Pioli reflects on Tonali’s Milan departure: “There were initial doubts”

By Ben Dixon -

A year on from his departure, Stefano Pioli has looked back on Sandro Tonali’s AC Milan exit and reflected on the player and person who left the club.

It is more than fair to say last summer was a shock for many Milan fans. Tonali’s departure, alongside the losses of Frederic Massara and Paolo Maldini, sent the fanbase into overdrive about what was happening.

However, it can be argued that the summer as a whole repaid some faith, and signings such as Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tijjani Reijnders have been largely commended. Of course, the exits are still felt, but there is a hope that the summer can be replicated, if not bettered, especially if another star does not depart.

After the match against Salernitana, Stefano Pioli took a chance to reflect on several things when speaking to Sky, and one area he spoke of was his team, and players who he has cherished working with. His comments have been relayed by Milan News.

“I gave everything but I received everything: from my players, from the environment, from the fans. I am proud of this experience, only positive things will remain. I came out of this journey certainly serene and also improved as a coach and as a person. Which player has given me the most satisfaction? I started with a group of guys who needed to be supported and stimulated.

“Just one name is difficult, I would say Tonali from a technical point of view and the growth he has had. At the end of the first year, there were doubts and instead, he continued to work in a certain way. But also Leao, Theo, and Bennacer were not like now.”

The moral leader for the future?
“Milan is losing depth but the guys here have grown. On impact, I think Maignan can be a reference point in the dressing room.”

Tags AC Milan Sandro Tonali


  1. Hope that last summer can be replicated? No offense Ben but your articles usually lack objectivity. Oliver is doing great at avoiding to give his personal opinion.

  2. I think Pioli deserves more credit for developing Tonali Leao Theo Benny CDK… oh wait CDK was moping about the pitch with his head down.

  3. “However, it can be argued that the summer as a whole repaid some faith” is a statement I have to wholly disagree with. We didn’t sign a defensive midfielder. Pulisic is the only player that has improved our starting eleven. Reijnders, Loftus-Cheek, and Musah combined have not been able to fill the void left by Tonali. Okafor and Chukwueze have had worrying fitness problems for their ages and have struggled as starters. Jovic did his job as a back-up striker.
    The fact that none of our attackers could displace Giroud when players like Scamacca and Duvan Zapata were available was a failure of our summer transfer market.

    1. I disagree with you, wholly as you said…

      Tonali was a limited midfielder, albeit one that improved over the last season at Milan. The quality of Reijnders shines, even if you don’t appreciate/see it.

      RLC has been inconsistent and played the wrong position but scored 10 goals, while Tonali scored, what, like 2 his last season?

      Musah is still too raw, but has potential to be a better player than Kessie was IMO.

      1. I get that Tonali and RLC played different positions and that you can argue defensively Tonali hadn’t been replaced by neither Reijnders nor RLC, but they HAVE improved our starting 11.

        1. Who is offering 60M for Reijnders? Honestly I want to support him because he’s a good guy, nice smile, but he’s far from Tonali. How is it possible not to be proud to have players who were dreaming of playing in red and black? Calabria, Tonali, these guys know what grinta is. Tonali scored against Lazio to clinch the Scudetto. He’s younger than Reijnders and arguably has a higher ceiling.

          I don’t know where you see the potential of Musah. He’s athletic yes, but he’s not playing running back. He lacks football IQ. He’s still young, let’s see if he can improve but right now he’s no better than our good old Kévin Constant.

          I agree that we improved our depth, offensively at least, but it’s absolutely not true that our starting 11 is better. When we played our starting 11 in UCL or big games last year, we won most of them. This year, we lost every big game because we can’t match the quality of opposing starting 11.

          1. Tonali had a lot of sentimental value with him due to his love for the colors, for sure. It’s hard to compare Tonali and Reijnders because the former is more defensive while the latter is more offensive player, deployed in Tonali’s position regardless of his skill set.

            We can argue that’s due to Pioli’s tactics, fitting offensive players into defensive roles… or due to lack of proper DM presence at Milan. I loved Tonali the fighter, bought his jersey. But I love Reijnders the footballer.

            Musah as you said is only 20-21. If Milan keep developing him, by the time he is Kessie’s age I bet you he would be a better footballer. He does need to improve his passing, but he’s way faster than Kessie already and is just as confident on the ball.

            As to the quality of our 11 and the games lost/won – that’s hard to quantify mainly because of what Pioli had been doing all season… Personally, I feel that this team is far better. Last season we finished 5th. this season we finished 2nd. Granted, all the variables of course. But the team HAS gotten better and just needs the right additions and guidance NOT named Fonseca to take a leap in quality.

  4. Pioli literally said that losing Tonali was a loss in technical level of the team when they sold him. It was obvious the technical level wasn’t replaced. It’s interesting that we go so may players but he still says we’re losing depth. Presumably since losing key cogs each year (Kessie, Hakan). Quantity is different from quality (though I’d disagree with Pioli and say we have more quality in bench players – ie non starters – compared to last year’s bench but less quality in the starting lineup). The exception is ofc Puli.

    1. Tonali’s defensive contributions haven’t been filled. But offensively….? Even Reijnders scored more than Tonali in his last season.

      1. Stats out of context are pointless. I could easily point out that Tonali had 10 assists to RLC’s 2. All these extra goals but we were still out of the title race at the same point, finished the season 19 points behind Inter as opposed to 20 points behind Napoli, and bounced in the group stage of the CL. RLC’s overall play has been disappointing and he improved offensively only when moved to play as a second striker because he failed to deliver as a midfielder. Reijnders had a decent first season and could become an asset moving forward but after losing Diaz, Tonali, and Bennacer (injury) we needed better players. We relied heavily on Pulisic, Leao, and Theo to carry us this season.

      2. So what I said was the technical level dropped (Pioli said that btw, not just me). That’s a bit harder to put into stats. With Tonali, fit Benny and Krunic as the backup we conceded less last year than this year. That’s one aspect. Tonali also has more goal contributions than Deers btw (11 vs 7), that’s another aspect. Here’s the thing though even last year we needed a DM. Tonali was more box to box. So it’s why I said by losing those key cogs each year, we lose something both on a technical level and specifically, defensively.

  5. “ there is a hope that the summer can be replicated, if not bettered, especially if another star does not depart.”


    Is this author serious? Another Redbird puppet?? Ya cause selling stars for cheap alternatives and changing 10 players every season is a sure path to winning titles….Yup.

    1. LMAO 😂😂 🤣🤣 bro what did I just read 🤣🤣
      This is the most ‘go home you’re drunk’ sentence I’ve read in a while. Selling stars and bettering the team is an oxym.oron. we sold technical skills last year and got Deers and Musah who combined couldn’t even replace him and what he brought to the team. Somehow I believe the author thinks last summer spree was some huge success. 120m and the only clear success is Pulisic? The rest caused us to ship the most goals in a decade (best transfer window in a decade btw /s) with a mid table defense. But hey we’re scoring goals whoppee….only against weak teams mind you. And we’re more European somehow

  6. Reijnders is not even half of what Tonali is as a player and contribution he do offensively, defensively and on corners, free kicks, 120mins engine never tired to give his all for Milan etc.,

    RLC is not a player to replace Tonali, he was decided to hire even before Maldini masara were sacked.

    So reijnders, musah were not able to replicate 50% of tonali. Atleast for 1st year.
    Let’s see if new coach something more out of them.

  7. Tonali lost was big. Not just in technical aspect but he’s one of the few players who showed grinta and respect for the shirt.

  8. Ok… Reality check- take Tonali off the team as he couldn’t play this year and don’t have the new signings, where does ACM place in Seria A?

    1. What ifs what if. We wouldn’t know who we would have gotten. We also could have gotten just Thuram and Pulisic for a total of 20m and still be in the same spot we’re in, probably better

    2. Tonali’s impact is still felt and known in the club. That is the point of the matter.

      Forget hypothetical scenarios of whether he would have played or not.
      Tonali was sold, and his position was not replaced. SIMPLE.

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