Tonali heaps praise on ‘fundamental’ Pioli, ‘coach’ Ibrahimovic and Milan’s exciting project

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali has praised Stefano Pioli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for how important they have been in his journey so far.

There is no doubting that Tonali has become a real fan favourite since his arrival at Milan on an initial loan deal from Brescia in the summer of 2020, given that he grew up a fan of the Rossoneri and has often expressed his love for the club.

He had a difficult first year of adapting to a club with higher expectations, but he has become a leader of the midfield and a cornerstone of the project moving forward thanks to a fantastic 2021-22 season that culminated in the Scudetto win.

Tonali spoke during an interview with Milan TV from the Dubai retreat and touched upon a number of topics from the winter break to the World Cup and his future, with MilanNews relaying his comments.

On the break: “It’s an unusual thing, but you have to be ready for anything in football. This thing also puts us to the test and these first three months, with a game every three days and such a long stop. We have to be ready for anything and do better than the first part of the season.”

On how he took advantage of the holidays: “The most important thing about this break was rest and recovery. Now it’s time to get back on the pitch, to start again and have a freer mind, to play without worries.”

On the World Cup: “I spoke with Rafa, Simon, the French and also with Charles. They told us what the climate is like and what kind of World Cup it is. It’s good for Theo and Giroud that they’re still on the ball and we wish them all the best.

“It hurt to stay out for the second World Cup in a row. After winning the European Championships, not qualifying was not nice. We mustn’t put our heads down, but start over and think that we are a strong team.”

On who was close to him in the difficult stages of his career: “First of all my family and my girlfriend, then people from the staff who are close to you and who, over the years, become attached and give you the advice you you need.”

On his evolution and that of Milan: “We have made great strides forward. We started from the basics and, brick by brick, we managed to win a title like last year’s. We have a strong, level team that can fight in every match. Last year’s title showed us that our path is the right one.”

On dealing with pressure and the Scudetto win: “It’s difficult to explain, but both the good and the bad moments must be lived with emotions. You have to give a lot to Milan, always. The bar must be high and everyone expects a lot and we can never lower the tension and the level.

“We know we are Milan and we must always give our best. We are used to playing as Milan players and we will have to do it for all the matches between now and the end of the season.”

On being a Milan fan and the relationship with the fans: “Playing for this shirt gives you the sense that you have to do a lot. It’s not enough to win a game. Every week the coach always keeps us on edge and he cares a lot. We have a very good relationship and he himself makes us understand that we always need to show a lot, in the match and in every single training session.”

On Stefano Pioli: “He is a humble person who helps everyone. For me, he knew how to train me. I arrived at a moment like this, he spoke to me and always speaks to me. It was fundamental to have him in my career at Milan and I thank him. For us he is our helper even before our coach. He helps you a lot, on and off the pitch.”

On what it means to be a leader: “Here at Milan we have many leaders. Starting with Ibrahimovic, who is the bigger leader of all. It is as if he were another coach. He has more experience than all of us combined. He has helped us a lot and can still help us a lot in the step that we can all do together.

“Ibra and Kjaer have played in several European Championships, they have won and they know what it means to win and confirm themselves and they are the first leaders who can drag us forward.”

On the new additions and their inclusion: “We are a young group and it is easy to integrate into our team. We have an open group, where everyone is willing to do anything for their teammates and this is something that made the difference last year.”

On a dream for the next 4-5 years: “I hope to play many more matches in the Milan shirt and I hope to win and wear the Milan shirt as much as possible.”

On Milan’s birthday: “Anyone who has played for this shirt knows what it means to wear it. Two months after winning the Scudetto, we understood what it means to win with Milan. We hadn’t realized right away. We are proud to wear it.”

On the second part of the season: “It’s nice to have so many games. We know what it’s like to play every three days. We are ready, very ready for this and this preparation will serve us precisely for this. We expect many things, first of all to win thinking match by match.”

Tags AC Milan Sandro Tonali
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