Liberali discusses journey with Italy U17s, preferred role and Foden comparisons

By Oliver Fisher -

Mattia Liberali is gearing up for the U17 European Championship final with Italy against Portugal on Wednesday, and it is clear that he is keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground.

After a fantastic season with AC Milan’s Primavera side, Mattia Liberali is putting his stamp on Italy U17’s run at the Euros. He equalised against England in the last 16 with an extraordinary solo goal where he dribbled around multiple defenders and finished comfortably.

Liberali scored 15 goals in 39 appearances this season across all competitions, and Ignazio Abate played a role in his development as he gave him confidence but above all that hunger necessary to continue on a path that must lead to becoming a full senior professional.

Alessandro Costacurta was asked about the Milan youth sector earlier this year and he said something which has stuck since: “Which boy impressed me? Mattia Liberali, 2007-born from Milan. He’s young, he reminds me of Foden.”

Liberali has given an interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport two days before the final against Portugal, one that could see him achieve a dream so early in his young career.

You beat half of the English team before scoring your goal. How did it come to be and above all did you immediately realise what you had done?

“You don’t think about certain goals while you score them, and you don’t even think about how to bring the action to life. Once you’re there in the middle of the area a natural instinct comes to you. Afterwards, my adrenaline was pumping, at halftime in the dressing room I couldn’t sit still. A unique sensation.”

The best message you’ve received?

“I like to think of the compliments from up there from my grandmother.”

Can you tell us about the path of this national team?

“We started the first qualifying round not in the best way, but as time went by the group became more and more united. We found the right distances, the further we went the more we understood that the final could become reality.”

Was the final a target, or was it a surprise for you?

“We always looked game by game. Then, of course, going forward and seeing that we were working better and better, we started to believe it. But calling it a surprise is a term I don’t like. Also because if a group works properly, the results will arrive.”

Thinking about this group, if we say talent as the first word, is it correct?

“Yes, but together with union. Work hard together on the pitch, and we did. Talent okay, but up to a certain point.”

What type of coach is Favo?

“I have known him since the Under 15s, for me and for all of us he is like a father. It was he who welcomed me. An always available person, we always talk throughout the year. He constantly inquires about how we are doing.

“On the other hand, the coach must first of all be a figure who is close to you, especially when you are not at your best. He knows how to understand the moments, he knows when to use the carrot-and-stick method.”

Those who are talented like you can do more or less everything across the front line, but what should your true natural role be?

“I like to play in the middle of the pitch, roaming freely, obviously with intelligence, even if not all coaches allow this. The role I like is the one I’m doing now in the national team, attacking midfielder behind the strikers, free to lower himself and perhaps widen out. I know how to adapt to needs.”

The player model that inspires you?

“I don’t have one in particular, I like to take ideas from multiple players and try to put them together.”

But Costacurta said you remind him of Foden…

“It’s a nice thing to be compared to such a player, I hope to reach his level. But I also say that compliments are nice, but then you have to demonstrate on the pitch and work.”

With you in the national team there are other Rossoneri players, such as goalkeeper Longoni and especially Camarda. What amazes you above all about Francesco?

“He’s a golden boy, even off the pitch. There has always been a good chemistry between us, but we are all very close to each other. Furthermore, with Francesco we play together at Milan from the Under 15s [they won the title in 2022, with a goal from Camarda].”

What career do you imagine for kids like you?

“Football is a very unpredictable sport. Now I like to think about the present and this final.”

Is it the gift of talent, or is work needed too?

“Let’s say that quality and technique are among my main characteristics, but I like to think that I have reached this level thanks to my hard work on myself. It’s not just quality that’s involved.”

What have you grown the most in and what do you need to work on the most?

“I have grown above all on a tactical level, in understanding the game and the needs of the team. I have to improve a lot in terms of the defensive phase.”

Does this Italy Under 17 feel like it is the backbone of the senior team?

“We hope so, even if we especially like to play carefree, football is fun.”

What origin does the nickname ‘Mago’ have?

“It comes from my friends with whom I played on the pitch in the oratory. And my friends are everything.”

Let’s close with a very easy question: how will it end with Portugal?

“It will be tough, we are both strong. We have to go there confident in ourselves thinking we can do it like what happened with England. If we give everything we managed to put on the pitch against England, we can achieve this dream.”

Tags AC Milan Mattia Liberali


  1. It’s nice to see all this talent in Milan but I fear these kids, if they reach their potential and live up to the hype around them, will not shape AC Milan of the future. Not with these RedBird bankers at helm. They made sure we are known as the selling club and will listen to offers for any player at our rooster.

    1. Yeah I have the same concerns. Pure capital gain is too tantalising for Jerry the wolf of Wall Street.

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