Leao 'never left' – Pioli ecstatic as Milan forward runs riot at Napoli

By Sports Desk April 02, 2023

Stefano Pioli hailed Rafael Leao after he returned to form with a brace in Milan's remarkable 4-0 rout of Napoli, declaring the forward had not gone anywhere during his recent goal drought.

Having gone 11 games without a goal for Milan, Leao tore Napoli apart as the defending champions claimed a memorable win over the Serie A leaders at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

After lobbing Alex Meret for the opener, Leao scored his second of the game – and his 10th of the Serie A season – with a powerful left-footed finish to cap a lightning break from Pioli's men.

Leao – Serie A's Player of the Season last campaign – attracted criticism during his recent lean spell, but Pioli always had faith he would rediscover his best form.

Asked whether Leao was 'back' after his double, Pioli told DAZN: "He never left!

"He scored two goals, one from a central forward position and one from out wide. He has incredible potential and will become a champion."

As well as providing a huge boost to Milan's hopes of a top-four finish, the result served as a warning to Napoli ahead of this month's Champions League quarter-final tie against the Rossoneri.

Pioli, however, does not believe Milan's win will have any impact on those contests, adding: "Certainly today's victory gives us confidence, but they will be different matches. 

"Just because we won 4-0 today, it doesn't mean that Napoli have lost their certainties. We'll think about Napoli and face those two matches – I hope – with the personality of this evening.

"It will be a balanced match between two strong teams who are doing well in the Champions League. This season will be positive if we play in the Champions League again next year.

"There are still 10 days to go. It will be 180 minutes, but now we head to Empoli [on Friday] – in the league we haven't always faced matches with the right attitude."

Since Pioli joined Milan in 2019, the Rossoneri have posted five wins against teams starting that matchday top of the Serie A table – at least two more than any other team in the competition.

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