Pierre Kalulu has given an insight on what it is like to play for AC Milan and the ambitions that he harbours both at club level and for his country.
The rise of Kalulu this season has been nothing short of sensational. He has ended up playing across the back four but recently has settled into the centre-back role alongside Fikayo Tomori, playing like a player well beyond his years.
He signed from Lyon in 2020 without a senior appearance to his name and was somewhat of an unknown quantity, but now everyone knows his name and he is very much a fan favourite.
The 21-year-old got the nod to start alongside Fikayo Tomori in the recent 1-0 win over Napoli, keeping Victor Osmihen at bay, and then he scored a winner against Empoli before helping the team to a fourth straight clean sheet in the victory against Cagliar.
Interviewed by L’Equipe, Kalulu talked about his experiences with Milan and in the national team, beginning by talking about representing France at the Olympic Games over the summer.
“The U21 European Championships were a disappointment. Even the Olympic Games. It hurts, at that moment you are disgusted, but hard work helps. We were anxious to play against the Faroe Islands. Now you have no choice: small or big opponent, you have to play with the same intensity,” he said (via MilanNews).
On his participation in the Olympics: “For me it’s different. Those who hesitated to go had just moved. I had already played a season at Milan and, when I talked to the management, they were happy for me to represent my country and the club. They said: ‘Do you want to do this? OK Go!'”
On the praise from France’s U21 coach: “This is what I’m trying to do. To be reliable, this is what makes a great player. I try every day to have a higher level of expectations. At Milan, the coach [Stefano Pioli] pushes me to be attentive to everything and you can see the results.
“In my youth, I was never the player that was expected. I was never the expected player, the one for whom you strive. I was often in the situation where the train would have left without me. I had to get back to work very quickly.”
On the risk of going to Milan and being forgotten: “I knew it would take some time, but I knew I would have work to play. I was not afraid of failing at Milan. It could have happened to Lyon too and I would have been forgotten.”
On leaving Lyon: “The dream was to shine all together with Lyon, but it didn’t happen. If we can do it in the national team, however, it’s even better. In Milan, in terms of dreams, I raised the bar. It was complicated at the I started because I was alone, but Milan is a pleasant city and playing for Milan helped me a lot.”
On his experience in Milano: “You have to calculate your routes, avoid the city centre during rush hour because it is very heated. Many people close to me have told me the story of the great Milan of the 90s.”
What it means to play for Milan: “Being a Milan defender means training every time against Ibrahimovic. It’s tiring and rewarding every time, both Zlatan and Giroud always want to win. When they come to talk to you you have to show your ego and respond.
“In training, if put your shoulder in it becomes a little battle. You always have to be hungry to win. Our training is worth seeing: we have competitions, duels and great intensity during the matches.”