Stefano Pioli believes his longevity in the AC Milan top job speaks for itself amid ceaseless speculation the boss could soon be replaced at San Siro.
Milan, who won the Serie A title under Pioli in 2022, have won six of their last eight games in an unbeaten spell but nevertheless sit eight points behind league leaders and city rivals Inter Milan ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Napoli.
Pioli took charge of the Rossoneri in October 2019 and is poised to draw level with Milan great Arrigo Sacchi – a 1988 Scudetto winner and twice a European champion with the club – on 220 matches coached this weekend.
However, reports in Italy continue to suggest the likes of Julen Lopetegui and Antonio Conte are being lined up to replace him, a situation which the 58-year-old is growing increasingly fed up with.
He told a press conference: “Sacchi was a fantastic coach of his era, an innovator. Equalling him for the number of appearances in the Rossoneri dugout can only make me proud.
“I love my work, I have great passion for it, I have been fortunate in my career as a coach and a player.
“The pleasure of coaching always trumps the pressure and criticism, the positive elements prevail, in particular having a group of special people.”
Despite Napoli being the reigning champions, they are languishing down in seventh place under Walter Mazzarri. Pioli is suitably wary of their many threats, though.
“Napoli are not doing great in the table but they have great statistics, especially in attack,” he said. “Tactics have changed with Mazzarri. Napoli have quality, we need to face them with respect and focus.
“Both sides have forwards that can change the game, we will also need to be tight in the midfield. There needs to be a high level of organisation and play.”
Mazzarri has endured his own share of negative appraisals from Naples and beyond as he looks to steer the Azzurri back towards the Champions League places following a disappointing start to the campaign under predecessor Rudi Garcia.
Another challenge on the horizon
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) February 8, 2024
The former Watford manager hopes Napoli turned a corner after last weekend’s victory over Hellas Verona.
He said: “Sixteen finals remain and perhaps the curse is lifting, let’s hope this is start of a new journey for us.”
Milan’s Dutch midfielder Tijjani Reijnders is banned for the Sunday clash with Mario Rui suspended for the visitors, while Victor Osimhen is away contesting the Africa Cup of Nations final with Nigeria.
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