Sandro Tonali was presented to the press today, talking about his move (‘Milan were in for me – I had to go for Milan; end of story, that was my first thought’), about his position on the pitch (‘my first season in Serie B with Brescia, I was in a two-man midfield’) and more…
Tonali officially joined Milan from Brescia on a €10m load deal with option to buy for €15m and €10m of bonuses.
Today, the 20-year-old who is considered one of the most promising midfielders in the world, was presented to the press at Milanello, answering the questions of the journalists:
“My passion for Milan and if it comes from the youth teams of if there is a specific match in which I fell in love with the club? My passion comes from all of those different things, from Sant’Angelo – they played in Rossonero; it comes from the first club I played for that played in Rossonero… the majority of those at Sant’Angelo are Milan fans, my father conveyed all that passion to me and the combination of all that meant I was a Milan fan right from a young age.
“If Pioli has already spoken to me about the importance of this season? Yes, we knew this beforehand, because whatever season you come to Milan – it’s the most important campaign. So the coach has motivated me and spoke to me in detail about what we need to do week in, week out. I’ve been ready and I will be ready when called-upon.
“If I feel ready to manage the bigger spotlight I’ll receive here at Milan after handing the compliments at Brescia well? Yes because I’ve spoken to my mom and dad and they said to me that if you’re able to let the praise bounce off you when there’s not too much, then you can do it at a big club as well. It’s all about trying to put yourself in the spotlight, there wasn’t too much being said about me but if you have the strength to be able to make sure that all doesn’t weigh you down then it allows you to focus on what you need to do on the pitch.
“The fact that I chose Milan ultimately considering Massimo Cellino said that Milan chose Tonali above all? Yes, it is a shirt that I’ve wanted to wear for a long time and I’ve had an excellent relationship with Cellino. He’s someone who really knows all about Calcio and he really understood me. From Day 1, he said to me: ‘you make your own mind up’. He said: ‘I will do whatever you want, I am not worried about anything else’ and he kept his word. I asked President Cellino if he could really make the effort for me and I’d really like to thank him for that. He went out of his way to help me and he was fantastic.
“How have I dealt with all the media over the last week being on me and the fairytale dream come true? I haven’t really paid too much attention to it. I never turn-on the TV, I just have my phone with me, occasionally I’d watch the evening news… but it’s training ground-home and I try to put my fingers in my ears: I try not to watch or listen to anything. Naturally there’s my unveiling, but then I’ll stop listening to all this talk which is cheap until the end of the season.
“How does it feel to come into contact with Milan who are on a different level than Brescia? It’s a very high-level and we really want to have a good season and win matches. Because once you win a game you must start thinking about winning the next one. So starting with Ibrahimović, all of my teammates have really conveyed this desire to win matches, to never make mistakes, and that’s very important. One player conveys that to another and because it’s a very young squad, I’ve seen that even some of the younger elements of the squad still have that same desire and that’s terrific. There’s a lot of quality in this group of players as well and we really want to get out there and show what we’re all about, what we can do.
“If I feel the team is ready for the first two competitive games against Shamrock Rovers on Thursday and Bologna on Monday? Yes, we’re ready as we saw in the friendly that we played against Brescia. There’s a great team spirit in the group, we saw that emerge in the friendly. Naturally, our first competitive game will be very different because there’ll be an even greater desire to play and to really prove what we can do. So we’re ready to do all of that.
“The fact that I played in a three-man midfield at Brescia while Pioli plays 4-2-3-1 at Milan? Ultimately, the formation is the last thing I think about, it’s not overly important. What matters is being out there on the pitch – whether it’s a three-man midfield or a two-man midfield – one central midfielder or two is exactly the same thing… in the end you go out there to try and produce your best football and if the formation changes it doesn’t change anything for me.
“If my older brother Enrico or Ernesto Torregrossa have given me any advice that I’ll follow? I’ve received a lot of advice. But one of the pieces of advice that I have received came from Cellino. He said to try and remain as I am and to keep playing as if I’m still at Brescia, to simply try to do what I know to do best. That’s one of the pieces of advice that I really try to follow to the letter because it comes from a person that I really rate. I have a very high opinion of Cellino.
“How did it feel to know Milan were after me? It was a wonderful feeling as I’ve already said many times in the past. As for the first impact, once we realized that there was the opportunity to move to Milan, I really closed the door to any other proposal. Milan were in for me – I had to go for Milan; end of story, that was my first thought. That was right up until the final day the transfer was sealed. My thoughts and my focus was really to come to Milan and it proved to be the case. It was wonderful when I met Maldini, someone I’ve always seen on TV, someone I’d seen play football and now working alongside him is absolutely wonderful.
“If I really chose #8 because of Gattuso and if Rino was my childhood hero? Yes, he was. And I chose the #8 first and foremost because it was one of the shirt numbers which was available… and out of the numbers available it was the one which belonged to a player and a person that was my hero and he still is to this day as a head-coach because he’s a fantastic person. I chose this number as well because it has a lot of meanings in my life in a number of different areas so it was really a perfect number for me that I could choose.
“What is the first thing Milan need to do to return to the Champions League considering it’s been nearly 7 years since the last UCL Milan game? We need to train as we are currently doing because ultimately you get wins through your work on the training ground. Training really is the key to starting a very significant campaign. The last 6 months of last season were very difficult in terms of training, first due to the quarantine and then because you had 15 matches in the space of a month, so it was very difficult to train well. Now we have a whole season, a whole year, we have a game every 4-5 days, and things are slightly easier because of that and we can have more players in the team and it makes things a little bit easier. The best thing is to take things one game at a time and think about the upcoming fixture and give 100% in that game.
“How does it feel to be back playing with Daniel Maldini and to work with Paolo considering Daniel, Christian Maldini and I met at Lombardia Uno when we were young? We were playing a bit less, because in the end when you’re out there you just focus on what you have to do, it’s a little bit different maybe to see him in the dressing room or in the gym. It really hit me hard when I first started working with Maldini [smiles], it’s a wonderful feeling as I said earlier on.
“What old Milan game would I have liked to be involved in? The Champions League final against Liverpool and the final in Manchester. Above all, Champions League games. But I remember I was at San Siro for a Milan-Chievo and Seedorf scored a goal in added-time, banged it to the top corner. That was a bad performance, yet it really got to me seeing that amazing sound in the 5th minute of added-time after Seedorf’s goal as the stadium was emptying out. So it was a wonderful season.
“If I think I can easily adapt to Pioli’s two-man midfield? Yes, because my first season in Serie B with Brescia, I was in a two-man midfield, so let’s say that the movements and phases of play are familiar to me, because they’re still the same. It’s slightly different in a three-man midfield, a lot of the ball goes through you because you’re the only regista, but I’ve already played in a two-man midfield so it’s a little bit easier; I can remember the movements and the movements when you play in a two-man midfield are more in line with your teammates, you have to work very well as a pair, but I’m not overly concerned by that.
“The first few minutes once I’ve heard Milan and Brescia were negotiating for me? I was at home and I wasn’t doing anything, it was just a normal day for me because I received a lot of messages but I was very relaxed. And then the following day I spoke to my agent on the phone and in the evening but I didn’t speak to anyone in particular on that day.
“If it’s true that I was close to Inter and how have I settled in at Milan? My agent dealt a great deal with that, he left me out of all of those negotiations so that I can keep a clear mind. I stayed out of all of that, I stayed at home after my vacation, I hadn’t spoken to my agent for 10 days, there’s a lot of trust between the two of us so he let me get on with things. But as soon as I found out about Milan – my agent knew I was a big fan of the club – he got in touch with me. We spoke a few days later and I let him to get down to work on his own.
“How does it feel to meet Ibrahimović in the training room? The penultimate time I saw him was at the stadium 10 years ago, he’s one of the players that’s made the biggest impression on me because he’s someone that I admired at Milan. And this also really struck me as well, it really had an effect on me, it’s wonderful to know that I can play with Zlatan. He is an idol, he’s someone that’s really able to aspire Milan and grab the team by the scruff of the neck and drive us towards victory. He’s someone I can learn from and be aspired from.
“What message do I have to give the fans? Yes, we need to win things one game after the other. We must not worry about what we can do in 6-7 months’ time, we simply need to work towards Thursday and then we’ll work on Sunday and Monday. We need to keep working very hard and we need to build step-by-step, brick-by-brick, and that way we can build our own fortress and we can win one match after the other.
“When will I be ready from a mental perspective at Milan or if I already am? No, I’m not sure… because we’re working both physically and mentally at this moment in time. Because I had a long time out of action, so getting back to 100% match fitness both on and off the pitch is pretty tricky. However, we’re working very well and I feel even more ready with each passing day and there’s not long to go now.
“What’s the mood in the dressing room and if I agree with the objective being Champions League football? We all get on very well in the dressing room, there’s a good mood and that’s the most important thing. As for the Champions League, we can’t talk about a Top 4 finish at this moment. Clearly, it is a target of ours, but it’s not in our minds right now to talk about the Champions League. Now we need to talk about – first, the next match – and further down the line we’ll talk about things very calmly.”