Tonali discusses initial difficulties at Milan, Leao and De Ketelaere’s struggles and formation change

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali has shed light on some of the difficulties he experienced in his first season at the club and also reflected on the difficult January the team had.

Milan signed Tonali on an initial loan deal from Brescia in the 2020 summer transfer window and it was a dream come true given that he was a fan of the club growing up, however his first season saw him have difficulty adapting though he did join permanently for a discounted fee.

In his second season with the club, the Italy international began to demonstrate all of his qualities, settling into the double pivot and being a huge part of the side that won the Scudetto thanks to some crucial goals along the way.

Tonali was interviewed by a Milan legend in Massimo Ambrosini who he has been compared to by some, and the pair chatted about life with the Rossoneri during a segment for DAZN with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

On his role as a child: “I started as a striker, then as time went by I moved back and became a midfielder.”

On the comparison with Pirlo: “They told me that especially when I was in Brescia, it had become a bit heavy.”

On his idol as a child: “The first football shirt they gave me was that of Lampard from Chelsea. Then many came from Milan.”

On being a Milan fan: “My support for Milan stems from my father. He always followed Milan, he also went away, he was a huge fan, he was one of the Curva. He was always tense when Milan played.”

On his first time at San Siro: “My first time at San Siro was a 1-0 Milan-Chievo with a goal by Seedorf in the last minute with a shot into the top corner. I followed Milan as a fan, I would not have never thought of playing with the Rossoneri shirt.”

On his arrival at Milan: “In the summer of 2020 I had talked a lot with my mum, my girlfriend and my agent, I dreamed of Milan. The first days were a frenzy. The first year was difficult: dividing being a fan and player it wasn’t easy, but after a period of adjustment I made it.

“At the beginning it was a burden to wear this shirt, I was in a place where I had to try not to disappoint. I was scared, I came from Brescia, everything was different, I too changed with difficulty and with some obstacles, but with Pioli’s help I overcame everything.

“I talked a lot with the coach, he helped me a lot. And now he’s doing the same with other players who are experiencing what I’ve been through. I never thought I’d fail, playing with an empty stadium helped me in the beginning.”

On the second year: “I felt more confident and this gave me great strength. Being in charge then gave me further confidence. At that moment I realized I had made the leap in quality. I don’t forget the first months at Milan, but since second year I brought out what I had inside.”

On Maldini: “He did a lot to want me here, both him and Massara. I will always be grateful to them.”

On De Ketelaere: “It’s normal, it’s the same thing that happened to me. He cost a lot, he was signed to decide matches and he’s paying for the pressure of being in the spotlight. He’s a great player that he needs to find confidence again, we have to help him. One match has to go well and then we’ll see the real De Ketelaere.”

On Leao: “He’s a particular guy, he’s good both on and off the pitch. He’s a player who needs two men to be marked. When he lights up, we’re in on goal in a second. He can always do it, maybe he’s not having the continuity of last year, he needs to be stimulated. He has great talent, he’s the strongest and he must always put this quality on the pitch.”

On Ibrahimovic: “I want to play against him in training, it stimulates you to play against him. When I win practice matches I make fun of him. Every time you lose he slaughters you.”

On the January crisis: “In the five minutes at the end of Milan-Roma the castle we had created collapsed. I still haven’t been able to give myself an explanation. I think back to the training sessions of that period and I don’t understand how it’s possible. We have always trained 100%, then we got to the game and we lost confidence, we were too fragile. T

“he cure was to get back to winning and playing again with courage. We haven’t forgotten that month, we studied it and we took small things that must always be kept with us. It was madness to have those 7-8 games [without a win], two or three can happen, but seven is too many.”

On the change of formation and the three-man defence: “We were used to playing man against man, it wasn’t easy to change everything. But in such a delicate moment it was the turning point, it’s a decision that helped us. We didn’t play our usual football, but we were more confident on the pitch.”

On the Champions League: “We all know it’s the best competition you can play. Last year we failed because we could have done more. Against Atletico Madrid at home we were dominating, then the red came. We failed because we are Milan and we can’t go out in the group stage. We haven’t set ourselves a target, but we are ambitious and we want to play free in our mind and legs.”

On what he would ask Saint Lucia for the season finale: “The Champions League final. To win it obviously…”

Tags AC Milan Sandro Tonali
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