Sacchi praises Pioli ahead of Milan-Juve but states: “Leao wouldn’t play with me”

By Isak Möller -

Ahead of the big clash between AC Milan and Juventus, Arrigo Sacchi shared his thoughts on the fixture and what it takes to win it. He was also asked about Rafael Leao, yet again, stating that he wouldn’t play under his management. 

Sacchi is known for his successful years with the Rossoneri in the late 80s and early 90s, winning two Champions Leagues and one Scudetto with the team (among other honours). Lately, he’s been sharing his thoughts on Milan quite a lot.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, the manager was asked about Milan-Juventus and some of the Rossoneri’s new signings. He also made it clear, once again, that Rafael Leao is a player who wouldn’t have suited his Milan.

Mister, what game will it be on Sunday? Who is stronger?

“Milan, a lot in the match will depend on Milan. If they are a collective, they must play as a collective: in that case, they will put Juventus in difficulty, because we already know that Juventus won’t be able to play as a collective. They will defend with 10-11 players and they will counter, as well as they know.”

Specifically, what does this mean?

“There are rules. In the defensive phase, a team that stays within 25-30 meters has much less effort. When Milan has the ball, they should make as few passes as possible so as not to stretch themselves and…”

Mister, a moment. Pioli explained that he uses passes to look for attacking players when the opponents leave them at numerical parity. Thoughts?

“Pioli has moved away from the tactics of his past, now for me he has a duty: not to confuse the players.”

Why is this so important?

“Juve is waiting for your mistake to counter and wants to take advantage of corners and free kicks: they are a concrete team, as you would expect with Allegri. If Milan does like them and plays on individuality, they can lose. Let’s not forget that Juve spent more than anyone else on the signings, they are a strong team. Then preventive marking will be important.”

Let’s pause the discussion for a moment and talk about individuals. Who do you like in Milan?

“I really like Reijnders, he’s very good, he’s complete, he reads the game, he moves a lot. Milan have good players this year: even Loftus-Cheek, as long as he was available, was powerful, he has strength.”

Do you like Pulisic?

“Pulisic doesn’t move poorly. If he’s as intelligent as they say, perfect. Football will increasingly be a collective game of intelligence.”

And Leao?

“He wouldn’t play with me.”

Excuse me, in the sense that you would leave him on the bench for one or two games?

“Yes, before signing a player I looked at the person a lot. And if you’re not born with a certain temperament, it’s difficult to acquire it. I think Leao is absolutely a good player. In football, however, you play with eleven players, they all have to run and have a position on the field. Everyone ran in my team.”

On Pioli…

“Pioli is a golden boy. He has grown a lot for me, he managed to bring an Italian team to play attacking football as a collective. It rarely happens.”

It remains to be seen what the outcome of the big clash will be, but it’s clear that it should be an exciting affair underneath the lights at San Siro.

Tags Arrigo Sacchi Milan Rafael Leao Stefano Pioli


    1. Great point, he pushed for Zola and Signori, but it was the ‘divine ponytail’ , that dragged Italy to the World Cup final… not everything can be Gullit!!!

      But I don’t think Sacchi can deny the quality of seria’s best player’ Rapheal Leao’

    2. Sacchi talks a big game because he can. He literally revolutionized football

      And I don’t think Leao would make it in his team’s.of the past either. He gets the nod because we don’t have an alternative but against other quality players like in Portugal he looks ordinary

  1. I don’t rate Sacchi as much because he had Gullit, Rijkard, and Van Basten who came from a Dutch pressing football philosophy that Milan become an invincible team.

    He also had possibly the best defensive back 4 in the history of football.

    Marco van Basten made it clear that it was either he goes or Sacchi goes and Berlusconi sacked Sacchi by the end of season.

    Italy would have never reached the 1994 World Cup finals had not been for the brilliance of Roberto Baggio.

    So his opinion is irrelevant. It was Sacchi who recommended Maldini go for Giampaolo instead of Sarri who we could have easily signed from Empoli. Berlusconi even chose Mihajlovic over Sarri which to this day is bizarre to say the least.

    1. Are you implying bcos a manager has world beaters in his team, he is not good or his style is not rated??.
      If so we should strike out many legendary managers who fielded gods and had success both on the club and national sides as not good enough. Simply bcos they had exceptionally great players.

    2. “So his opinion is irrelevant. ”

      Says the guy typing his keyboard ferociously in his parents’ basement with zero experience in real life football. 😀 😀 😀

  2. I think Sacchi was pretty notorious for not having a good time with Van Basten. Sacchi wanted him to go back for defensive duty, and the later as a striker didn’t want to do so much work.
    Sacchi is a legend, but I think this comment has more to do with his philosophy where tactic is more important than each player’s individuality, rather than being an absolute truth.
    That’s my take anyways.

    1. agree, easy to be critical when you arent making the decisions. So messi wouldnt play for him? He wouldnt coach for long.

      That said, defensively, the press, which requires the most coordinated movement, has been ineffective this year. I am curious why that is. Besides, teams are adjusting to better handle the press. And moving to man-marking. Napoli is having the same issue.

  3. “Everyone ran in my team.”

    Yep. Even the Ballon d’Or -players WORKED FOR THE TEAM. Huge difference to the player he wouldn’t play.

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