Ismael Bennacer has been at AC Milan for over four years and he’s now considered a key player for the Rossoneri. In a recent interview, the midfielder reflected on joining the club, what the future holds and the special rivalry with Inter.
Bennacer is currently recovering from a knee injury and the latest reports suggest that he will be back in mid-December. Considering that he has been sidelined since the end of last season, his return is very important.
Speaking to the YouTube channel Insta Foot (see the video below), Bennacer spoke about the decision to join Milan and what the future holds. He was also asked about the derbies against Inter and Hakan Calhanoglu’s move from the Rossoneri to the Nerazzurri. The quotes have been transcribed by MilanNews.
On Milan’s proposal…
“I listened to the sporting project, as I always have. I saw how much they wanted me: I never looked at the contract, ever. When I signed, I thought about the project, not about the money. My agent told me: ‘It’s the team that wants you the most, and the sporting project you’re looking for’.
“I wanted to go to a big club and that’s what I managed to do. At Empoli, we deserved a lot more, not relegation. The Africa Cup of Nations helped but I had already spoken to Milan. I remember well that after the semi-final, two days before the final, Massara called me speaking in French. I told him: ‘I will win the cup and then I will come’. I wanted to improve, grow, and the project was right for me.”
On signing the contract…
“I had signed with Milan before vacation. Maldini and Massara… Arriving at Milan, such a big club, everything is of a high level. In the beginning, you don’t realize the greatness of that club. My older brother is a big Milan fan, but he didn’t choose these colours for this reason.
“I’ve always made my own decisions: I listen, but then I choose what to do. Milan is an incredible club. The organisation, the people, it’s all too incredible. I feel the history of this club, and the weight of the shirt too. That’s why I give everything on the pitch. I love Milan.”
On Leao and his relationship with his teammates…
“We arrived together that summer. We talk a lot. Rafa is incredible on the pitch, but off the pitch he is more relaxed. We always talk: when he needs something, I’m there. He’s like a younger brother, I give him advice. I’m like that with everyone because the team comes first. He and I were there when the reconstruction of the team began.
“I feel like a leader, but that doesn’t mean I feel stronger than others. I have more responsibilities: you have to set an example when you wear the Milan shirt. Today I try to make the new arrivals feel at ease. I give them my phone number, I tell them not to hesitate to call me if they have problems. It’s normal to be shy when you arrive in a new dressing room: it also happened to Saelemaekers.”
On the goal against Napoli in the Champions League…
“If it can be described in one word, it’s “exciting”. An emotion. Imagine being on the pitch while you hear the whole stadium screaming your name. Honestly, I had a poor game, then I scored and everyone told me that I played a fantastic match. But that’s not the case. I was playing in a new role and there were also personal circumstances in the days leading up to the match that made me tired on matchday. But a goal is a goal: we won 1-0. It was a crazy match.”
On Milan’s difficulty in derbies…
“We haven’t actually been affected by this statistic. We have prepared well for all the matches. In the last match (5-1, editor’s note) I was injured and wasn’t there, but I spoke to my teammates and the coach before the match. Honestly, it’s difficult because you give everything on the pitch. It’s a thing of the past now.
“We’ve played against them a lot: maybe at a certain moment some players were more tired, maybe they are stronger in some aspects. For example, they always score early. These are things we have to work on. Scudetto fight? Milan and Inter will fight to the death and we always meet, even in the Champions League like last season. It’s truly the most complicated rivalry.”
“I didn’t know anything about it. I found out at the last minute when Eriksen fell ill. Hakan wanted to stay at Milan, but then I don’t know what happened. Maybe they didn’t reach an agreement. We’re friends but on the pitch there are no friends, even more so in a derby.
“I respect him, but when I read about this transfer, I said to myself: ‘No’. I was on holiday, I saw it and thought: ‘He can’t have done it.’ Personally, I could never do it. I respect Milan too much. Inter can offer me what they want, but it won’t happen. I love this club. It doesn’t mean I will stay here for my whole career, I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I will never go to Inter.”
Milan are currently relying on Yacine Adli and Rade Krunic for the No.6 role, hence why Stefano Pioli has reverted to the 4-2-3-1 in some games. Bennacer’s return will be like adding a new signing, but we must have a bit more patience.