Taarabt lifts lid on time at Milan including Kaka scrap and being ‘best player on the team’

By Oliver Fisher -

Adel Taarabt has provided a detailed recollection of his time at AC Milan criticising one of his former coaches and lifting the lid on what it was like to play alongside players like Mario Balotelli.

Taarabt spent six months at Milan between January and June of 2014, playing 16 games and scoring four goals. He would return to Italy with Genoa (for 18 months, between January 2017 and June 2018 , with 29 games and two goals).

He began his playing career in France at Lens before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in 2007 and then to Queens Park Rangers on loan in July 2009. He was signed permanently by them in August 2010 and would also go on to play for Fulham on loan and Benfica after leaving Milan.

The Moroccan spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport about today’s match at San Siro between his two old clubs. Taarabt currently plays for Al-Nasr, in the United Arab Emirates.

Today is Milan-Genoa…

“Let’s start from Milan, I’d say. The fans loved me and they still show it to me. They write to me on social media, they say hello when they meet me in Italian restaurants here in Dubai. I was only there for six months eh. And in fact every time they ask me why Galliani didn’t buy me…”

Why didn’t he buy you?

“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but in those six months I was by far the best player on the team. And there were Balotelli, Kaká, Robinho. The fans knew it, Seedorf loved me, I was in heaven. After just two months there was talk of it becoming permanent, but in the summer everything changed.

“Inzaghi told the higher ups that he didn’t want to bet on me because he preferred Cerci. I respect him, but hearing him say something like that doesn’t. Now everyone sees what career he is having as a coach. His brother did well, but him…”

How did it make you feel?

“It took me 18 months to recover. I wanted to give up everything. Imagine wearing the Milan shirt, playing at San Siro, making the fans dream and then off you go, it’s all over. When I returned to QPR, a club I love and respect, I was empty. In my head it was impossible to play there.”

When did you learn that Milan wanted you?

“I was at Fulham. At the end of January Felix Magath took over from Martin Jol, so Berbatov and I ended up on the transfer market. The best players, meh. He went to Monaco, while my agent called me to tell me we had a flight to Milan. I thought: ‘How is it possible that Fulham don’t want me and the Rossoneri do?’. It was impossible to refuse.”

What was your best memory at Milan?

“The two debuts. In the Champions League, against Atletico Madrid, and my first appearance against Napoli at the old San Paolo. At midnight Seedorf summoned me to his room. ‘Kaka is ill, do you feel like playing from the start?’. ‘Certainly’. I scored after half an hour, beating everyone.”

What was Seedorf like?

“He’s always been great with me, even if he had some doubts at the beginning. I remember the first call conversation we had. He told me that he had heard stories about me, but at the same time made it clear that he alone would judge me. And so it was. Now we are friends.”

And Mario Balotelli?

“Once he arrived at training with the Ferrari and his rottweiler inside, at two hundred miles an hour. He was going so fast that the dog was completely stunned. It looked like a cat. The doctor explained to him that it was harmful for a dog to go fast.

“But I have a thousand stories: another time, before a match against Chievo, he told Pazzini to take the field from the start because he didn’t want to play. Obviously Mario scored after a few minutes. He was good, but totally crazy.”

He said you were technically better than Neymar…

“Many only saw me on the pitch, he also saw me in training. I remember the first session at Milan. There were Kaká, Robinho, Balo, and none of them knew me well. After a few sessions Robinho asked Seedorf where the hell I came from. ‘Don’t let me play, mister, let Adel play,’ he told him. But Neymar is Neymar, a player I’ve always loved watching.”

What was Kaka like?

“I remember a fight I’ve never seen before. I know it sounds strange to hear that because Kaká is the ‘perfect guy’, but it happened. In short, it went like this: drills, attack against defence, instead of serving Ricky I passed the ball to Balotelli, so he started yelling at me. ‘Hell, it’s Kaká!’ I thought.

“I was amazed, but he didn’t stop, so at a certain point I put my hands around his neck. I understand that you are Kaká, but if you scream I will lose my mind. The next day, however, he apologised and took me out to lunch. At the time the dressing room had clans. Some didn’t want to help Seedorf, others did. I was in the middle.”

What are your memories of Silvio Berlusconi?

“Ah, the class. When he arrived at Milanello he stopped training because he glided with the helicopter over the sports centre. With him, Milan was something else. To make you understand, he switched from Dolce and Gabbana to Diesel. And then there was a French chef who cooked some extraordinary dishes while away. Among my favourites is pasta with pesto.”

What do you like about Milan today?

“Bennacer, Leão and Theo are top, but Rafa must take responsibility. Every year he has to score 15 goals. Someone like him can’t play five top matches. Ismail, on the other hand, is underestimated. If you see the season there is a before and an after with him.”

And Pioli?

“For other teams it is too easy to understand how Milan plays. They are read too early. And then the squad is short: Inter is another world.”

What is the biggest regret of your career?

“I have two: the lack of permanent signing by Milan and not having signed for PSG. In France my career would have changed.”

Do you feel like you wasted tlaent?

On feeling like a wasted talent : “No, I’m sincere. Maybe I lost three or four years of my career, I could have made different choices and played more matches in the Champions League, but I lived in Portugal, England and Italy.

“I was wonderful at QPR, Milan, Benfica and I never felt anxious playing football, while some team-mates ran to the bathroom to vomit before big matches.

“I loved passing the ball under the opponents’ legs, my favourite skill, and accomplished what I wanted to do. I did it my way, for better or worse, having fun. And I’m proud of it.”

Tags AC Milan Adel Taarabt Filippo Inzaghi Mario Balotelli


Add a Comment
  1. Word was that G found out that Taarabt just wanted a permanent contract, which still sounds more believeable than Taarabt’s version.

  2. Man has thought he was a Ballon dor winner his entire career, even when scoring 2 goals all season. That’s exactly why he couldn’t cut it anywhere. He was basically just a worse version of Hatem Ben Arfa

  3. what a delusional boy. He was not even close to being the best player. He and Menez probably are the most skilled players i have seen in the past decade to kill transition and counterattack play

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