Saturday October 17 2020
Pioli: 'Exemplary Ibrahimovic'

Stefano Pioli praises ‘exemplary professional’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic after a brace to beat Inter, but the Derby Della Madonnina victory shows ‘we learned from previous mistakes.’

Ibra scored both goals before the Romelu Lukaku tap-in brought Inter back into the match at the Stadio Meazza.

“I already said yesterday that the result would not be decisive one way or another,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia when asked if this represented a turning point in Milan’s season.

They are top of the table with four wins out of four, conceding only one goal.

“Of course, we’re satisfied to have beaten a side that has a lot of quality and caused us many problems, but we held out well and hit back when we had the opportunity.

“It’s an important victory, but there’s a long road ahead of us and so much we still need to improve.”

Ibrahimovic made his comeback from COVID-19, yet played the entire match and scored two goals.

“He was very tired and even asked to come off, but this time I was the one who ignored him! Zlatan is extraordinary, he brings so much to the side with his talent, determination and character. He’s an exemplary professional, gives everything for his team, wants to win everything from a Cup Final to a training ground routine. I can’t take any credit for dealing with Ibrahimovic, as it’s very easy.

“We suffered in the second half, but also held out for the victory, which shows we have improved, learned from previous mistakes and know how to remain focused.

“The team spirit is incredible, we work hard for our cause. We won every game this season, but none of them were easy, which means we have to improve tactically and technically, because we cannot always rely on character.”

Alexis Saelemaekers, Rafael Leao and Hakan Calhanoglu fanned out in support of Ibrahimovic.

“I was a little surprised that nobody expected us to start Leao, because without Ante Rebic and knowing he scored twice in his last game, it suited our style of play.

“We knew there would be a few more risks, but that’s how we wanted to take the game to Inter, even if it means opening up spaces for their forwards. We accept the calculated risk in order to attack more.”

However, Pioli continues to keep his feet on the ground when asked about a potential Milan Scudetto push.

“I like to think positive and consider myself an optimist, but I also acknowledge there are at least three or four clubs who invested more than we did and are at a more advanced stage. We are ambitious, but largely invested for the future.

“There are seven clubs at a high level in Serie A right now and only four of them will be happy with a Champions League spot at the end of the season.

“If you want to challenge for the Scudetto, you need to raise the quality level of the squad. Even then, it takes a lot of time, there are sides that invested far more and haven’t done as well.

“The club has been wise to lay the foundations and build upon them going forward.”