Maignan discusses turning point of Milan’s season, working with Dida and aims for 2022-23

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan has reflected on the Scudetto success and also spoke about his aims for the future and how it felt to replace Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Maignan spoke during an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport while at a training retreat with the French national team ahead of their UEFA Nations League games this month, with his comments relayed by, starting with the league title win.

“The team hadn’t won for a long time, I knew there were great ambitions here,” he began.

One of the turning points of the season was when the Rossoneri were 1-0 down going into the final 20 minutes of the derby against Inter on Friday and Olivier Giroud’s brace turned the game on its head.

On the battle with Inter for the title, Maignan said: “There was the will to try. Then we had a less positive period, in which we almost panicked. But we talked and got back to work, telling us that it wasn’t over, that there were still many games left.

“And when Inter stumbled against Bologna, we understood that it was over for them, because we were now focused on ourselves. And thanks also to Inter: after the 3-0 in the Italian Cup we had a knife in our teeth. That defeat motivated us a lot.”

Maignan also spoke about head coach Stefano Pioli, who has used the Frenchman as almost another playmaker at times.

“Do we talk a lot? In the beginning I did it out of necessity, because what was asked at Lille from Galtier was different. I speak to the coach to better manage certain situations. He gives me a lot of advice from a tactical point of view, and sometimes I offer him ideas and alternatives. The nice thing is that you can talk to Pioli.”

On the target for next season: “Doing better and better, learning from what we have experienced this year. We haven’t won it for too many years. It is my goal to bring Milan back to the top in Europe as well, where they belong.”

Maignan has been able to work under one of the most decorated goalkeepers in the club’s history in Dida, something that he is aware is a privilege.

“The fact that Dida was there as goalkeeper coach was an extra stimulus, because I knew it would allow me to improve, given that he was one of the best in the world. And then from a technical and physical point of view we are similar, and this helps.

“When I met him I realised that he is also a humble person, who loves his job and thrives on football. Just like me. My most decisive save? I would say the one on Luperto, against Empoli at San Siro.

“We had been discussing that kind of save with Dida for weeks, and we didn’t think the same way. But then I applied exactly what he was asking of me and managed to deflect it for a corner. It is a sort of synthesis of our work.”

On being brought in to replace Donnarumma: “I never felt any kind of stress about it, because it was never my goal to take Gigio’s place, or to make him forgotten. I came to Milan as a professional choice, to work and play my football. Then, when you work well, you reap the rewards. Of course, I knew that maybe they wouldn’t boo me, but at Milan I immediately felt at home, and the affection of the fans is extraordinary.”

On the injury he sustained: “It was difficult to accept. I played seven games with an injured hand and I didn’t want to stop or give up on my team-mates. I preferred injections and creams, and I only trained on the eve of matches. Then when I stopped in the national team for four days and the pain did not go away, I understood that I had to cure myself.

“The specialist who followed me at Milan explained to me that I would have risked a one-year stop. So I had an operation, but I did everything to get back as soon as possible. Being at home without doing anything is not for me, I had too many targets. So I returned after six weeks instead of ten.”

On Zlatan Ibrahimovic being an idol for him: “I’ve never had any. But I study all great goalkeepers well. I appreciate Neuer, but in my child’s bedroom I had posters of Zidane, Ronaldinho, Gerrard, Eto’o and even Ibrahimovic.

“Ibrahimovic is an example for everyone. He too, like me, has gritted his teeth to hit the target as he had promised. I hope you will come back soon.”

Finally, he also spoke about the racism in Italian football, given that he and Fikayo Tomori were targeted with chants after the 1-0 win over Cagliari.

It has been going on for years and I will not be the last. After Cagliari they called me to give my version, but nothing happened. I am lucky enough to be really supported by Milan, but there are those in Italian and European institutions maybe don’t give a damn about punishing the guilty. Complaining isn’t enough anymore. Then it’s up to us players to do something.”

Tags AC Milan Mike Maignan Stefano Pioli Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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