Pioli explains what it is like to coach ‘one of the most prestigious clubs in the world’ in revealing interview

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has revealed his pride at coaching one of the most prestigious clubs in the world, and explained the impact Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had.

There is no doubting the impact that Pioli has had since he arrived to replace Marco Giampaolo following his disastrous 111-day tenure as Milan boss. He has transformed the team tactically but also psychologically with the help of some experienced players, and in the win over Bologna at the weekend he racked up his 100th game in charge.

His contract expires at the end of the season and several sources are claiming that a renewal will be discussed in due course, with the management clearly believing in what they are seeing from the former Lazio and Fiorentina manager.

Pioli gave an interview to DAZN two days before the trip to face Roma at the Stadio Olimpico and he spoke about a number of different topics from his coaching background to his current methods, with MilanNews relaying his comments.

On his work with the staff: “After training I meet with the staff and we analyse what we have done and what we have to do.”

On his beginning as a coach: “I was offered a contract as a team manager for a first team, but it was not what I wanted. I wanted to stay on the pitch, I had many experiences that helped me a lot, both positive and negative.

“I have a staff that helps me on a daily basis because they take away a bit of work in the preparation of the single training session so that I can concentrate more with the video analysts on the preparation of the game. This is a part of my job that I really like. I also like these times when you play a lot.”

On the management of the group: “There have been experiences that have helped me a lot. The first year in Salerno before the derby against Napoli, I went to a player just before the game to give him a pat on the back and he told me that I was the coach and I could make the choices I wanted, but at the same time that I didn’t have to go and cuddle him. It was a lesson, I never go to explain my choices to the players. Obviously my door is always open, if a player wants explanations as long as it comes from me.”

On how he deals with pressure: “Either I walk with the dog or I go for a bike ride in the woods around Milanello. I prefer to go alone than in company at certain times.”

On the pressure of having to win: “We feel it, but we live it weekly. We don’t go to win the league or the Champions League, we always have to win the next match.”

On the current moment: “I coach Milan which is one of the most prestigious clubs in the world, now I have great visibility. I have had many experiences in my life, I needed to make my stops to get to this point.”

On the lockdown: “After the defeat against Genoa, we found ourselves here and the club told us that Milanello had to close. With the staff we decided to leave the players alone for a couple of weeks, it was a particular situation for everyone and so everyone needed space and time.

“Then we resumed training in groups, the trainers were always present, while the staff and I came in to greet the players and then we went out. The groups rotated so that everyone could see each other. In addition to work, there was also a lot of talk. I think we got to know each other better in that period remotely there.”

On what he told the players ahead of last season’s decisive game against Atalanta: “Of each player I said a gesture that helped the team to get there: Kessie was the distance traveled, Tomori was what he had jumped for his goal against Juventus in Turin, I said a particular thing about each one. After that speech I realised that I had impressed my players. I did that speech before leaving the hotel to go to the stadium.”

On what he says to the team: “One of the most important things is what to say before and after the matches. Now I don’t say anything after the matches, since Ibrahimovic has been around I have been in the locker room even less (smiles). After the matches there may be little clarity, I prefer to speak the next day.”

On how Milan play: “In the defensive phase we work less and less in the department, we want to bring numerical parity in the area of ​​the ball. In the setting phase, the fundamental thing is the unmarking, you have to move and cover the spaces. The more you move, the more you put in the opponent in difficulties. In modern football the intelligence of the players on the pitch is fundamental.”

On the leaders: “I have more players who talk before the game. I remember with great pleasure the discussions that – when I was playing at Juve – Mr. Trapattoni had with the team. It was a useful confrontation for everyone.”

On Ibra: “He has a crazy mentality and inner strength, despite his career he has a great desire to play. Inside he has an incredible motivation that he transmits to everyone. His arrival helped everyone. He had a great intelligence and a sensitivity to enter a group not yet formed. He expects a lot from himself and for this reason he also demands a lot from others.”

On Ibra playing as a quarterback for the attack: “These are things we feel during training. It is essential to have the right times. Ibra is a champion who sees football first.”

On Leao: “He is a centre-left striker. He is more aware of his physical and technical means and in the wing, in one-on-one, he is a player that is difficult to control.”

On Theo: “He learned to unmark himself even on the pitch, thus taking away points of reference from his opponents. By moving so much we don’t give points of reference to the opponents.”

On the club: “The club is always present and gives us great support, this is the strength of our team. Maldini, Massara and Gazidis are always present. Donnarumma and Calhanoglu were fantastic until the last moment. There is always Milan.”

On his work: “To the old Pioli, the one who began to do the professional coach, I would recommend doing this job with great passion and aware of what one can be.”

Tags AC Milan Stefano Pioli Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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