AC Milan have abandoned plans to hire former RB Leipzig and Schalke 04 coach Ralf Rangnick, with the club confirming that current manager Stefano Pioli has been given a two-year contract extension.

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

Yet the team have enjoyed a revival under coach Stefano Pioli, embarking on a nine-match unbeaten run including seven wins to qualify for the Europa League after Tuesday night's win over Sassuolo. 

"I am happy and proud of the trust I have received from AC Milan," said Pioli as his stay was confirmed. 

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

Sports director and club legend Paolo Maldini praised Pioli for guiding the team "at a very difficult time".

"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.

"Stefano is the right man to lead the team that we want: successful, young and hungry."

Rangnick is regarded as a visionary and one of the modern pioneers of aggressive high-pressing football while Pioli, though widely respected in Italy, has never won a major title.

Milan were away to Sassuolo in a Serie A match on Tuesday in which veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic rolled back the years to score twice for the Rossoneri against their 10-man opponents.

Stefano Pioli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrate the victory over Sassuolo

The 38-year-old Swede got in front of his marker to head in from Hakan Calhanoglu's cross in the 19th minute and latched on to a through ball before rounding Andrea Consigli to add the second in first-half injury time.

In between, Francesco Caputo equalised from a penalty for Sassuolo, who had Mehdi Bourabia sent off in first-half stoppage time.

Milan moved up to fifth with 59 points, enough to guarantee them at least a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds next season.

Atalanta's coach Gian Piero Gasperini (R) argues with Bologna's counterpart Sinisa Mihajlovic 

Meanwhile, Atalanta took their Serie A tally to 95 goals, the highest by any side in a single season for more than 60 years, when they beat Bologna 1-0 in a match featuring a furious row between the two coaches.

Halftime substitute Luis Muriel scored the only goal in the 62nd minute to extend Atalanta's unbeaten run in Serie A to 15 games and take them second on 74 points with three matches left.

However, they are six behind leaders Juventus, who have a game in hand and are poised to claim the title. Inter Milan, who host Fiorentina on Wednesday, are third with 72.

Tempers flared in the first half when Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini complained to the referee about a Bologna player and was hailed with expletives by his opposite number Sinisa Mihajlovic.

With no spectators in the stadium, Mihajlovic's obscene outburst was captured by microphones and broadcast to viewers around the world. Both men were booked and Gasperini was then sent off for continuing to remonstrate with officials.