Franck Kessié spoke to il Giornale and stated the critics ‘are our vitamins’.
Kessié has been the most consistent performer of Milan this season, bossing from the role of the holding midfielder – alongside Ismaël Bennacer, Sandro Tonali, Rade Krunić or Davide Calabria.
The President, as he’s called at Milan, sat down with Franco Ordine of il Giornale for an interview which you can read below:
So Kessié, can you explain the sensational change in Milan’s march from 12th in the standings to league leader?
“There is no real secret to reveal, but a work plan to talk about. Pioli took us aside and began talking, explaining what he wanted from us. The group went to work with his ideas and now we continue to do so day after day. Since then we’ve always changed our face.”
Did the adoption of the new playing system also have some importance?
“Of course, and we started from that because deploying two midfielders in front of the defense made the whole team safer and improved the performance of individual defenders.”
And if you had to point to the turning point match, which game would you refer to?
“To the match in Bergamo, December 2019, 5-0 for Atalanta. We are Milan and cannot make such an impression. From that day on, a certain spring was set off.”
Speaking of Atalanta, in the Coppa Italia, among the big sides, they were the only one that overflowed by winning in a wide and comfortable margin against Cagliari: aren’t they ready to get back to the front like last year?
“Definitely. Atalanta have been playing very lucrative football for 3-4 years now. Also in Europe they’ve become a model, a dangerous rival for the competition. So they will return to being protagonists in the fight for the Top 4 places in the standings.”
You have read and heard about the Papu Gómez case: what idea did you get when you met Papu and Gasperini?
“None. It’s a subject that I absolutely don’t want to talk about.”
Reading critics and insiders, there are many who don’t believe in Milan holding on until the end: do you have an explanation for this skepticism?
“More than an explanation – we have a thank you to give. Because these reasonings and predictions do nothing but motivate us more and more every day. They are our vitamins.”
And what does Kessié think of the theory that Milan are only in the lead because they play without a crowd?
“I think that is how everyone plays and therefore the conditions are identical. I also think that if we had the fans with us, especially at San Siro, it would be much better for us. Because it would give us a tremendous boost, as it happened in some pre-matches. And maybe we would have some better results.”
So for you at Milanello, the word ‘Scudetto’ is not a taboo…
“And why should it be? We have a mantra that coach Pioli repeats every day: let’s think about one match at a time. Right now we have Cagliari and the rest doesn’t matter. Then I would add: we are Milan, history speaks for us. And a club like Milan cannot feel uncomfortable talking about the Scudetto. We are not alone, of course, in competing.”
Meïté has just arrived from the January mercato: if you had to explain Milan to him in a few words – what would say?
“I would tell him: come to Milanello, watch how we train, watch and learn quickly because we need help. We’ll have a game every three days and we’ll need everyone to make it to the end of the season and the three commitments that await us.”
What kind of midfielder is Meïté?
“He is a strong one, physically, who has already shown at Torino that he has the makings of a midfielder who’s also capable of scoring a few goals. He’ll give us a good hand.”
Ibrahimović has recently given a PlayStation as a gift to thank those who run for him: as someone who runs more than anyone else what would you like to receive?
“I’ll decide at the end of the season. And it’s not true that I run alone. There are many of us running. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had that streak of results.”
Kessié is one of the most reliable penalty takers in the league: even Ibrahimović, who has missed a few too many, has surrendered in front of such precision. What is this all about? Skill or luck?
“Since the time of my country’s Youth National Team, I’ve started taking penalties. I’m used to it. And above all, I’m not afraid of making mistakes. Every time I go to the penalty spot I know very well that I have two possibilities: to score or to miss. So I don’t feel any particular pressure.”
You have been in Italy for a few years now, in Milano for quite a while: take a snapshot of Milano and Italy…
“I’m fortunate: my family is with me so I go out very little and frequent the city very little. Milanello-home: this is my life also because we play every three days and there is no time to do anything else. Compared to my country there is only one difference.”
Excuse me, which one?
“We never have winter here. And I suffer a lot from the cold in these weeks.”
You never use gloves otherwise Ibra would scold you…
“I don’t use them on my own because they bother me.”
At this point Kessié begins to move in his chair almost as if to show that our time is running out. Sorry Kessié, this is really the last question: everyone at Milan calls you President with a capital letter. Do they also do it in front of Scaroni?
“For me it’s a source of pride. Because I have a great responsibility that pushes me to do well. More than anyone else.”