October 9, 2019 / 10:38 AM / 11 days ago

AC Milan appoint Pioli as new coach on two-year deal

MILAN (Reuters) - AC Milan have appointed Stefano Pioli as their new coach, the Serie A club said on Wednesday, handing him a two-year contract in the hope he will turn around the fortunes of the seven-times European champions.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Fiorentina v Napoli - Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy - February 9, 2019 Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli reacts REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

The Rossoneri sacked their previous coach, Marco Giampaolo, on Tuesday after the team lost four of their first seven Serie A games of the season to sit 13th — 10 points off leaders Juventus.

AC Milan won the last of their 18 Serie A titles in 2011 and last played in the Champions League in the 2013-14 season.

The club qualified for the Europa League this season after finishing fifth in 2018-19 but voluntarily accepted a one-year ban from all European competitions for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

“I understand and share the frustration of our fans. Milan has suffered in recent years. We’re on a journey and it’s not an easy path,” AC Milan Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis said in a statement on Wednesday.

Gazidis was appointed at the helm of the storied club last year by U.S. fund Elliott, which took control of AC Milan after Chinese businessman Li Yonghong, who had bought the club from former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, failed to make a repayment due to the U.S. fund.

Gazidis said Elliott had inherited a club on the brink of insolvency, adding the U.S. fund is determined to make AC Milan capable of competing at top level in Europe again.

“There is a long way to go and time to turn the ship. With that in mind we have been decisive and brought a capable experienced coach who we believe can improve our performance and develop our young players,” he said in response to criticism from disappointed fans.

Pioli has coached several Serie A teams including Lazio, who he led to a third-place finish and the Coppa Italia final in the 2014-15 season, and Inter Milan.

His last job was at Fiorentina, where he was credited with keeping the team together after the sudden death of captain Davide Astori in March 2018 threatened to derail their campaign, eventually finishing eighth.

Pioli left in April this year during his second season, saying Fiorentina had questioned his abilities following a poor run of form after they fell to 10th. The club would eventually finish 16th — three points above the relegation zone.

Reporting by Elvira Pollina, additional reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Writing by Crispian Balmer, editing by Tony Lawrence and Toby Davis

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