AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali faced the media ahead of Italy’s game against England at Molineux in Wolverhampton on Saturday night.
Tonali ended up being one of the revelations of the season for Milan as he has rocketed in confidence after a first season that was certainly an adaptation period. He joined on a loan with option to buy deal and a year later – after a difficult season of acclimatisation – he decided to reduce his salary in order to facilitate the negotiation between Milan and Brescia over his buy-out.
Since then, important goals and match-winning contributions have made him a real leader of the squad despite his young age, and now the next step is to make sure he is one of the first names on the team sheet for his country too.
Tonali joined Italy boss Roberto Mancini on the eve of England-Italy for the pre-match press conference and he was asked about a number of different topics, including his development over the past season.
“Right now I don’t want to feel like a leader, it’s a delicate moment for the whole team. We need to be united, not only for me but for the youngest who come here for the first time. We need to make everyone feel inside. the team without having a real leader, everyone must feel part of the group,” he said (via MilanNews).
Will you kneel like the English players [for anti-racism]?
“Yes, we talked about it with the team today. We will do it as a gesture of respect towards them, we will kneel.”
How much did the two years at Milan change your life also from a national team perspective?
“A lot. If I think about last year, I say that it changed a lot. Playing a season as a starter at Milan, playing at a higher level than last season helped me a lot. The idea is to continue like this, for the national team and for Milan. Now Italy is the most important thing, then when I am at Milan the most important thing will be Milan.”
What are you feeling as a player? How have you improved?
“On the pitch there are no defects and strengths, only the confidence in playing and the light-heartedness have changed. It seems a very small thing but on the pitch it changes everything, from the outside they may seem small but they can really change everything.”
Barella is at Inter. Will it be a battle like Mazzola-Rivera or is that a little too much?
“I don’t think so. The first time I joined the national team I was in Brescia and he was already with Italy. I made the move to Milan, but we love each other and when we come to the national team we are two companions. In clubs when we play against everything changes, but at the end of the match he remains a team-mate of mine and a friend of mine.”
What kind of a player is Tomori?
“Tomori for Milan was a step forward, he came when we needed it. He can play 50 games in a year without being replaced, he was very helpful for the Scudetto but also in all other competitions. He has played them all and has never pulled back. And then he is a very good person, who is loved by all the people of Milan.”
And Tammy Abraham?
“He is a great player and this year he has shown it in Serie A. Changing league is not easy, but he has shown it in Serie A and by winning the Conference League with Roma. I congratulate him.”
You have been compared to Gerrard, what do you think you have in common with him?
“I don’t want to say anything… But one memory I have of him is in a final, so it’s better not to say anything. Surely I just like saying these things and I don’t want to compare myself with anyone at the moment.”