July 21, 2020 / 9:34 PM / 13 days ago

Milan extend Pioli's contract, abandon Rangnick plans

MILAN (Reuters) - AC Milan have extended the contract of coach Stefano Pioli, the club said on Tuesday, as it abandoned widely-reported plans to replace him with former RB Leipzig and Schalke 04 coach Ralf Rangnick for next season.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Lazio v AC Milan - Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy - July 4, 2020 AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli before the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

Italian media have been reporting regularly since February that Milan have been in negotiations to hire the 62-year-old on the initiative of the club’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis.

Yet those plans became untenable after Pioli inspired a revival.

Milan made the announcement immediately after the team won 2-1 at Sassuolo on Tuesday to extend their unbeaten run to 10 matches in all competitions and guarantee a place in next season’s Europa League.

The club said that Pioli’s contract would be extended until July 2022.

“Stefano... brilliantly managed both the pandemic outbreak lockdown and the re-start of the current season, with a very consistent, positive impact to the whole team,” Milan said in a statement.

Gazidis added: “Stefano has shown he can deliver the vision of football we have for our club — exciting, progressive and passionate.”

“This is not a decision based on recent victories, but one based on how Stefano has built team spirit and unity of purpose, the way he has improved the performances of the individual players and the collective team.”

Pioli has regularly had to dodge questions about his future since the reports began.

“We are at the beginning of an extraordinary path. If we keep working this way, we will grow and be more and more competitive,” he said.

Seven-times European champions Milan have not won a major trophy since 2011 and have regularly finished in midtable since then.

Writing by Brian Homewood; additional reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Toby Davis

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