MILAN: Unbeaten since the restart of the season and with their players finally performing to their potential, AC Milan seem to be on the right track – yet the coach who has sparked the revival still faces an uncertain future.
Stefano Pioli has carried on against a backdrop of reports, which have carried on for months, that he will be ditched at the end of the season and replaced by Ralf Rangnick, who as sporting director has masterminded RB Leipzig’s rise in Germany.
Milan, who dropped to 14th in Serie A at one point this season, have lost only twice since the start of the year and climbed to sixth, putting them on course for a Europa League place which has become their target for this season.
They impressively thumped second-placed Lazio 3-0 away on Saturday and on Tuesday hope to throw a spanner in the works of leaders Juventus, who are seven points clear of the field with eight matches to play.
Lazio, meanwhile, visit relegation-threatened Lecce, also on Tuesday.
Pioli, a veteran of the Serie A coaching circuit, has been remarkably philosophical about the situation, insisting that uncertainty is part of his profession.
“I don’t know what the future holds for the squad and for me but we’re working very well as we have done all season,” said Pioli, appointed in October as a replacement for Marco Giampaolo.
The 54-year-old has helped talented but inconsistent players such as Hakan Calhanoglu, Lucas Paqueta and Ante Rebic find a new lease of life this season and has also been helped by the arrival of 38-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a reinforcement.
“They players have been working very well in training – this is a very responsible squad, aware of the importance of the shirt they wear,” said Pioli.
“The players are continuing to give 110 per cent, even those who signed contracts to the end of the season and probably won’t remain here after that. They are determined to prove they are still strong players at this level and to give their best for Milan.
“We think we deserve a better positing in the table – we can’t qualify for the Champions League any more but at least we have to get the club back in a European competition.”