Stefano Pioli on Thin Ice: Evaluating Milan Managerial Future

Stefano Pioli’s managerial future at Milan has become a subject of intense debate following another disappointing result against Salernitana. Rossoneri slipped to a late 2-2 draw at Stadio Arechi on Friday night, practically giving up their hope of catching Serie A leaders Inter. 

Inter’s 2-0 win against Lecce on Saturday left Milan 11 points behind the summit. It’s now a near-certainty that Pioli’s side won’t be part of the Scudetto chasing pack come May 2024. After losing further ground on Inter and Juventus, they’ll probably have to settle for securing Champions League qualification.

A poor Champions League campaign is another reason Pioli could leave the helm. Milan reached the competition’s semi-finals last term. Yet, they couldn’t make it out of the group stages this year, sealing a switch to the Europa League knockout playoff round as a consolation prize. 

That’s not what the club hierarchy had in mind when they splashed out north of €100 million in the summer. And that’s not what Pioli wanted for his side that only two years ago climbed to the top of Serie A. He’ll be in the dugout for Milan’s upcoming league clash against Sassuolo.

However, his long-term future at San Siro is anything but safe. While the sacking isn’t imminent, Milan must already be thinking about potential replacements. Here, we look at the three likeliest candidates to take Pioli’s place at the helm. 

#3 Underdog – Igor Tudor

Milan fans would probably hope for a more high-profile name. But Tudor deserves the benefit of the doubt. His first managerial experience in Italy didn’t go to plan. He helped Udinese avoid relegation in 2018 but left the club soon after failing to land a long-term deal. 

Tudor’s return to Dacia Arena the following year was an unmitigated disaster. Following a string of underwhelming results, the Friulians showed him the door in November 2019. He was then part of Andrea Pirlo’s technical staff at Juventus. But the club fired them at the end of the 2020/21 campaign as Inter pipped them to the title. 

He made a name for himself as a Hellas Verona manager. The Croat turned Verona into one of the most exciting teams in Serie A in 2021/22 but left Rossoblu to link up with Marseille after the curtain dropped in May. In his only season in Ligue 1, Tudor guided Marseille to a third-place finish in the French top flight. 

Whether a man who failed to last at one club for more than a year would be a decent fit for Milan remains open to interpretation. 

#2 Dream Signing – Antonio Conte

Speaking of managers with different characters and temperaments, Conte is among the first names that springs to mind. Out of work since parting ways with Tottenham earlier this year, the Italian tactician is ready to return to management. 

As one of the most decorated Italian coaches, Conte would be a dream acquisition for Milan. Before taking the Spurs assignment, the 54-year-old enjoyed enormous success at every previous job. He ushered in a new era at Juventus and led Inter to their first Scudetto in a decade.

Lifting the Premier League title with Chelsea was his standout achievement abroad, cementing his status as one of the best in the business. But luring him to San Siro seems like a near-impossible task unless Milan can present a sustainable long-term plan. 

#1 Management’s Preference – Graham Potter

Under the new management, Milan have turned to data-led recruitment methods. On that basis, Potter’s name fits the bill to a ‘T.’ Despite his disastrous stint at Chelsea, the 48-year-old remains a household name thanks to his impressive work at Brighton. 

No stranger to ventures outside the UK, Potter built his reputation as one of Europe’s most exciting up-and-coming managers during an eye-catching eight-year spell at Swedish outfit Ostersund. Known for his free-flowing style of football, the Englishman has become famous for his ‘unconventional’ coaching methods. 

Tactically flexible and possession-oriented, Potter would be a good fit for Milan. As the Italians strive to build a young team, the appointment of a young coach makes sense. 

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