Stefano Pioli held his first press conference of the summer today in Milanello on what is the first day of preseason for his team, and he answered some important questions.
It has already been a hectic summer for Milan. Less than 48 hours after the last game, the dismissal of Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara was confirmed, threw the project into disreputewhile the sale of Sandro Tonali to Newcastle created another storm.
Anyway, a decisive season awaits for Pioli where he is reported to have more confidence and more responsibility than ever before, with ownership RedBird Capital clearly admiring what he has done so far.
Pioli spoke to the journalists gathered in Milanello and answered their questions ahead of the first training session of the summer, which takes place at 17:30 CEST. His words were conveyed by MilanNews.
What are your first impressions?
“There are emotions, it’s nice to come back here and see everyone again. It’s important to start working again, only by working will they understand which path to follow.”
How was the last month?
“I would like to thank Maldini and Massara, if I am here, it is also thanks to them. It was a relationship of respect. I have always felt at the center of the Milan project.
“Before I spoke with Paolo and Ricky, now with Moncada and Furlani, I have worked a lot this month, even earlier I spoke with players who could have come. So my job hasn’t changed that much. Ours is a market of ideas.”
Is there more weight in your choices now compared to before?
“Even before I said what we needed, I always helped to build the team. I have a lot of respect for my players, but I think the time has come to make some changes.”
What is Milan’s goal?
“The aim is always to get the best out of it [the season] and be competitive in any contest and try to win something.”
Who could be the surprise?
“It’s hard to say now, Mercato is constantly evolving.”
Do you want a full squad for the USA?
“I would like to have a complete team, but that is not possible. The transfer market lasts until August 31. From now until I leave for the US on July 21, I expect some movement.”
Do you feel more alone and less protected?
“None. The fate of a leader depends on results. I have always accepted my responsibilities and I will do so again.”
The fans are always by your side…
“They continue to prove that they are unique and the best.”
Looking for a center forward?
“It’s not fair to focus on a single player, but there will be changes. Zlatan will be missing, so the striker is a target.”
Do you want to change formation?
“This is almost my fifth season. I feel like an architect of something with a solid structure, but where some areas of the house need to be decorated to have something better.
“There could also be tactical innovations to have greater advantages. A lot will also depend on the attributes that come. With players of quality and intelligence, new things can be done.”
Is Milan’s schedule tough?
“I start with a lot of confidence. The fixtures? We have to face all opponents. We just have to think about working well. We have to make the most of the days we have before the start of the season.”
Is Milan looking more at players from abroad than players in Italy?
“It’s not because we don’t want Italians. We’re looking for players who fit our way of playing football. If they’re from abroad, it’s because we think they’re more suitable. We’re talking about players in high level which does not need a long period of adjustment.”
How much do you miss Ibra? Who could become the new leader in his place?
“This team has grown, also thanks to Ibra, but now we have players who can be leaders. We are more mature than three years ago. This will also be a challenge, that is to succeed even without Ibra.
“Ibra as a manager? He is always welcome in Milanello. I spoke to him a few days ago, I still don’t know what his future will be and also the club’s choice in this role.”
Is there a need for a new balance without Maldini and Massara?
“Maldini and Massara were protagonists, but it is the club that gives continuity to the road. The players know where they are, what shirt we are wearing and what we represent.”
Have you heard from Cardinale?
“I spoke to him this morning. He wished the team good luck and motivated me for the season.”
Tonali was sold to Newcastle United – how did you take his departure?
“It is a serious loss from a technical point of view and he will have to be replaced with dignity. It is a good situation for him, it is difficult to do anything differently…”
Who will fight for the Scudetto?
“The opponents will be the usual ones. The starting tables are up to you and in the last two years you have not guessed right. It does not count now. It will be a hard-fought and difficult season.”
This year there is no break for the WC…
“Having routine weeks is optimal for everyone. Having fewer shifts during the week is an advantage, but just like for us, it is also for others.”
Have there been any changes in your staff?
“Roma and Betti have left, there is still a place and it will be filled soon.”
How have newcomers like Loftus-Cheek and Romero fared?
“Loftus and Romero are very motivated, they will give a lot to this team. One of the best qualities we can look for, beyond technical quality, is motivation.”
Have you spoken to Chukwueze and Reijnders?
“I speak all languages a little poorly, but I try and hope to make myself understood.”
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What kind of players are you looking for?
“Speed and one-on-one ability for right winger. Midfielders with different characteristics.”
Do you see Kalulu as a full-back or centre-back? Do you need reinforcements in defense?
“I moved him a bit. He starts at centre-back, but if necessary he can also play at full-back. If there are no departures, I think we will continue with that.”
How was your relationship with Maldini?
“We had an excellent relationship. Of course we also had discussions, which were bigger in the years of the Scudetto. Respect and esteem were never lacking.”
Were you afraid of being fired?
“If you fear that, he will be fired. I know the risks of the trade.”
A short time ago, Silvio Berlusconi died…
“I heard the news that I was on the plane to the Maldives. During my years in Milan, Berlusconi called me often. The last time was a few days before his death.
“He has always had an incredible love for Milan. All Milan fans have lost a point of reference. I spoke with Galliani. We are happy to participate in the Silvio Berlusconi trophy.”
Will Baresi get a new role?
“I don’t know if it will be like this, Franco is Milan and he already has a position in Milan. His experience could only be useful for everyone.”