Emil Roback has given an extensive interview to Expressen, discussing his first weeks at Milan.
Roback officially joined Milan last month, arriving from the Swedish club Hammarby, in which Zlatan Ibrahimović owns a stake.
The 17-year-old, who will primarily play with the Primavera squad in the 2020-21 season, gave an interview to Swedish newspaper Expressen on Saturday.
“Everything has gone very fast. From the time I debuted with Hammarby against IFK Göteborg this spring to now having moved to Milano, playing a match with Milan and then to live down here. It feels almost a bit surreal.”
How did the move to Milan come to be?
“They had known about me from before and they saw me in some international match with the national team. Already a year ago, I think it was… I told my agent that I didn’t want to go to Milan. I knew that Arsenal and Bayern Munich were interested and above all I’d heard Arsenal wanted to invest in me. Then things went better and better for me and I did well at Hammarby. Milan continued to keep track and I even heard from them a couple of times. But I kept saying that I was not going to Milan because I was still set on England and Arsenal them.”
Roback made his debut for Hammarby in the quarter finals of the Swedish Cup against IFK Göteborg. Around the same time he also visited Arsenal to show himself to the club, but he did not get the best start…
“No, I had a stomach ache and stayed at the hotel in the first day. In the second day I got there and did the fitness test with running and strength test. It felt good and I got surprisingly good results despite the stomach ache. I did well and felt good with the club.”
Arsenal contacted Hammarby early to buy the 17-year-old and Milan also made an offer for the team. The clubs agreed on a feet and in the end the choice of the player fell on Milan.
“In the end, I chose Milan. I went with my gut feeling. I knew that Arsenal agreed with Hammarby and went down and visited Milan mostly to have something to compare with. Once I got there, everything was amazing. I visited Milanello and that facility is awesome. I got to meet some people there at the club at Milanello and then I talked a bit with Zlatan. It is of course a guarantee for me to have him down here at the club. He is Swedish and he knows how everything works. He knows exactly how it is for me, he went through all this once upon a time when he was young. He told me that it will be hard in the beginning but that I have to be patient before I get into everything.”
Was it a difficult choice?
“Yes, it is clear that it was a difficult choice. But I had had good support. From my family, my mother, friends and agents Fredrik Stoor and Per Jonsson. They have been important and a great support. They took Kristoffer Olsson and Sebastian Larsson to Arsenal, but they didn’t push me into anything. I had to choose for myself and go through the pros and cons.”
What did Zlatan think that would be difficult?
“That you move as a young guy to a new country, new city and come to a big club. Right now I live in a boarding school, but my mother will come down soon and then I will move to an apartment. Of course it’s a big tough when you don’t know many people here.”
How have the first weeks been down there?
“It has gone by very fast, but I think it’s worked out well. I had my first training with the Primavera team and it was a weird feeling to actually get into it and do the first training. I don’t know why but it just felt a little scary at first, but in a good way. Then my contract started to apply from September 1 and I got to train with First Team.”
Describe the feeling when you did the first training session with Milan’s First Team with all the stars they have?
“Of course you could think that I would feel shaky and nervous, but I didn’t. It felt really good and I felt safe in a way. I was bought for a fairly large sum as well and therefore it’s not possible to walk around and think ‘wow’ when you train with the First Team. It’s important to show what you’ve got. Zlatan told me that I should show immediately what I have and I wanted to do that from the first training session.”
What reactions did you get after the first session?
“The coach said ‘bravissimo’ at some point and some said that I played well [smiles].”
Roback impressed the Milan fans in the short friendly against Novara a few days ago. Milan beat Novara 4-2 and the debut of the youngster was a talking point after the game.
“It was the first time I got nervous since I came here. I’m usually not nervous when I play good, but then I was. I started on the bench in a match that was three halves of 20 minutes. It didn’t go well for us in the beginning. After a while, the coach told me to enter and I got a little nervous. We were down 2-0 after the first 20 minutes and I got a little shaky but tried to handle it as best I could.
“I tried to play simple in the beginning and get some ball contact. Then Zlatan tells me that I should show what I have and take on players one on one and I thought that now it’s just about execution. So I did it, I ran to the box, made a shot towards goal and then I passed for a goal. I got an assist and we won 4-2, of course it felt good.”
What was it like to play the first training match?
“It was also a weird feeling. I was given instructions on how to act in certain situations, but everything was in Italian so I hardly understood anything. But it went well anyway. Nobody speaks English here so I’ve started practicing Italian. It’s hard but it should work out.”
The feeling after the first match?
“It feel good. Incredibly fun and I am extremely grateful that I got the chance. Everything has gone very fast so now it’s just a matter of carrying on.”
What reactions have you received from friends from home?
“Only positive things, from many who’ve heard about it. I have also had good support from my girlfriend, she means a lot to me. I try to stick to the friends I have always had. It happens now that you go to Milan and things go well that you start hearing from people you haven’t heard from in several years. It’s probably important to know how your real friends are…”
You’ve also got a real boost on social media, have you seen it?
“Yes, haha… I probably had 5000 followers before and now I have well-over 22,000. It will probably be like that and it’s fun. Zlatan also posted that picture of us from training and it was also quite fun.”
What do you think about the future now, what does the objective look like?
“Everything has gone fast like I said, but now it’ll probably change a bit. Playing and training with the Primavera team and then some training with the First Team. It’s all about how well it goes and if I perform. But I’m taking it one day at a time right now, it’s probably for the best.”
How does it feel for you that Hammarby got a lot of money when you left the club?
“I have to thank a lot to Hammarby so it’s clear that it felt very good that they got money. I was in the club for 3.5 years and it was fantastic. I felt that I developed a lot during my team in Hammarby.”
What is the biggest difference between Sweden and Italy in terms of football?
“It is that once you get the chance in Italy, you have to take it, there’s nothing else. In Sweden you may be able to relax a bit but it’s not possible here, you cannot afford it.”
Ibrahimović officially extended his contract with Milan last week and he will play with the Diavolo also for the 2020-21 season. Good news for the young Roback…
“Yes, it’s obvious. As I said, he’s a guarantee to have here and he’s said that I can get in touch with him if there is something I wonder about. The only thing that is bad is that we compete for the same position [laughs]!”