Franck Kessie AC Milan 2019-20Getty

‘He knows how to manage the team’ - Kessie praises Pioli for AC Milan's impressive form

Franck Kessie has praised AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli for his ability to manage the club which he believes has contributed in no small measure to the impressive form of the side.

The San Siro Stadium outfit are on a 22-game unbeaten run, winning 17 of them and have continued to enjoy a near-perfect start to the 2020-21 season.

The Red and Blacks have won four of their opening five Serie A games to sit atop the league table with 13 points.   

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Milan last won the league title in 2011 and the Ivory Coast international believes they can finish high this season, while showering encomium on Pioli for the progress of the Red and Blacks thus far.

"We don't set ourselves any limits. We are on the right path and we have to carry on working like this,” Kessie told BBC Sport Africa.

"We have great enthusiasm and high spirit. We want to keep it and nourish it even more until the end of the season.

"The gaffer knows how to manage the group - and we all feel important parts of the project. He told me what he expected from me.

“At the beginning, it wasn't easy, but then I understood his requests and I could translate them onto the pitch."

Kessie has been with Milan since the summer of 2017, initially on loan from Atalanta before the deal was made permanent.

The midfielder struggled on his arrival before becoming a key member of the team under Pioli and explains his feelings each time he plays for the Italian giants.  

"I have never even thought of leaving the club and no one here asked me to do so," he continued.

"Wearing this shirt, which is like a second skin to me, is a source of pride for me and my family. I am already a veteran of the squad and I need to lead by example.

"Wearing this shirt is an honour as well as a responsibility. We represent millions of fans around the world and we all work hard every day to bring AC Milan back where it belongs."

The midfielder has 42 caps for Ivory Coast and featured prominently in their friendly games against Belgium and Japan this month as part of their preparation for the Afcon qualifying match against Madagascar in November.

"Ivory Coast has a good squad - we are a tight-knit group and I am happy. We have important players such as Wilfried Zaha, Nicolas Pepe, Christian Kouame, Maxwel Cornet and Serge Aurier,” he added.

"We played two friendly games recently and we drew against Belgium, which is one of the best teams in the world. Unfortunately, we didn't do as well against Japan [losing 1-0]. We are improving though and we have what it takes to go all the way."

Kessi will be expected to play a part and help Milan continue their impressive run of form when they face Sparta Praha in a Europa League game on October 29.