Stefano Pioli: Righting the Ship

As soon as Pioli’s name was mentioned in connection with the Milan job, small-minded and short-sighted Milan fans started a hashtag trending: #PioliOut. I suppose it had something to do with them wanting a manager who was much better than Giampaolo, despite the fact that they believed he was the next Sacchi just three months ago. Many wanted Spalletti, who had more experience. But the reasons for not hiring Spalletti were so much more than financial. Pioli has qualities that Milan need right now. No, he’s not a world class tactician, but he is capable of righting the ship.

"OMG, I'm talking to Paolo Maldini. Just act normal. Just act normal."

Pioli takes this position at a difficult time. Although Giampaolo was “Not Exactly” the coach we needed in June, he was the best available option. No one, even Giampaolo himself could have anticipated how many poor decisions he would make nor how he would lose the team so quickly, let alone lose on the pitch so badly. So Milan needed someone who could quickly develop a rapport with the players and get them to play as a team again. Looking at the available options, Pioli may have been the best choice for what Milan needs right now.

Pioli played as a center back, and played in Serie A (unlike Giampaolo, who never did) for the likes of Parma, Juventus, Verona, and Fiorentina during his career. As a player, he won a Scudetto in Serie A, won Serie B, and also Serie C1 (Giampaolo won nothing as a player.) As a manager, he started in the lower divisions, but then coached clubs like Parma, Chievo, Palermo, Bologna, Lazio, Inter, and Fiorentina. (translation: a lot more Serie A experience than Giampaolo, too.) His singular title came with Bologna’s U17, winning their championship in 2001. (which is still one more title as a coach than Giampaolo has.)

He knows more suffering than any Milan fan knows

However whatever experience he does or doesn’t have compared to Giampaolo, Spaletti, or anyone else, it is important to look at his time at Fiorentina, his most recent job. Like the time he stayed up all night until 2:30am because that was what time his new player was arriving by bus, and he wanted to be the first person to meet him. Or the time he was serenaded by fans at a gas station coming back from a good result, and Pioli bought all of the fans sandwiches. This kind of heart and commitment to the players and fans is what Milan needs most right now.

Most notably in his experiences, he was the manager when ex-Milan youth player and Fiorentina captain Davide Astori was tragically found dead in his room on game day. He led the team through the tragic crisis like a grieving father, saying and doing all of the right things, and leading them to a strong finishing run to the season thereafter, too. He even got a “DA13” tattoo on his wrist. If anyone knows how to pull a team in crisis together, it is Stefano Pioli.

Calm and steady is more important than fiery or brilliant

Pioli is good with the players. Prandelli described Milan’s players this week as “instinctual,” and felt that Pioli was a better coach to get more out of them. Our players have been like orphans, wandering around the pitch, trying to play in ways they neither know or understand, just trying to please “papa” Giampaolo. Pioli is better at getting his players to understand what he wants, even if that is not the best football the world has ever seen. He is better at winning his players over. For example, Giampaolo coached Quagliarella, his capocannoniere last year, who claimed that he only ever even talked to the coach five or six times during their three years together at Sampdoria. Pioli will have spoken to all of the players that many times in his first week, that is the difference. Hopefully, this will also clean up our discipline problem, as we have had five red cards in seven games under Giampaolo, and we cannot afford to keep going in that direction.

There are already smiles everywhere

We saw how our players followed coaches like Mihajlovic and Gattuso into battle like generals. Well Pioli is more like that, just maybe a less decorated general. Milan didn’t hire someone to win all the trophies. They brought in someone who can stabilize their young investments. They needed someone who could take these young players at this point and make them a team, nurture them properly as they develop. Or at the very least, line up a best eleven. Bottom line, Pioli isn’t here to be the next Sacchi. He’s here to make sure that these players are properly trained. So that when the next Sacchi comes along, that guy can make it rain trophies. Pioli’s responsibility is just righting the ship.

This post inspired by the music of Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea”

Our next match is
Serie A Week 8
Milan vs. Lecce
Sunday, October 20 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

Stefano Pioli: Righting the Ship Stefano Pioli: Righting the Ship Reviewed by Elaine on 2:27 PM Rating: 5
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