Pioli explains Theo and Leao’s dip in form and why new signings haven’t featured much

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli believes that Theo Hernandez and Rafael Leao have suffered a decline in their condition since the World Cup in Qatar.

There is no doubting that the left flank has been a real strength for Milan since Theo and Leao began their link-up in the previous 4-2-3-1 formation, with both providing the speed, dribbling, creativity and goals to make it the main threat.

However, the Frenchman and the Portuguese have struggled for form along with the rest of the team so far in 2023, with Leao’s last goal coming in the 2-2 draw against Lecce and with Theo struggling at both ends of the pitch.

Pioli was asked a question about the duo during his pre-match press conference during which he seemed to put most of the blame on post World Cup fatigue, with MilanNews relaying his comments.

“Leao is important for me and for the team. He’s back from the World Cup, he happened to play very well right away in Salerno and then lose a bit of his brilliance. He’s fine, he’s much happier when he plays; I see him very motivated and very concentrated,” he said.

“Theo? He’s a bit like Leao. He came back from the World Cup, and I didn’t want to play him in Salerno, but he had to play. He had a physiological drop, but he’s fine and wants to prove his worth.”

In addition to that, Pioli was asked why the summer signings from 2022 – such as Thiaw, Vranckx, Adli and De Ketelaere – have not featured much.

“Because they are young and talented guys, but because everyone forgets that Kalulu took two years, Leao was criticised for months.

“All are talented guys, the club did not make a mistake in getting them. Right now, a coach is a bit more careful to get players who are a bit more solid and have a bit of knowledge and attendance.”

Tags AC Milan Rafael Leao Stefano Pioli theo hernandez


  1. He needs to build their confidence by not playing them. Once he does that, he will work on incorporating them into the team by not playing them, and then when everyone gives up on them, they will go on a loan or will be sold. Once all that is done they will be ready for 1st team football, somewhere else.

  2. Mr coach has taken personal pets to be in the starting 11. The newbies are left to rot in the bench. What can the newcomers do? Boss of Milan, is this what you want?

  3. He keeps saying guys been around many years, but he also doesn’t tell you that these players were playing often. They aren’t sitting on the bench game in, game out like CDK and the other new signings are.

    Sure, they grow in training, but there is no replacement for real match experience.

    Pioli’s excuse here is not valid and someone should ask him that question.

  4. He could mention the reason Kalulu got a shot was because Kjaer got inyured last season. If that didnt happen he wouldnt have gotten one either.
    From what i’ve seen im pretty sure Thiaw shoul be our right positon CB.

  5. Pioli simply does not believe in youngsters like old-minded people. He never believed in Tonali, Leao, Kalulu, etc… He simply took the credit (Pioli is on fire) when these players won Milan the Scudetto.
    If Pioli is still stuck playing ‘his solid’ players like Tata, Krunic, Pobega, Messias, Origi, Gabbia, etc. and costing points, he deserves to be fired immediately. He is not the right coach to take Milan forward!

  6. That’s B.S, Chelsea brought in a load of players in the summer and the winter window and if not all have already featured at some point in their games, so Pioli is Bull S….ing ppl.

  7. That is such a dumb answer from Pioli.

    Stick with “experienced” players while the season circles the drain.

    So old fashioned and illogical.

  8. “a bit more solid and have a bit of knowledge and attendance”

    Yeah, because those things have worked so well and brought us many victories this year. FFS…

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