Sandro Tonali has been one of the most important players for AC Milan this season and the midfielder is well aware of that himself. His growth, in fact, should act as an example for every other youngster in the team.
The Italian international has featured in every single game for the Rossoneri this season, except the most recent outing as he was suspended. The fact that Stefano Pioli has used him heavily says a lot about the growth.
Tonali’s first season with Milan, to be frank, was rather average and there’s a reason why the midfielder agreed to take a pay cut ahead of the current season. A move that shows the love he has for this shirt (he’s a boyhood fan).
In a long interview with La Repubblica, which was published on their website earlier this evening, Tonali shares his thoughts on the current season and what Pioli has meant for his incredible growth.
Tonali, the Milan player with the highest average rating and for Maldini the most improved: does the Champions League have to do with it?
“A lot. It raises the pace of the game, it forces you to an intensity, different from the league, that you then find yourself for the following games. The difficult thing is to keep it for the whole season.”
For now, the comparison holds up with the models you claim to be inspired by: Gattuso, Pirlo, Modric, Iniesta…
“I was referring, more than to the single complete player, to some characteristics of each one.”
On the current season…
“Since the beginning of the season, I have been working a lot on the two phases, attacking and defensive. I have never clocked my pace, I have absent-mindedly seen some analysis against Fiorentina: let’s say that I’m a fake slow.”
Baresi shares his birthday with you…
“I know, May 8, 1960. I never talked to him about it, but they immediately pointed it out to me and it stuck in my mind. In fact, it flatters me.”
How did Pioli improve you?
“I was missing the 1% that made me stay in the group. He hammered me at work, I have to admit it, I had had a difficult year and we acted as if he hadn’t happened. Holding on is not just my characteristic, it is a necessary skill in football. Without determination, without desire for redemption, you cannot break through.”
Does Milan’s redemption for the Scudetto pass through matches with Juventus and Inter?
“Inside every match, there is always another one, as we saw on Monday. With Juve it will be different: the defeat against Spezia does not change our approach, made up of strength and clarity. Even if we don’t want to say it, we know that the next are two fundamental matches.”
In a month it will be 10 years from the famous Milan-Juve of Muntari’s goal: is the reaction to Serra’s mistake on Messias’ goal proof of sportsmanship?
“We can’t go back: it hurts, they were 3 essential points. But it’s not an episode that will change us.”