Davide Calabria has revealed just what it means for him to be AC Milan captain, and also insisted that the team are full of belief ahead of the two legs against Inter.
The city of Milano will be holding its breath over six tense days starting with tomorrow’s first leg of the Champions League semi-final clash between Milan and Inter at San Siro, with kick-off at 21:00 CEST before the return leg on May 16.
It is not the first time that the Rossoneri and the Nerazzurri have faced each other in the knockout stages of the competition as it happened back in 2002-03 and 2004-05 as well, with the red half of the city celebrating on both occasions.
One of the players who will have a bit of added responsibility is captain Calabria, who will lead the team out for an occasion that the world will be watching. He spoke to Diario AS in Spain, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.
On playing for Milan: “I’ve made my dream come true, even if I still have a few trophies to win (laughs).”
On working with Pippo Inzaghi and Mihajlovic: “I also worked with Pippo in the youth team, I have only good memories with him, we still have an excellent relationship. Sinisa wanted me in the squad after the preseason, I will never forget that I owe him a lot.”
On the captain’s armband: “Being the captain of one of the best clubs in the world, having grown up in a Milan family, is something too big. My life’s dream.”
On Paolo Maldini: “When I was little, I played with his son and I didn’t even have the courage to approach Paolo. Now we have a very sincere relationship. You know that if you need something, he’s there.”
On the Milan project: “We’ve experienced some difficulties, but the ups and downs have made me grow, in an entity like Milan responsibilities weigh more. Now the club is healthy, important players have arrived and, with them, the results. We will continue to grow.”
On the semi-final of the Champions League: “It’s the most important competition, but we have to consider it as a starting point and consolidate ourselves by playing this competition every year.
“Every derby brings enormous pressure and playing it in Europe is a unique opportunity. It’s something that will go further football, but what I love is that there is rivalry and, at the same time, huge respect between the two sides. I can’t wait to experience it.”
On the battle against Kvaratskhelia: “We’ve prepared to stop him at team level, closing down every space. He’s a player who has shown that he’s a top player who has just arrived at a club that has had a fantastic season, who deserved to win and we must congratulate him. In one-on-one situations he is formidable, there are few in Europe like him. It was beautiful and inspiring.”
On Leao: “Rafa has a natural change of pace that is impossible to stop. If he runs away from you, you can only hope he gets it wrong. He has huge potential.”
On Brahim Diaz: “His talent showed as soon as he arrived, he knows how to connect the game between the lines and it helps us a lot. We have an excellent relationship, on and off the pitch.”
On Theo Hernandez: “Another good guy, with whom I have a greeting before every game. We are not superstitious, but it has already become routine (laughs). He has an almost unique running power. He is one of the best full-backs in the world and I think that hasn’t yet reached his potential.”
On the difference in performance in Italy and Europe: “The Champions League takes away a lot of your energy and if you don’t have everyone at your disposal the physical wear and tear is enormous.
“Having said that, we players too have a responsibility. We have to play league games as if they were games in the Champions League.”
On Inter: “They’re a quality team and a great team. This year their point of reference is Lautaro: he’s having an incredible season and, what’s more, he won the World Cup.”
On Dimarco: “He’s grown up and I’m not surprised. It will be a good challenge: two Italians face to face, defending the colours of the teams we grew up with and for which we’ve supported since we were kids.”
On the Champions League final: “Real Madrid or City? With a derby ahead, it’s difficult for me to answer, even if the dream of winning the Champions League is in our heads.
“It’s like that for everyone. I play football because I want to win trophies. The players from Inter, Madrid and City will feel the same way, but we must all be focused on the semi-finals.”