Defender Fikayo Tomori has admitted that playing in the Champions League for AC Milan is a feeling that is ‘just different’ to any other game.
Tomori spoke during an interview with UEFA about his career to this point and his dream of being a part of the big European nights ahead of another one on Wednesday against Spurs.
“My dream in life might sound a bit clichéd, but I don’t want to have any regrets. I want to be able to say at the end of it, I did everything I could, allowed myself to be myself. At the end of that, if I win a million trophies or if I just have the Scudetto, in myself I’m content in what I’ve done,” he said.
Tomori arrived at Milan during the winter transfer window of the 2020-21 season and earned a permanent move after an initial loan having adapted well to Serie A.
“In Italy it’s more about, ‘OK, this is where you need to be when the ball is here. This is how your body needs to be. This is where you should pass the ball’. In England, you can play on instinct. In Italy they’re trying to eliminate that as much as possible [so that] you know what you’re doing and you know how the team is playing, where you need to pass the ball.”
Tomori was born in Calgary to parents from Nigeria and was just eight when he came onto Chelsea’s radar with a scout approaching his father to invite him to spend time at the club’s development centre.
“First day I actually went to the academy, there are kids from all around London who can do the same thing I can. And it wasn’t as easy for me. I remember I said to my dad, when I got in the car, ‘Dad, I’m not sure I can come back.’ He said, ‘No, no, you’re coming back, for sure. You need to be in a place where you’re challenged, where you can improve yourself.'”
He would go on loan spells to Brighton, Hull City and Derby County before getting first team chances at Chelsea, but he fell out of favour. Then the call from Milan technical director Paolo Maldini came.
“Once I arrived here, I remember I put on the top and the red-and-black stripes, it was just surreal. San Siro, it’s like a monument. You can see it the whole way as you’re driving. It kind of feels like it’s leaning towards you. Then, on a matchday, the fans are there from two hours before the game. You just feel the energy from them,” Tomori said.
Tomori knows that more regular Champions League football is the best way for him to progress as a player but also the club too, given this is Milan’s first appearance in the knockout stages since 2013-14.
“You play the league games, you play the domestic cup competitions, but then when the Champions League comes, it’s just different. The lights are a bit brighter now in San Siro. You’re listening to the last minute when they go ‘The champions’ and then the whole stadium just sings. It gives you goosebumps, even though every time it happens. It’s just, like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy.’
“I remember when I scored against Liverpool [in a 2-1 home defeat in December 2021], I’m looking back, thinking, ‘I actually scored in the San Siro for Milan in the Champions League.’ Those kinds of things, it’s just like thinking, ‘Wow, this is what I used to watch people do and now I’m doing it’. It is crazy to think about.”