The coach of the Italian champions was awarded the Nereo Rocco award in Coverciano. Pioli talked about his future, not saying he was worried about his contract, and said he felt at home in Milan. Awarded for what he has done in the recent past but already projected toward the near future, Stefano Pioli’s accomplishments deserve praise. Let’s see what he’s been up to over recent months and since the pandemic!
AC Milan Manager Stefano Pioli In 2022: Where Is He Now?
His contract with AC Milan won’t end on July 2022:
At the end of last year in 2021, AC Milan announced that Stefano Pioli has signed a new deal with the club lasting until 30 June 2023. The initial agreement signed in 2019 was to end in June 2022. Now that we know we can have another great year with the head coach of Serie A AC Milan, we can expect great things to come!
Stefano Pioli wins Serie A Coach of the Season award in 2022:
Stefano Pioli has been named Serie A Coach of the Season for 2021-22 after leading AC Milan to the Scudetto. “We want to repeat our success.”
The tactician had never won a single trophy in his managerial career and the Associazione Calcio Milan coach hadn’t won the Serie A title for over a decade so they weren’t favorites by any means but finished ahead of Inter on the last day of the season. To mark the occasion forever, Pioli also got a tattoo of the Scudetto shield.
“Professionally, it was definitely the best year of my life. I was very lucky to have a fantastic club behind me who were supportive and helpful, and an exceptional group of players. Together we managed to create a magical atmosphere where everyone could give their best- same,” Pioli said onstage.
Pioli’s career has been difficult at times. He lived through the death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori while coaching the Viola in 2018, the kind of tragedy that can change someone as a person and as a coach. But he finally got the crowning achievement of his career so far. The same man who was unwanted by fans became their idol.
Stefano Pioli’s thoughts on RB Salzburg and Sadio Mané:
Pioli is aware of the career and qualities of the 30-year-old Senegalese striker who spent two seasons between 2012 and 2014 at RB Salzburg. Stefano Pioli spoke his mind about RB Salzburg having players who could follow in the footsteps of Bayern Munich’s Senegalese star Sadio Mané.
AC Milan’s Italian coach gave his thoughts during a press conference saying: “We have seen all their matches. We think we have prepared well for the game, our opponents are organized and moving well. We respect them but we are very determined. They have a lot of interesting players who could probably follow in the footsteps of Erling Haaland and Sadio Mané. It’s a solid team that we respect“, declared the manager of the Associazione Calcio Milan during a press conference.
AC Milan was the series runner up in 2021 but the Scudetto was nearby:
Of course, the 2020/21 season had to be successful for the reprieve to last. And that was the case as Milan finished second in Serie A and returned to the UEFA Champions League group stage seven years after their last trip. Maldini and Massara have also worked to improve the squad’s talent, bringing in key players like Mike Maignan after goalkeeper Gigio Donnarumma failed in negotiations for a new contract, or players like Sandro Tonali who was confirmed after a difficult first season in the jersey of AC Milan.
Pioli’s Milan would be one of the great surprises at the start of the season in Europe. The team beat Inter with a brace from Ibrahimović on matchday four and moved into the first position, a position they will hold for several weeks. Indeed, Milan was crowned winter champions, capping off a perfect 2020 for the club. The trend from the second round will be much more negative, and Milan ends up ceding the lead to an Inter that would be crowned champion of Italy on matchday. However, the ‘AC Milan’ club finished the championship as league runners-up, achieving its best performance in the national championship since 2011. Stefano Pioli achieved the goal of qualifying Milan for the UEFA Champions League, something that had not happened since the 2012-13 season.
All in all, it was a perfect mix between Maldini and Pioli who built this project that ended up winning the Scudetto Award eleven years after the last time.
On October 9, 2019, Pioli was appointed Milan’s new manager until the end of the season.
On November 27, 2021, the club announced the renewal of Pioli for one more season. Pioli’s third season on the bench would leave a bitter taste in the Champions League, as Milan was eliminated in the group stage after finishing last place in a group with Liverpool, Atlético de Madrid and Porto. However, early elimination from European competitions allows the club to focus on Serie A.
Milan ends up in a three-way fight for the “Scudetto” with Inter and Napoli. Pioli’s team shows a noticeably increased maturity compared to the previous two seasons, and episodes like the derby won 1-2 against Inter with a brace from Olivier Giroud end up being decisive for the success of the league.
Milan lost points against Salernitana, Udinese, Bologna, or Torino, compromising their title aspirations. But Inter, a great rival of the ‘AC’ club after the deflation of Napoli, falls resoundingly in his visit to Bologna. Milan depends on themselves with four games to go and get the victory in those four games. On the last day, at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia against Sassuolo and with an incredible display of Milan fans, Milan won 0-3 and became Italian champion eleven years later.
Pioli’s formation style changed with Zlatan’s transfer:
Pioli is a grinder, one of those managers who focus relentlessly on the pitch rather than a charismatic media leader who does much of his work in the press conference. And that’s how he operated when he arrived at AC Milan. Let’s take a look at his formation strategies:
Pioli typically uses a 4–2–3–1 formation or a 3–5–2 formation with full or full-backs actively participating in the team’s attacking plays. During his time in Lazio he often used a 4-3-3 formation. Because of his passion for basketball, he tried to incorporate strategic elements of the sport into his own tactical approach as a football manager.
As AC Milan’s head coach, Pioli used an archaic World Cup formation, also known as 3–2–2–3. Although officially presented as 4-3-3, the formation featured left-back Theo Hernandez in a more advanced position, while the right-back’s attacking presence was significantly limited. Another important feature of this formation was the center where two pairs of holding and attacking midfielders formed a square supporting each other offensively and defensively.
However, with the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimović in January 2020, Pioli switched Milan’s formation to his long-favored 4–2 3–1, mostly to accommodate the aging yet prolific Swedish goalscorer, in which he would play up front without much of a lead defensive work other than pressing, alternating between the roles of a classic forward, a target forward and a false 9.
The change in formation also allowed Hakan Çalhanoğlu, an attacking midfielder in the number 10, to his preferred position as a playmaker behind the to return as a main forward, from which he had played in various other formations for years.
Ante Rebić and Ismaël Bennacer, the two high-profile newcomers who struggled to fit into the previous coach’s system, were given a few more opportunities to prove themselves. As a result, the former played in his favorite position as a left winger and quickly topped the club’s goalscoring list of the season, while the latter formed an efficient double with Franck Kessié who also greatly improved the quality of his performances.
Testing positive for COVID and Pioli fought to keep his job:
On November 14, 2020, Pioli tested positive for COVID-19 along with his assistant Giacomo Murelli during the pandemic in Italy. During the quarantine, Pioli continued to be in charge of the team via Zoom and with the help of another coach, Daniele Bonera. Despite these setbacks, Milan had a 3–1 away win over S.S.C. Napoli in Serie A and a 1–1 draw with Lille in the Europa League.
AC Milan struggled a bit with the COVID-19 outbreak which brought Serie A to a standstill for three months. It probably saved Pioli’s job. AC Milan managing director Ivan Gazidis had approached Ralf Rangnick, the man who had just completed his interim spell on the Manchester United bench, and they had indeed reached an agreement to work together. Rangnick wanted a real revolution with younger players, probably without Ibrahimovic for example, and his role was supposed to be both coach and sporting director. This would have not only ended Pioli’s presence at the club, but also the working relationship with club legend Paolo Maldini.
Everything was to be announced at the end of the season, but after Serie A resumed, Milan’s form improved dramatically and the club did not lose a single game from June to August.
Sporting director Ricky Massara and footballer Paolo Maldini managed to change Gazidis’ mind, and just after the last game Pioli was confirmed for the following season. It’s a huge win for Pioli who built his reputation on his results and used his team’s performance on the pitch to change the club’s CEO’s mind. As this probably also saved Maldini’s job, this largely explains the closeness between Maldini and Pioli since then.
Back in 2019, Milan fans were not happy with the new coach:
As AC Milan lifts the Serie A trophy, the impact of their head coach, Stefano Pioli, cannot be underestimated. Appointed in October 2019 after the club decided to fire Marco Giampaolo, supporters ‘welcomed’ Pioli with suspicion. The hashtag #PioliOut circulated on Twitter for several days after his arrival and the general opinion was that he was a bad replacement who was only in place because AC Milan could not appoint Luciano Spalletti since he was still under contract with cross-city rivals Inter Milan, although he had been replaced by Antonio Conte.
AC Milan fans were hoping for something different, after experiencing Giampaolo’s failure and seeing Inter Milan appoint Conte, they wanted a bang. Two and a half years later, after beating Atalanta to put Milan on the edge of the Scudetto precipice, the whole San Siro sang the song Freed from Desire, changing the lyrics to “Pioli is on fire”. In a way, Pioli had managed to change everything.
Still, things didn’t go so well at the start of his AC Milan run. He has just three wins in his first ten Serie A games, including crucial defeats against Juventus and Atalanta, who beat the AC Milan 5-0 in Bergamo, marking probably the worst moment in their recent history. But this game was a turning point and the key moment to understand why this course has been so successful over the past few months.
That’s when Pioli and the board started working on something different. It just so happened that on the same night, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his agent Mino Raiola got a call from the AC Milan footballer Paolo Maldini saying: “We need you here,” after signing his contract.
Zlatan had considered joining S.S.C. Napoli, but his contract with the club fell apart when the club parted ways with manager Carlo Ancelotti, and Zlatan knew his former club needed him. Ibrahimovic’s arrival was announced a week later in 2019 and that’s when the winning mentality was immediately brought back to the club.