Kalulu opens up about ‘unfinished business’, his tranquillity and renewal in revealing interview

By Isak Möller -

Pierre Kalulu has been an important player for AC Milan this season, especially during the defensive crisis at the start of the year. And the youngster has done tremendously well for the Rossoneri, asserting his position in the team. 

The Frenchman arrived on a free transfer from Lyon in the summer of 2020 and after initially playing on the right flank of the defence, he has been converted into a centre-back. One that Stefano Pioli deems as a starter for Milan.

Just a few days ago, MilanNews reported that the Rossoneri are so happy with Kalulu’s progress that they will reward him with a new contract and a pay rise. Being just 21-years-old, he could be a great player in the long term.

Speaking to Eurosport, the youngster shared his thoughts on various things such as his favourite position, the tranquillity he exhibits and the renewal which has been talked about in the media lately.

You seem to have taken on a whole new dimension with AC Milan in recent weeks…

“It’s true that I’ve had a string of matches since January, thanks or because of certain absences. But that is football. I am always ready. When you are in a club like AC Milan, which is an institution, you always have to feel like a starter. When you are called upon in the field, you have to answer presently. I think everyone thinks of themselves that way, and so do I.”

Do you have a preference regarding your positioning on the pitch?

“Actually, my preferences change depending on the game, the team composition, the opponent… It all depends on how you must play. I can take a lot of pleasure as a full-back in some matches, and others as a central defender. Everything can vary depending on the face of the match and what is required of me. I have no preference. In my training at Lyon, I was already tossed about a lot.”

Despite rumours, Milan never signed a centre-back in January. Is this a mark of trust for you?

“Regarding rumours, we are used to them. Since I’ve been in Milan, it’s always been the same thing every transfer window, and this time it was the defender… We adapt. But it’s obvious that when I see certain statements (those of Paolo Maldini, editor’s note), it gives me great pleasure, especially when they come from a former legend of the post. It is rewarding.”

Where do you find this tranquillity that characterizes each of your games?

“Honestly, players of my generation were formed with this spirit. There was a lot of expectation around us from a very young age, especially when you are trained at the club. At OL, we trained players for the Champions League, not just for Ligue 1. Unconsciously, you integrate that. And you automatically become game ready, you’re conditioned and prepared for it.”

How do you handle the pressure before a match?

“I’m always very focused before a match. But for me, there is no more pressure now than when I was playing big tournaments when I was younger. It’s the same pressure. Over time, I think it even fades. You learn to manage it and channel it. I know what I can do and show. Today, there is more desire to show what I am capable of rather than apprehension.”

What did you discover at AC Milan?

“As a youngster, I kind of missed the club’s big years. Arriving here, I really discovered its immensity. There are supporters everywhere (laughs). Wherever we go outside, in Rome, Salerno or even more in the South, there are always tifosi waiting for the team at the airport, at the hotel…

“It’s important, you can feel that they are always with you. Honestly, I didn’t expect that. Here, there is always a requirement for results, whether in training or in matches. There is a minimum level to have and you must always give the maximum. It is the hallmark of the big clubs.”

Despite his injuries, what does a player like Zlatan Ibrahimovic bring you on a daily basis?

“He still has a very important place in the locker room and on the pitch, where he has scored many goals again this season. We can say that it is notably thanks to him that we are on the right track today. It is now up to us to prove that we understood what he was trying to convey. When he comes back, we will certainly be even better.”

With Yacine Adli, who will join you next summer, the French and French-speaking colony will continue to grow at Milanello…

“I don’t mind (laughs)! We speak French among ourselves, but on the pitch, we always try to do it in Italian so that everyone understands. Above all, this means that there are quality players in France and that we export well. For all newcomers, it is also an additional help for adaptation. We explain in particular the different expectations that there are here, certain subtleties too… It’s always good to have benchmarks.”

How is the adaptation of Olivier Giroud, who has already scored ten goals this season, going?

“He is a very high-level player. And yet, he always has this desire to progress, to learn or to score. What impresses me are his movements and his intelligence of the game. I obviously followed him in his various clubs but, on a daily basis, you tell yourself that he is very high level. In addition, he learned Italian very quickly. It’s not perfect yet but it’s coming (laughs). He has just scored 4 goals in 3 matches. Giroud commands respect. When he’s good, it’s perfect for us.”

Mike Maignan has impressed everyone since his arrival in Milan. Is he currently the best goalkeeper in Serie A?

“For me, the answer is yes after his first leg. He was able to save us when needed. His passing game impresses me every day, he even just delivered an assist (against Sampdoria). Mike behaved like a leader from the moment he arrived, even when he didn’t speak the language. He does not hesitate to say what he has to say, to direct us.

“He is a player with a strong work ethic on a daily basis. Just seeing it makes you want to follow it. We can say that he is a natural leader, in the field and in words. In addition, he has this experience of having won. He knows what to do to achieve success. If, in addition, he starts making assists…”

After being selected for the French team and wearing the captain’s armband in Milan, Théo Hernandez recently extended his contract. Do you hope to follow in his footsteps?

“All people who are in a pattern of success are inspiring. From my first months, when I played less, I watched him from the bench and it was already impressive. His extension is a logical continuation, as is his call-up to the France team. He came to Milan, he evolved here and showed what he was capable of. This is the path we all want to take. Theo is an example.”

AC Milan are currently top of Serie A, do you believe in the Scudetto?

“Everything can turn very quickly. We could see it in the derby, where we were led before finally overturning everything. We could have been left behind. We want to do something this season. Last year, we had a good season, even a very good one. And ultimately, we didn’t win anything in the end. There was necessarily a taste of unfinished business. Me, personally, I want to win something this season.”

How do you approach the two-leg confrontation with Inter scheduled for the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia?

“That necessarily adds something. When you get to this stage of the competition, there are only three games left before the final victory. It’s the fastest way to earn something. We know that Inter will come back with more desire after their defeat in the league. They will be fired up, but so will we.”

The Italian media have been talking about your possible extension with Milan for several days…

“I feel good here, and I fit in perfectly with the club. I speak the language quite well and I am comfortable in my everyday life. In addition, the current results of the team necessarily give the desire to register continuity here. I want to do good things with Milan and I want to stay there. There is no reason to leave,” he concluded.

READ MORE: Milan-linked Belotti coy when asked about his future after ‘last’ Turin derby

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