Tomori discusses ‘electric’ Leao, ‘crazy’ celebration, Ibra’s message and details of Maldini conversation

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori has revealed some of the emotions that he and the squad felt after winning the Scudetto last season.

Tomori spoke during an interview with The Athletic that also featured comments from head coach Stefano Pioli and CEO Ivan Gazidis, and recalled the feeling after being crowned league champions as well as documenting his relationship with Italy and the Milan fans.

He started by talking about his winners’ medal, with Pioli having had his stolen from him while celebrating out on the field, though the Englishman took a bit better care of his.

“I managed to keep mine. You can see that the strap is a little worn from where people tried to get it. My dad was there and he said to me: ‘I’ll take it and take care of it for you’,” he said.

He also revealed details of a bet with Tiemoue Bakayoko: “I bet with Bakayoko that I would dye my hair blonde like him if we won, so I’ll have to do that too.”

On the passion of the fans, Tomori added:: “When I arrived there was COVID, so it was hard to imagine, but I’ve always seen it on TV. I had heard from those who played in Italy that it’s crazy. full. It is indescribable and, as they say, you have to see it, be inside it because there is so much passion, so much joy. I will never forget it.”

Rafael Leao was absolutely decisive in the final stretch of the season as he amassed 9 goal contributions in the final 6 games, including 3 vital goals in that process and a hat-trick of assists in the Scudetto-sealing win over Sassuolo.

“To be fair, in training you wouldn’t know he’s so electric when it comes to a match day, because in training he likes to mess about, he does a lot of step-overs, he beats you once and he wants to come back at you again,” Tomori revealed.

“But when it comes to the game, he’s just off (on one). He’s massive for the team. Ever since I arrived I told him: ‘You don’t know how good you are’. Because you can see he has everything. He’s fast, he’s strong, he can dribble, he can head the ball, he’s tall. He’s got EVERYTHING. He’s definitely been our difference maker and is deservedly player of the season for Serie A.”

Another reason that the team were able to eventually capture the title is because of Tomori and the outstanding defensive unit, one which let in just two goals in the final 11 league games, including 9 clean sheets.

“The more we kept the clean sheets, the more we wanted to repeat ourselves. Obviously you want to do it anyway, but we became hungrier to want to do it, as a team and as individuals, like four behind, like three, me, Pierre and Mike. We developed this kind of chemistry.”

On Maldini, Tomori said: “It was probably last March (2021) so when I was still on loan (from Chelsea) and we were talking about how I was finding it, what he felt I could improve on, how he thought things were going for me. At that point I was still on loan, so to have him still showing an interest in me, telling me what I could do better was… well, coming from him it’s a whole different story.

“I’ve learned different ways of defending. Something different to what I was brought up on. I’ve become more aware. More aware of where I am on the pitch, where my team-mates are on pitch, where the ball is in relation to the goal, where I am in relation to the ball etc.

“Little details like, for instance, if a player has his head down, where my position is or if a player’s got the ball and has his head up, where my position is. I’ve been watching videos and the manager’s been helping me, telling me you should be doing this in this situation, you should be here.

“These are the kinds of things I’ve been taking on board and they’re obviously different to football in England, for sure.”

Finally, on Zlatan Ibrahim: “Even when we entered half-time on the last day against Sassuolo, Zlatan kept saying it wasn’t over. We were up 3-0. But he said: there are still 45 minutes. We haven’t done it yet. Nothing.

“It was like that for the last six or seven games. Every time we won, he kept everyone’s concentration, kept talking in the locker room, tried to be positive. Obviously he has already been in these situations and won with Milan, so he helped us.”

Tags AC Milan Fikayo Tomori Paolo Maldini Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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