Milan would still be contenders if not for 'exceptional' Napoli – Pioli
Stefano Pioli believes Milan could have ridden out their recent slump and still won the Serie A title if not for Napoli's "exceptional" season.
Milan are fourth in the table, having gone a costly five league matches without a win across January and the start of February.
Still, the Rossoneri were not in a dissimilar position at this stage of last season, in third place before rallying to win the Scudetto.
Pioli received the top honour at the Panchina d'Oro – Italian football's coaching awards – on Monday in recognition of that stunning Milan triumph.
But the coach knows there will be no repeat this year as leaders Napoli are 18 points ahead.
Although Milan are five points down on where they were after 23 games of 2021-22, they still only trail Inter in second by three points. Napoli are the clear outliers.
"We were in position until the 'famous' period of decline," Pioli told reporters at Coverciano. "And then anyway we would still be in position if Napoli were not having the season they are having.
"We must be honest in saying that Napoli are doing something exceptional, we must congratulate them.
"Otherwise all the other teams of our level would be there to play for the title within a few points – as it was last season."