Sacchi: ‘I see no reason for Milan to change coaches at the end of the season’


Legendary AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi has once again given his backing to Stefano Pioli: “I see no reason to change him at the end of the season.” Pioli’s position has come under scrutiny this season after a string of poor results in the league, followed by elimination from the Champions League at the hands of PSG. A 3-2 defeat to Atalanta in December 2023 prompted speculation that Antonio Conte could be handed the role when the season ended, but an uptick in form has seen the Rossoneri go six Serie A matches without defeat, pushing them up to third place, a full 9 points clear of 4th spot. Speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Sacchi once again came out in defence of Pioli, insisting that he is the best man for Milan, beyond the end of the 2023-24 season:

What are you enjoying about the current Milan team?

“I’m starting to see a team, which is the most important thing. Let me explain: it hasn’t reached its maximum yet, but finally the players are helping each other, they show they follow the coach, they fight, they commit themselves, they never give up.

An example?

“If you don’t have important moral values at the base of the group, you don’t win matches like the one in Udine: a comeback, in the last minute, after a tremendous effort. It was a reward for willpower. Very well deserved for what we had seen on the pitch, especially before the racism episode against Maignan. There are three factors that determine the strength of a team, I will never tire of saying that.

What are these factors?

“The very strong motivation, the high team spirit and the game. It seems to me that the first two qualities, considering how the last period is going, are there. The game, on the other hand, can still improve. Although we are already at a fairly good level. We must, however, acquire greater continuity of performance.

Other aspects to correct?

“I would like to see Milan narrow and short: no more than thirty metres in length. In this way you develop synergies between departments, collaboration between players, and then you can do pressing, which is the real secret of modern football. If you’re short, and if everyone is close, you help each other, steal the ball from the opponents, and increase your self-esteem by making others fall into depression. In a nutshell: the goal is to become optimistic, to have mastery of the game’.

How do you judge Pioli’s work so far?

“I look at the standings: the Rossoneri are third, with a good margin over fourth. This means that only two teams, Inter and Juve, have done better. And let’s not forget that Milan is not the club that has spent the most on the market. Inter, for example, has invested the most in the last three seasons, yet despite winning several trophies, they have never reached the Scudetto. Pioli is working with a group of youngsters who almost all come from abroad: it is not easy, patience is needed. The improvements that can be seen now are the result of the coach’s teachings, of this I have no doubt. Logically, at the beginning of the season, there was a price to pay given the many changes in the market. It’s not easy to make people who come from another universe understand your ideas.

In your opinion, has Pioli made himself understood?

“Given the recent results and, above all, the performance and commitment of the players, I would say yes. Stefano is an excellent coach. Before coming to Milan he was above all a tactician, then he had an evolution and now I think he is a strategist. He thinks in the long run and not just about the result of a single game. He wants to give identity and style to the team: these are the most difficult things. I said it before: if he continues like this, I see no reason to change him at the end of the season.

The fans often expressed their disappointment.

“Very true, and when they booed they were right because they were not amused. But in the last period Pioli has shown that he has the team in hand and the team has shown that it wants to follow its coach. And in fact there are results and there are no more booing. People are not stupid: if they notice the commitment, if they understand that the players have given their souls, they applaud and support. And the Milan environment, which is a very competent one, I’m sure will help in this second half of the season.

The role of the club management will be decisive for Pioli’s reconfirmation.

“The club is always fundamental, and it is even more so at a time like this. When I arrived at Milan, I had some problems at the beginning, we lost a few games. Berlusconi said to me: “Do you need my intervention?” I answered him: ‘Yes’. He summoned us all to Milanello, to his office, and in thirty seconds he settled the matter. ‘I have full confidence in Arrigo,’ he said, ‘Those of you who have it, will stay next year. Those who don’t have it, will leave. Good work to everyone’. Clear, no? From then on we began the comeback that would lead to the Scudetto. The club comes before the team and the team comes before the individual: these are basic rules. Here we are dealing with a young club, which is showing passion and, I am convinced, will gradually acquire more skills and experience. The important thing is that there is clarity. In the minds of the management and in that of the coach.

What should Pioli do now?

“Insist on his ideas, which have led him to win four consecutive league games. He has to be a hammer, work hard, take nothing for granted. And if there is someone who does not follow him, after trying to convince him once, twice or three times, he must have the strength to put him out. The most important rule, I have always maintained, is to respect the rules. Woe betide the granting of exceptions.

Apart from the championship, there is also the Europa League and Milan can play for the final victory. What do you think?

“The Europa League is a very prestigious trophy and the Rossoneri have what it takes to go all the way. They must believe in their possibilities and their qualities: the mental aspect is decisive when you want to reach big goals. And then there is always the championship, where Milan have to improve and still show that commitment and desire to fight that I have admired lately.

Is it forbidden to talk about the Scudetto?

“I, if I were coach of the Rossoneri, would abolish this word. The goal must be something else: to become a team, to be compact, united, modern in the way of being on the field. Then, in the end, as in all things in life, the sums will be drawn. But I think Inter and Juve have a considerable advantage and so I wouldn’t waste energy thinking about the Scudetto. The players must keep their heads down and run, run, run.”

One man who, in this period, can make the difference?

“Not one man, because nobody wins games alone. But all together, if they become a collective, they can take a lot of satisfaction.”


Serie A obsessive.