Pioli pleased with Leao, but keen for Ibrahimovic return

By Dejan Kalinic 21 December 2020 14
Pioli pleased with Leao, but keen for Ibrahimovic return

Stefano Pioli is looking forward to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return, but the Milan coach was pleased with Rafael Leao's performance against Sassuolo.

Leao scored the fastest goal in Serie A history – after just six seconds – as Milan recorded a 2-1 win over Sassuolo on Sunday.

Milan returned to winning ways after back-to-back draws, and they are a point clear of rivals Inter atop the table.

Pioli's men have managed to stay unbeaten in Serie A through 13 games despite being without Ibrahimovic since the end of November, the striker – who has scored 11 goals this season – set to miss another month after suffering a calf injury in training.

Despite his side's form without the 39-year-old star, Pioli is keen to welcome Ibrahimovic back.

"First of all, with Ibra we are a stronger team. He is a champion and with him the team improved under many aspects," he told a news conference.

"Thanks to his work many players have improved their performances. I hope he can come back as soon as possible because we need him and with him we are a better team."

Leao, 21, is the youngest player with three-plus goals in the top five European leagues in each of the past three seasons.

Alexis Saelemaekers doubled Milan's lead after the early opener and they saw out a win despite Domenico Berardi's late strike.

"I'm very happy for Leao because sometimes I ask him more in terms of determination and consistency during the game," Pioli said.

"I never judge a performance by the goal but today despite scoring he had a good approach to the game and he worked a lot also when we were defending and was able to help the team a lot.

"He did all these things and with his individual qualities if he shows this mentality he can become a very important player if he plays like he did [against Sassuolo]."

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