Nava discusses Milan journey, what Maignan is like and his debut dream

By Oliver Fisher -

Lapo Nava is one of the players who is currently at AC Milan who feels the most attachment to the club, and there are various reasons for that.

Having been born in the city and with his father Stefano having played for Milan, Nava knows more than most what it means to wear the red and black shirt.

The goalkeeper came through the youth sector. In the 2021–22 season, he was the first choice for the Milan U18 side and in the 2022–23 season he was promoted to the Primavera team, where he also became the starter.

He played a key role in the AC Milan U19 side making the semi-finals of the 2022–23 UEFA Youth League, playing in every game and keeping three clean sheets during the tournament, then in January 2022 he was on the bench for the first time in Serie A against Roma.

He appeared on the bench seven times for the senior side during the last campaign, including four UEFA Champions League games, then he was invited to join the first team for pre-season training in the USA. On 19 August 2023, Nava was officially named as a member of the first team squad.

Now, Nava has spoken to Milan TV in the latest instalment of the ‘Homegrown’ series, talking about his time at the club, his coaches, team-mates and his background. MilanNews relayed the comments.

You grew up in the Oratory of San Simpliciano, where your father Stefano enrolled all three of his children from nursery school. What effect did returning to that place with your father have?

“Great emotion, because I hadn’t been back for a long time. Now seeing that they’ve made some changes, improved the pitch a bit, makes me very happy.”

For you, has football always been Milan?

“I have always been a Milan fan, I still am. For me, Milan is truly the team that I have loved and supported since I was a child. Before arriving at Milan, however, I had a series of experiences in a team of Milan and at Pro Sesto, then obviously I was called by Milan and my heart decided that I had to come here to play.”

How does your dad Stefano direct you?

“He has never influenced me because I have always made the choices. But obviously he, having already lived this experience, having already lived in the world of football, helped me make the right choices, but the final choice has always been up to to me. Obviously I listen to his suggestions, but the final choice is always my own because I’m the one doing this job and I’m the one chasing this dream of mine.”

How and why did you decide to become a goalkeeper?

“It’s a very funny story because I was little, we still played 5-a-side, and my team lacked a goalkeeper, so every now and then we took turns. It was my turn, and we won 10 to 1. I conceded a goal under my legs, but from there I realised that I really liked it and that there are many responsibilities you carry, and it’s something that I like, it stimulates me and makes me want to always give more to improve.”

Were you inspired by anyone, did you really like a goalkeeper, or is it not very focused?

“I’ve never had a goalkeeper who inspired me. Obviously now that I train every day with Mike [Maignan] he’s an inspiration because at the moment for me he’s one of the strongest goalkeepers in the world, and it’s beautiful train with someone who helps you, teaches you and gives you advice every day and cares about you to make you improve. So at the moment for me Mike is the goalkeeper who inspires me.”

Looking at these fields, the buildings of Milanello. You come here every day now, but you did go to Pro Sesto in between…

“The first time I came to train here, at Vismara, I was 8 years old and I was on a growth path and they kept an eye on me. Then I had my experiences and I came back at 13 to finally play and officially for Milan.”

What can you tell us about Gigi Ragno?

“Gigi was truly a very important figure for me, because I had him when I was little, I had him when I was 15-16 years old and I’ve found him now in the first team. He made me grow a lot because he gave me values ​​and made me understand how I have to interpret everything in order to always do better. So I really love Gigi very much. I thank him very much for what he has done for me.”

You have increased your muscle mass a lot in the last year: how does working with a goalkeeper like Mike – who turns his explosiveness and incredible physical skills into a strength – stimulate you?

“Having a figure like Mike is very stimulating. Mike and I have a slightly different relationship than other goalkeepers, because I speak French and therefore we can understand each other better.

“Let’s say he took me under his wing and gave me a lot advice both on a technical and tactical level, and on visions of the game that I didn’t have before and that I’m trying to integrate into my path, but above all on a mental level.

“Mike is a very tough personality, in the right way, and so I also thank him for what he is teaching me every day. I’m happy to be here in the first team, but obviously I want to grow even more and aspire to be a starter.”

Tell us about that first call-up against Roma…

“Beautiful memories. Having always been a Milan fan, entering the San Siro as a player is a completely different thing. A truly incredible thing: I still remember the sensations I felt. I was a bit tense, scared, I had a bit of pressure on me because I had to behave well, but I’m happy, it couldn’t have gone better than this.”

Do you remember that evening?

“When you enter the corridor before going up the stairs to go to the pitch to warm up and everyone is there to finally look at us, it’s a nice memory.”

Now you are in the first team and you played against Juventus in preseason…

“Going there as second or third doesn’t change much, because you do the exact same things. There’s a little more pressure, a different feeling because in case the starter gets hurt you come in. But it wasn’t different from the others.

“Then obviously I was happy because playing the second in an important match like against Juve was a nice extra step, but now the debut is missing, and we’ll see if it will come this year or next year.”

What do you feel like saying to someone who is starting to be a young goalkeeper now, and what do you want to say to yourself in a few years?

“Let’s say that I’ve dreamed about it very often, and I’m getting closer and closer to making my debut with Milan, so …I dreamed about it, sometimes I even have nightmares, but I hope it’s a moment that comes very soon. I hope to live it 100% because it’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was little.

“One thing I would like to say, not to myself but to my dad, who in any case let’s say that I don’t do it for him but for myself, but I would like to tell him oh, I did it. I got there too.”


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