.

Pioli arrived at Milan part way through the 2019-20 season after Marco Giampaolo was sacked following a disastrous start to the season, and in the post-lockdown period the Rossoneri went on a surge which saw them secure European football.

From there things continued to trend upwards, with a return to the Champions League secured on the final day of the 2020-21 season, and then last season a first Scudetto in 11 years, while the current campaign saw Milan secure UCL knockout football for the first time since 2013-14.

Pioli gave an interview to 7, the Corriere della Sera weekly magazine, and he discussed a number of topics from life at Milan to matters away from the pitch and the relationship he has with his wife and family. MilanNews relayed his comments.

On arriving at Milanello in October 2019…

“After the greetings at the entrance, I went out onto the field and found the statue of Rocco among the trees on the right. I was kind of surprised: ‘Damn, where have I arrived’. I immediately felt at ease. I don’t know if well received, but I was fine.”

On the players met on the first day…

“Calabria and Romagnoli, but I’m not sure. I remember the first speech. I said that if we are all here it is because we have quality, it all depends on how we want to work. If we put passion, professionalism and sacrifice into it, things will go well.

“We draw the first game at home with Lecce, in the last minute, we lose the second against Roma. There I discovered that the team struggled to react in difficulties: they needed to be re-motivated.”

On the changes he has made in his career…

“My priorities are always the same: motivate the players, put them on the pitch in a good state and give them ideas. Before I was more schematic, I relied on tactics, now I know you don’t win with a formation, 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, but with talent, passion, sweat, sacrifice, desire to fight for clear objectives.

“In short, character. And intelligence. Now I am more strategic, and with the large staff I can concentrate on individual players. With Maldini and Massara, we are not talking about short players or tall, right or left-handed, but intelligent.

“Technique is an acquired fact, the strength and explosiveness of the legs is needed, but the future of football belongs to players who know how to quickly and in advance recognise how to develop the situation, reading the spaces to occupy.”

On his characteristics as a player…

“I didn’t have the speed of Tomori or Kalulu, I wasn’t Milan level: I was a player at the level of a medium-high team, like Fiorentina, where I then played. If I’ve managed to reach certain levels, it’s because I knew how to put my team-mates in order as a position I knew how to speak, football-wise.

“I see myself in Kjaer, he communicates a lot and well. Having a defender like Simon and a goalkeeper like Maignan means giving a certain organisation. I was adopted by my teammates, especially by Gaetano Scirea, we went to the restaurant together, at his house after training.

“I lived with champions on and off the field, intelligent, serious, respectful with everyone. Even with me, who mostly ended up on the bench.”

On the manager who inspires him the most…

“Everyone, but the one I copied the most is Bagnoli, at Verona. He spoke little, but once a month he gathered us in the locker room and gave us an opinion. ‘Stefano continue like this’ he told me. To others ‘You, if you continue like this stay outside’, ‘You play too much in the shade’, ‘You could have done athletics’… Subtle and biting things.

“In the house by the sea I get an idea of ​​my own, in quotation marks, 11 starters, but I never started or finished the season with summer training. In short: you can’t always say everything, but a crack can arise from a crack, it’s better to clarify first. And get to know each other. To evaluate a player you must or know what is happening to him. I talk to all the players every day.”

On Leao’s laugh…

“As soon as I arrived, my collaborators and I said to each other: ‘Oh, but here we have a player who plays laughing?’. Then we understood that it’s a natural grimace, his way of playing.”

On his group of players…

“They’re beautiful, even in their oddities. It seems they aren’t concentrated, perhaps it’s serenity, awareness… it’s their strength: they turn off the music two minutes before entering the field, fully concentrated.

“In my day, when you stood in line, music was not allowed in the locker room. Today, however, I worry if there is silence. We load ourselves with music on the coach and before entering the field, Theo plays Selfish by Eminem… and if we win, upon returning to the bus, everyone has to sing, I sing too.”

On the development of his players…

“For many, who I started coaching when they were 19 or 20, growing up was natural. I did my bit, but the credit is widespread: management, staff and the environment. The environment here and is one that we have created.

“I can’t wait to wake up in the morning to come to Milanello, it’s good, I’m happy. I think it’s the same for them. For example: we have the obligatory breakfast and lunch, which, however, is untimed. Everyone has different needs: ice, massages or something else, they start when they can.

“But then they all stay late, and so as not to spend long hours in the kitchen we have set a time limit. What does that mean? That they are fine and happy to be together. I’ve been part of teams where the players couldn’t wait to leave, they were there just the limited time to train.”

On the 2022 motto…

“‘It only happens to those who believe in it’. At the beginning of the season I said that the first year we finished sixth, then second… are we okay with finishing second again? And everyone: ‘No!’. So I asked what it took to win. I started from Zlatan, Giroud, Maignan and Theo who had already won titles or trophies.”

On Ibra and Giroud’s answers…

”Zlatan? ‘Anger’, you need ‘anger’. ‘Talent’. Then ‘hunger’, like everyone else. It allowed us to win the derby, which if we lost then it was goodbye to the title, and then Lazio, won in the last minute, keeping the advantage over Inter who were beaten by Bologna. From there we knew that if we didn’t win we would lose the Scudetto.”

On the taste of victory…

“It was nice with my son on the bus, on his return from Sassuolo, Zlatan took the microphone and made a comment on each one. Then on the open-top bus in Milan… but now that I think about it, I’d say on the terrace in Milan, at night, there were still the Milan fans celebrating and my son and I smoked a Cuban cigar. I always say this to Barbara, my wife, one day we’ll go to Cuba…”

On the relationship he has with his wife…

“Barbara is very intelligent, we understand each other with a glance. ‘Shall we go out?’. ‘Let’s go out’. ‘Are we staying at home?’. ‘We’re staying at home’. And she has already prepared dinner. It’s not easy being Stefano Pioli’s wife, it’s difficult for me to get my mind off work, but I can do it with her.”

Tags AC Milan Stefano Pioli


  1. From the hashtag #PioliOut before he even officially signed to the Scudetto winner. Such a beautiful journey.

    “I can’t wait to wake up in the morning to come to Milanello.” – this is what we call PASSION.

  2. Padre Pioli, IMO, is the most important person for the revival of Milan.
    The tactic change, the atmosphere he created within the squad, especially after the covid break, changed the fortunes of the club and essentially saved everyones job. No matter what has been thrown at him over the last 4 years, he took it and used it and never complained.
    They gave him lemons and he and he made lemonade.
    Hopefully, he leads Milan to more success, and I think he can if he actually gets some help from those above him instead of getting handicapped by them

  3. Much respect to Pioli.

    The sad thing is there are fans who still wants him to get fired just because the team didn’t win 4/5-0 easily in every week.

    1. And I’m one of them…. its just that I’ve not seen a replacement coach that would fit the milan style he has built except from Ancelloti… but I like him generally.

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