Caldara reflects on time at Milan in emotional recollection: “19 months of sadness”

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan loanee Mattia Caldara has reflected on his difficult time at the club as well as his recent period which has been tormented by repeated serious injury problems.

Caldara was considered one of the defenders with the highest potential in Serie A and back in 2018 he joined Milan from Juventus in a deal worth €35m. He never managed to establish himself due to a myriad of physical problems and was sent out on loan to Atalanta who did not buy him outright, but Venezia took him and now he is beginning to get some confidence back.

Calciomercato.com recently reported that during the summer he could have chosen Lazio, Torino or Cagliari but in the end he and his entourage chose to join Venezia. Milan are happy too as they agreed to a loan with option to buy operation set at around €4m.

Caldara has given a long and emotional interview to Cronace in the locker room about just how much he struggled while he was on the sidelines at Milan and why he feels like his move to Venezia has provided a chance for him to hit the reset button.

“When I first went to Juve and then to Milan I understood that the concept of family that existed at Atalanta it is more focused and translated on the individual. There, every step is analysed and makes news. I came from a group where each of your mates was your brother, instead the big names think more of themselves,” he said.

“I was agitated when they introduced me at Milan,.  didn’t know where they were taking me, the team manager gave me a shirt and I asked: ‘What should I do? Autograph it?’. He replied: ‘Wait and see’. We went up to a building in Piazza Duomo, I looked out and saw a group of people below, applauding us, singing choruses. Crazy. He was ready, I wasn’t. I enjoyed the moment, but if they had told me before I probably wouldn’t have gone up there. It wasn’t for me.

“During a sprint in training, I feel a stabbing pain in my heel. I think, ‘Who the hell hit me?’ I turn around, but there is only Cutrone two meters away. ‘How did he get me?’, I don’t understand’. And instead I realise that no, it was nobody. My Achilles tendon had given out.

“I had no previous sensations, discomfort, pain. That was the first, real mental hit. I realised that this was not going to be a small thing. They didn’t know whether to operate, they were confusing days and I was at the mercy of so many question marks.

“The tendon was still attached at 10%, I flew to Finland to Prof Orava who advised me not to have an operation. So I spent 50 days with plaster: still, immobile, without being able to do anything. For the first time deprived of playing football. And for us footballers, football is life. A first blackout. I put my soul in peace: there was nothing to do.

“After five months I begin to feel better. It was now April. In training I felt that everything was not finished yet, but I improved. I’m finally back on the pitch in the Coppa Italia against Lazio. During the game it seemed that nothing had happened in the previous months. I felt good, all right. All the pain had suddenly melted away.

Mattia Caldara of AC Milan

“During the week I train to the maximum, confident. I had just returned after 150 days without football. I do a tackle and then the collateral cruciate ligament decides to give. Dark. Mentally it was as if I had been hit by a meteorite. Like a sword that had just pierced me. I felt it: I was almost there. And yet here it is, again, the abyss. An even harder blow than the first.

“It was May, I had already lost a season, that of the big jump. It took me a few days to realise. Just then, personal decline also began. I went to Rome to do rehabilitation, returning to Milan in late September. In fact, I didn’t even know Mister Giampaolo, because when I started to be more present at Milanello, he was sacked.

“Pioli arrived. Three months had already passed, two more were needed. I played two friendlies with the Primavera, but I felt it: the knee was not well. It certainly wasn’t 100%. It took time. In January I talked to the coach, he told me to be patient. Then Atalanta contacted me to give me an opportunity.

“I told myself that going back there, where I had grown up, where I already knew the way to play, would help me get back into place. faster, feeling at home. The first thing to recover was my head, shattered by physical insecurities. My mental strength had to be regained, even before my knee.

“As soon as I arrived, I started playing 19 months after the last time. 19 months of sadness: I would come home in the evening and no longer smile. In those weeks I also played in the Champions League against Valencia. I think yes, I’m back. We’re almost there. Come on.

“Then lockdown is triggered. When we leave, I fall into it again: the patellar tendon betrays me. And there I end up in the abyss. ‘Calvary’ is a subtle, evil word, but it is the one that best embodies what I was experiencing. I looked at myself. in the mirror, almost in tears: ‘Sh**, I’m 25. There’s something wrong with me’.

“It wasn’t normal, so many injuries. I changed my habits, trying to improve my life: either I was genetically made of tissue paper, or there was something wrong. I was looking for this error in every part of me. I ate more vegetables, meticulously took care of my rest. I began an inner journey together with my partner, Nicole. A journey of personal reflection.

“She saw me suffer: I was no longer the same person she had known. I slipped down, into the current, carried with no right of reaction. She was also not well: ‘Mattia, you are 25 and you love your job, but you can never play as calm and peaceful as you would like’. I returned home and I was sad, empty.

“If I thought about quitting those evenings? Yes, once, yes. Half a time. When you haven’t been able to get over a situation for a long time, the most extreme solution seems like the best. But I couldn’t give up. I wanted to be happy, that stuff wasn’t enough for me.

Caldara Pioli

Image: acmilan.com

“I had struggled a lifetime to be there, I couldn’t ball up and throw everything in the trash like a piece of paper full of random words. I felt limited. I had to get out of it. It was an obligation to me and those of my family. That damned vicious circle had to end, sooner or later. I breathe, I take a breath. Meanwhile I had lost another year of career and relationships around me they were shattering.

“Am I happy in Venice? Of course, it is a particular, wonderful city. We go to the stadium by boat, we are a super multicultural changing room. From Israel to Finland, from Suriname to Iceland, up to Argentina. Maenpaa, for example, says we train too much, he wasn’t used to it. They, the Nordics, don’t need music or concentration rituals. Sometimes I would like to steal their lightheartedness.

“A few days ago we played against Roma. I scored, it hadn’t happened for 3 years, 10 months and 26 days. An infinite time. If you look at the still image of my exultation, it is right under the banner of the ‘Roma Club – Bergamo’. An incredible chance, a circle that closes.

“Nicole and Alessandro were also at the stadium: ‘We are happy, because we see you as before these three years. You and me too, we’re another couple. You are another person. Happy at last’. Without them and without my parents I would never have made it. After all it was just a goal. For me it was a liberation. I really needed that more than oxygen.”


READ MORE: Milan retain interest in €40m-rated Denmark star – Real Madrid and Juventus also keen

Tags AC Milan Mattia Caldara

1 Comment

  1. Matko says:

    That’s really heartbreaking.

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