Pioli remains calm over key trio as Milan set sights on Champions League

By Sports Desk April 02, 2021

Stefano Pioli feels qualifying for the Champions League could "change everything" for Milan – particularly when it comes to retaining three key members of his first-team squad.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Hakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all out of contract at the end of the season, while the Serie A club also face a decision over whether to sign on-loan defender Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal.

However, ahead of the resumption of domestic duties after the international games in March, Pioli made clear the focus for everyone is on finishing the campaign strongly.

Milan sit second in the table and despite their form tailing off in 2021 – they have lost five times in the league since the turn of the year, having gone unbeaten in the competition in the first half of the season – they have a glorious opportunity to finish in the top four.

"In the eyes of Ibra, Calhanoglu and Donnarumma I see serenity," Pioli told the media about the trio on Friday.

"Their future is now for us - it would change everything for us to go to the Champions League. I see a lot of concentration and attention."

Tomori had made 12 appearances in all competitions since his arrival from Chelsea in the mid-season transfer window, with the temporary deal including a purchase option.

"We are very satisfied with how he has started, he is a smiling boy, he gives us important characteristics," Pioli said of the centre-back. "We must continue to do well without thinking about the future."

Milan are in early action on Saturday, taking on Sampdoria at San Siro.

The Rossoneri have failed to win in any of their last five home games in all competitions, a run that included a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United that ended their involvement in the Europa League.

Catching Serie A leaders Inter - who sit six points clear and have a game in hand - may be difficult but Pioli has set a points target for his players to work towards in the closing months.

"We have always taken responsibility with great conviction and confidence," he said.

"There comes a decisive moment - everything we have done so far is to be here right now. We want to get to the end of the season without regrets.

"Ten games are a lot and there are still many points to play for, 75 could be the right threshold to reach the Champions League but it is difficult to make calculations.

"The fight will be very tough, we have to think about the next game."

Related items

  • Abraham caps memorable debut Serie A season with a slice of history Abraham caps memorable debut Serie A season with a slice of history

    Tammy Abraham capped a memorable first season in Serie A with a slice of history as Roma defeated Torino 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Friday. 

    A first-half double saw Abraham become the highest-scoring English player in a single season in the Italian top flight, surpassing the previous mark of 16 set by Gerald Hitchens at Inter in 1961-62. 

    The only Roma player to score more than the England international's haul of 17 in a debut Serie A season with the club was Rodolfo Volk, who registered 21 in the 1929-30 campaign. 

    Abraham has also found the back of the net nine times in 13 appearances in the Europa Conference League this season and is hopeful of capping a memorable campaign with a victory in the final against Feyenoord on Wednesday. 

    "I would have loved to get three, to score a hat-trick for my team, but the most important thing is we won," he told DAZN. 

    "I fell in love with this club on the first day and I'm always going to help the team as much as possible with my goals and assists. It's been a good year for me. I'd like to build on it and hopefully we can finish with a trophy and this will be the perfect year." 

    Asked if he will stay at Roma, Abraham replied: "I love this club. They've given me the opportunity to show myself and my heart is here. We'll see what the future holds but my heart is here." 

  • Paris Saint-Germain confirm Di Maria departure Paris Saint-Germain confirm Di Maria departure

    Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed Angel Di Maria will leave the club upon the expiration of his contract. 

    Di Maria joined PSG from Manchester United in 2015 and has gone on to enjoy a stellar stint in the French capital. 

    The former Real Madrid winger has won five Ligue 1 titles, enjoyed as many Coupe de France triumphs and collected four Coupe de la Ligue trophies. 

    He has not been able to help PSG win the Champions League, though he did get a runners-up medal in 2019-20. 

    Di Maria, who scored in a 4-0 rout of Montpellier last week, contributed to 40 goals in his first season at PSG, scoring 15 and providing 25 assists. 

    In the 2021 Coupe de France final, his pass for a Kylian Mbappe goal saw Di Maria become the player with the most assists in PSG's history (104). 

    He has assisted 71 goals in Ligue 1 since his debut in 2015, 27 more than any other PSG player in that time frame, and created 482 chances – way clear of second-ranked Neymar's tally of 267. His 55 goals place him fourth, behind Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Mbappe. 

    Lionel Messi's arrival last year limited Di Maria's minutes, with the Argentine featuring 30 times across all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign and starting 21 of those games. 

    On Friday, ahead of PSG's final game of the season against Metz, Di Maria posted a picture of the squad to his official Instagram account with the message: "Gracias. Merci." 

    "Angel Di Maria has definitely marked the history of the club," said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi. 

    "He will be remembered by supporters as a player of impeccable spirit, who showed unwavering commitment to defending our colours.  

    "I invite the whole Paris Saint-Germain family to meet [Saturday] at the Parc des Princes to pay him the tribute he deserves." 

    Reports have suggested that Juventus have lined up a move for Di Maria, who turned 34 in February. 

  • Barcelona not in a position to sign Lewandowski, insists LaLiga president Tebas Barcelona not in a position to sign Lewandowski, insists LaLiga president Tebas

    Barcelona are not in a position to finance a deal for Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, according to LaLiga president Javier Tebas.

    Lewandowski last week confirmed that he has informed Bayern he will not be extending his contract beyond the end of next season.

    The Poland international hinted he is interested in a move away from the Allianz Arena in the upcoming transfer window, rather than departing as a free agent in a year's time.

    Barca are the favourites to land Europe's most prolific striker, with head coach Xavi insisting age would not be a barrier when it comes to his rebuild project.

    However, uncertainty lingers over whether Barca have the financial clout to make a move as they attempt to come through an economic crisis that has hit Camp Nou hard.

    And unless certain players, such as midfielder Frenkie de Jong, are sold to bring in additional funds, Tebas does not see the Lewandowski transfer being a possibility.

    "The numbers are easy: if you have more than €500million losses from the past two years, you have to recover money," Tebas is quoted as saying by Spanish publication Sport.

    "Lewandowski has one year left at Bayern. Between what he wants to earn and what Bayern want to take... as of today I don't see him at Barcelona. Other things must happen.

    "Selling players could be enough, depending on how much they raise and what Lewandowski costs. It could be €100m plus that is saved.

    "De Jong could give them that possibility, but I don't know if they are even planning to sell. To date they have not sold him."

     

    Lewandowski has scored 50 goals in 46 games for Bayern in all competitions this season, making him the top scorer among players from Europe's top five leagues.

    Next on that list is Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema with 44, followed by Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe with 36 in 45 matches.

    Mbappe had been widely expected to join Benzema at Madrid next season, but reports on Friday suggested the forward might decide to stay at PSG.

    However, Tebas expects the France international to end up at the Santiago Bernabeu in the coming weeks.

    "I think he'll be at Real Madrid, though one day he is white and another day he is black – he changes," Tebas said. "But yes, I think [he'll sign for Madrid].

    ”I have seen these twists and turns so many times – it's not unexpected, because there are always twists. 

    "The feeling I have is that if he had wanted to renew he would have already done so, but I could be wrong."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.