Arrigo Sacchi admitted he was ‘surprised’ by the Milan fans’ recent protest, defending the club and explaining why things aren’t as bad as they seem.

The Rossoneri have been in a state of flux heading into the summer, with Stefano Pioli certainly on track to be dismissed after five years at the helm, prompting the management to start looking around for possible replacements.

In the meantime, Milan have been shacky on the pitch, winning one of their last five league outings, and the ultras have started a silent protest, unhappy with the work of Gerry Cardinale and RedBird, creating a tense atmosphere in the closing stages of the 2023-24 season.

Sacchi defends Milan

Speaking on page 26 of today’s Gazzetta dello Sport, Sacchi was first asked if he expected Milan’s season to end like this.

“No. I have to admit that, as civil as it was and that’s an aspect that should be underlined, the fans’ protest surprised me. I understand that the fans turn to the owners, to the club.

“In this way, however, the effect has had repercussions on Pioli and the team. They will finish the season in second place, not in mid-table. Could they have done better? Yes, definitely.

“This season’s Milan were a profoundly renewed team, the coach needed to assemble the players who arrived from the transfer market and create a team. The results weren’t always excellent, but Milan still played well and, I repeat, are second.”

He gave his thoughts on the fans’ recent protest.

“The current ownership arrived recently, this was RedBird’s second season with the Rossoneri. Milan today are a virtuous club from an economic point of view, with accounts in order, and this must be recognized.

“The previous ownership, then, operating in the same direction as the one that took over, managed to give the fans a season that had been expected for 11 years.

“We are talking about a success that came by overcoming teams that had spent more, and in Italy there are at least two or three of them that have always been very important but also demanding.

“They expect to see the team play well and give everything, but in the history of a club there are also moments…”

Sacchi commented on the moment Milan are in.

“It’s a phase where there’s a team, Inter, better equipped to win. Milan in recent years won a Scudetto after a wonderful head-to-head with the Nerazzurri, then Napoli and Inter won.

“I understand that the fact of having lost so many derbies has made the Milan fans suffer, but in the past Inter have also suffered.

“I remember that once, after a derby won by my Milan, the lawyer Prisco came to me and said: ‘If it’d been a boxing match I would’ve thrown in the towel. We lost but without conceding too many goals. And it worked out well for us, because we hadn’t passed the halfway mark.”

“Cycles change, moments pass. I hope that Milan fans once again demonstrate their great sporting culture and their love for the club, without being blinded by Inter’s latest successes. We must remember that the club comes before the team, and the team before the players.”

The former coach looked to explain why the Rossoneri are 18 points behind rivals Inter.

“As I have repeated several times, signing so many foreign players in the last transfer window was a risk, and if Pioli had chosen them, he’d also be responsible, but I don’t know.

“Let’s not forget that the decision to end with Maldini and Massara was also a move that appears questionable. Now much, if not everything, will depend on the choice of the new coach.”

Sacchi suggested two possible Stefano Pioli replacements for Milan.

“If we’re talking about a young man, I’d say De Zerbi, in terms of experience I’d suggest Sarri. But something else will count more than profile.

“May Milan decide with conviction and defend their choice. With strength. The same as Berlusconi had with me.”

He also gave some advice to the fans.

“Have patience. Trust the club and support Milan as they always have. You play and win with the collective, and the same goes for the fans, you have to be united with the club.”

Finally, Sacchi predicted the atmosphere for Milan’s final home game of the season.

“A stadium once again alongside the club. Chants, flags and the fans cheering, everything, at Milan’s goal. It will also be Pioli’s last match on the Rossoneri bench, I hope that the fans treat him with respect and gratitude.

“In recent years he has done an excellent job, he brought the Scudetto back to Milan’s shirts and led the team to the Champions League semi-finals. He deserves only applause.”

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