Pioli: 'Calhanoglu hasn't reached potential'

Stefano Pioli explains what Zlatan Ibrahimovic brings other than goals to Milan and why Hakan Calhanoglu has ‘not reached his maximum potential.’

The Rossoneri badly needed a boost after back-to-back defeats against Sassuolo and Lazio, especially as they go head-to-head with Juventus next week.

Calhanoglu got the early goal against Benevento, then Theo Hernandez followed up a save on Zlatan Ibrahimovic for his first Serie A goal of 2021.

“Without a team spirit, we wouldn’t get anywhere. We are a strong team, but not strong enough to get away with lacking the basics.

“We had some situations in recent weeks that penalised us, but I saw a good performance this evening,” the coach told DAZN.

The return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was certainly felt, even if he didn’t get on the scoresheet.

“Ibrahimovic is a champion and a champion makes everyone around him raise their game. Missing him was certainly damaging to the team, but we have reacted to the difficulties and showed character.

“It’s an advantage not to give the opposition defence a regular point to focus on, so Zlatan has this great tactical intelligence and knows how to move around trying to find the space.”

There were more one-touch passes and movement off the ball than Milan have seen recently, especially with the opening goal.

“This was a particularly important match, as we cannot deny that not getting the full points tonight would’ve been damaging to us.

“We realised that we have to take the initiative and play the ball quicker. What I do think we need to do now is be a little more solid when the opponents have the ball, getting back into position and closing the spaces.”

Next week it’s a head-to-head with Juventus, although Samu Castillejo will be suspended.

“In my view, Calhanoglu has not yet achieved his maximum potential. He provides quality, solidity, hard work, he plays with the team,” continued Pioli.

“He just needs to be a little more precise on assists and the final ball, keep his head up and check for the options. I think he must be motivated to score more goals, because with the talent he has, he should set himself much higher targets and aim for double figures.”

It has been a tough couple of weeks between the Super League controversy and poor results, so did Paolo Maldini and his staff manage to shield the team?

“The technical directors support us on a daily basis, they give us the best conditions to do our work. That’s crucial, as they are people who understand football, who know when and how to intervene. We have all the support we need to work at 100 per cent.”

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