Thiaw discusses Milan adventure, Ibrahimovic and staying humble in revealing interview

By Isak Möller -

Malick Thiaw received his first call-up to the German national team for this international break and in an interview with the press team, he spoke about his first season at AC Milan and the recent growth.

It was a slow start for the former Schalke defender but since Stefano Pioli decided to switch to a three-man backline, he has been given the chance a lot. And not just that, but he has also done very well in most of the games.

Speaking to the German national team’s official channel, Thiaw spoke about his first season at Milan and what he has learned. Given that it’s his first call-up, he was also asked a couple of general questions.

When a dream comes true as it did with the national team these days, how does it feel?

“Great. That makes me happy and proud. And it proves that all the hard work over the past few years and the unconditional support of my family, who have always been there for me, is paying off. But even now that I’m here with the national team, I don’t want to stand still in my development. I want to learn and keep improving.”

How do you manage to stay grounded when things are happening so quickly? The Italian press, not known for their reticence, has praised you a lot…

“Everyone has their own way. For me, it’s my family. My parents raised me to always be a humble and down-to-earth person. That was a good school. They taught me what is important in life. That’s what I’ll always focus on – no matter what else I’ll achieve as a footballer.”

Even a Milan club legend like Paolo Maldini, five-time Champions League winner and runner-up with Italy, raves about you…

“As a sporting director, he watches every training session. He knows exactly in which areas I need to improve and what I’m already doing quite well. He passed that on to me, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Which player did you associate with AC Milan as a kid?

“First Ronaldinho. But looking back, who I associate most with AC Milan is Kevin-Prince Boateng. His two goals against FC Barcelona and against FC Arsenal made me go into raptures. I was very young, I saw the games on TV and I thought: Wow!”

Now you’re wearing the red and black jersey yourself. what does it mean to you?

“Every time I come into the dressing room and see my jersey with my name and number on it, I’m very proud and happy. And I still can’t really remove that feeling.”

The sayings of your teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic are also legendary. What has he already given you?

“He gives something to his teammates in every single training session. He’s a great guy, a real boss. And he hates losing. It’s something gigantic to be able to play with him. It’s a great honour and makes me incredibly proud. I also watched and admired him on television when I was a little boy.”

How did he react to your call-up for the national team?

“He told me to keep calm. And that this is just the beginning.”

Italian football is experiencing a renaissance. There are three Italian teams in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, more than any other nation. How do you perceive football in Italy?

“In Germany, Serie A has not necessarily been talked about in recent years. That’s why the high level surprised me when I came to Milan. It was way better than expected. All teams are tactically well-trained, it’s hard to win against any team, especially away from home. They defend very well.”

Leaders Napoli won’t be able to be caught up in the league, but in the Champions League you can – you and Milan meet Napoli in the quarter-finals. How important is this game?

“Napoli are having a great season in the league and in the Champions League too. But hopefully, that’s it now. We are AC Milan. Anyone who knows our tradition, with seven title wins in the Champions League, knows that this is more our home.”

You have family roots in the far north and south. Now you’re roughly in the middle geographically. Is it logical that you feel comfortable in Italy?

“Italian culture suits me very well. The people there are very open and relaxed. I got along very well here from the start. Even if it was a bit difficult to understand at first.”

Your last name is pronounced like “Ciao”. Is that easier for Italians to say?

“I expected that. But they struggle with it just like everyone else. (laughs)”

Pioli might switch back to a four-man backline for the game against Napoli and it remains to be seen if Thiaw will keep his starting spot or not. The feeling is that both Pierre Kalulu and Simon Kjaer are slightly ahead.

Tags AC Milan Malick Thiaw
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