Marco Sportiello has revealed that he did not entertain any other offers when the idea of joining AC Milan became concrete, and directed a lot of praise at Mike Maignan.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek spoke to the media yesterday and today it was Sportiello’s turn to meet journalists at Milanello for his presentation press conference.
He arrived on a free transfer after his time at Atalanta where he made 137 appearances and he will reunite with Stefano Pioli, who coached him during his time on loan at Fiorentina where he was a starter.
Milan will be the fourth club that Sportiello has represented in the top flight after Atalanta, Fiorentina and Frosinone. Meanwhile, he has chosen the number 57 because July 5 is the date of birth of both his daughter and his wife.
Sportiello answered the questions from journalists at Milanello this afternoon, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.
Are you and Milan meeting at the right time?
“Being here is a dream and I’m not saying it because I have to do the ‘newcomer’ stuff. For me it’s really a dream even if it’s taken a while for my arrival. I think I’ve matured a lot in the last two-three years and I think I’ve come at the right time.”
Your career is marked by commitment and professionalism. Are these your qualities?
“I think I have important values. I worked my way up, I didn’t do the Primavera but I did Serie D, C2, C1. Nobody ever gave me anything. For me it was a dream to get to Serie A, being there for the tenth consecutive year is a source of pride.”
You will meet Pioli again after your time together at Fiorentina with the Astori tragedy…
“Davide is a person I always carry within me. He taught me a lot, he was a boy who knew how to tell you things. He was my captain at Fiorentina.
“I got to know his family and he’s a person we keep inside along with the coach. I have this bond with Pioli also for that experience and I’m happy to go back to work with him.”
How has Maignan looked from outside perspective and how will you work together?
“When he arrived two years ago and we played against him in one of the first games, I told the coach that Mike was very strong. After Donnarumma it was difficult to find such an important replacement.
“I said to myself ‘This is a very good goalkeeper’ and also the coach told me. I’ve always adapted to everyone. Indeed, for me, even though I’m 31, it’s a reason for growth and learning.
“Maignan is a more modern goalkeeper compared to me who is old school. I want to steal some things. I have my characteristics. When and if I’m called upon, I have to do what I can do, I can’t do what he does. But I’m also here to learn from him.”
Do you feel you will get a lot of use this season?
“With the three competitions, everyone is needed, but not just on the pitch. Even in everyday life, those who play less have to push the group and it’s not a cliche. I have to try to be as ready as possible.
“It’s not easy because when you don’t play for many months, you have to do well right away and maybe you don’t have any more chances. You have to be good, stay on track and I think I have to give the whole environment reliability and keep them calm.”
Why did you choose Milan?
“I wasn’t a starter at Atalanta. I had made the choice earlier. Then Gasperini trusted me in the last 10 games. But the choice had been made and it was difficult for me to say no to Milan.
“I am happy and satisfied with my journey at Atalanta and I think coming here was the right choice, for everyone. I don’t think they will tear their hair out also because they have so many goalkeepers around.”
What is your relationship with Pioli?
“During these years we have always spoken, because we have had a particular experience and the bond has remained. We have just started working together.
“He hasn’t asked me for particular things in terms of the dressing room, also because everyone has yet to arrive. There will be time to talk, then the coach is someone you speak with a lot.”
Are you curious about training with anyone in particular and what game would you like to play?
“Not because I want preferences, but I want to see Maignan up close. Then there’s also Mirante here, whom I met with the national team. I also want to learn from him, he has a lot of experience. I think he’ll give me a big hand.
“As a goalkeeper, I’ll tell you Leao, but then we have to see if you enjoy yourself – as a goalkeeper – in training (laughs). They are all high-level players. The match? Bologna-Milan is also very good in the first match.”
Did you get any other offers? What impression did Loftus-Cheek make on you?
“I had an agreement with Milan for some time and I didn’t get to listen to anything else. For me, hearing ‘Milan’ was too important and there was nothing else.
“Loftus-Cheek is an important player, with physicality, but it’s still too early to make a judgement. He will give us a big hand and he has a great international experience.”
What can you give to Maignan and the other goalkeepers?
“Mirante is great and he’s the one who has to give to me. I’ll listen to him. On Maignan, he seems to me like a very well-rounded goalkeeper who doesn’t need any other advice. But you can help yourself by giving rhythm to training, stimulating him.
“These are the things I can give him. He’s an important goalkeeper, he’s already very mature compared to many other goalkeepers. He’s already won titles.”
How are you playing with your feet?
“At Atalanta we didn’t build from the back. I definitely have to get used to it, but a lot is dictated by how team-mates move. You can be good with your feet, but without the right movements.
“I know Pioli and I know what he wants. I’m an accomplished goalkeeper but I have to be quick to understand these principles.”
Is there a goalkeeper who fascinates you in modern football, aside from Maignan?
“I like Ter Stegen a lot, he’s very strong. In his best years, Handanovic was very strong and perhaps one of my role models. Courtois, Oblak, there are many strong goalkeepers around.”