Simon Kjær gave a long interview to Carlo Pellegatti, discussing a number of different topics.
Kjær has been one of the most important players in the squad of Stefano Pioli in the last year. This year he’s been injured a few times (as he is now), but regardless he remains a key man for Pioli.
The 31-year-old sat down for an interview with Carlo Pellegatti for StarCasinò and you can read the whole exchange below:
Today we host Simon Kjær! Good morning, Simon! I studied your career: at 20 you were elected Denmark’s best player. You closed 2020 achieving 100 games with the Danish National Team. What are the differences between the Kjær we saw in Denmark and the one, who can be considered as an idol, here at Milan, both on a personal and technical level?
“Well, I think experience. During the journey I’ve made in football. I have always been open-minded to learn as much as possible. Perhaps, I’ve learned even more as I got older. Wherever I played, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, I’ve always tried to learn the ways to be a good defender in the specific league. Today, I have the option to choose how I prefer to play, and I know how to perform well for the whole team.”
Eight years have passed since you played with Roma, in 2019 you re-joined the Serie A with Atalanta and now with Milan. What do you think about the Serie A after 8 years?
“The Serie A is fresher, more… let’s say… ‘active’. There are many more take up; games are more dynamic than before. When I came here, many teams were closed behind the defensive line, they waited and then broke away. Now more than ever a lot of clubs are interested in dominating the match. Football, in my opinion, has become a bit more dynamic, that’s what makes the difference.”
On a tactical level, in the last couple of years, we are talking about the famous defense start. Today Milan’s preferred tactic is ‘Donnarumma-Kjær-Romagnoli-Calabria-Donnarumma’ etc… This seems to be a totally new tactical scheme. Why do you think all the major European leagues follow this path?
“In my opinion, the qualities of each team, each player both technically and physically, have increased. All teams now have quality. Meaning that if you don’t do good pressing, you’re not pressing at all; and you leave the field to the opposing team. Today there’s also the possibility to play man to man from behind, meaning you can’t close your eyes and play. You need to take advantage of all the situations. Obviously, as the whole Serie A, at Milan, we start from behind, this means that our opponents, have more field at their disposal thus leaving more space for our forwards, and our forwards play well in the one against one.”
Who is the opponent, the striker that you always want to avoid? The one you always say ‘damn, I have to play against him.’ Can you give me a couple of names please? The one that troubles you the night before a match.
“No, I never had that thought. I have always had greater stimuli when I was playing against stronger players, because they give their best and you can test yourself as well. What I love and what stimulates me the most about football are the matches at home, the derbies I played in which there was ‘fire’ throughout the stadium. I get up every day thinking about giving my best and to be prepared for these moments. Clearly, against great forwards and great players there is even more risk of losing the game, but this is part of football.”
Here’s a statistic for you – before you, the following Danes played in Milan: Helveg, Tomasson, Laursen, Sørensen in 1954/55 and Laudrup. They all won the championship. Do you consider yourself as a lucky charm? Can Milan believe in the Scudetto with a Dane?
“I think we must believe that we can win the championship, we have the right mindset. We are the top team in the standings and it means that the others must take us. Our goal, I must say, our mentality, is to consider each match as a final and prepare it at our best. We must believe in winning the Scudetto! The path is complicated and long. However, in my opinion all Milan fans believe it is possible, many, if not all. We know the road is long. However, I think we all have the desire and eager to win.”
You’ve had so many great coaches. What is Stefano Pioli giving you? What is your opinion on your coach?
“The Coach, the first day I arrived, approached me and asked me: ‘How are you? How is your family and what about the rest?’ From that day on, the relationship between me and the coach has always strengthened. The Coach gave me strength. Every now and then he says, ‘Close your eyes, do you trust me?’ Yes, I do. If he told me to do something, since I trust him, I will do it. He gave me that confidence, which perhaps helped me when I started here, I didn’t have any doubts but no one knows what can happen when joining a new team. He trusted me from day one and we started from there.”
You learn something every season. Is Pioli giving you something different both on a technical-tactical level?
“Probably, in my opinion, one of Pioli’s greatest qualities is that he has his own way to play. He is the Coach, therefore, he decides, but he also listens, for example if I say: ‘Listen, I prefer you put me here because I feel…’ he tells me ‘Ok, let’s do this’, and at the end we decide together. He listens, he’s always the one who takes decision but he has an open mind in fact he gives to all of us the possibility to express ourselves at our utmost.”
Behind you in the national team there is a great goalkeeper – Schmeichel, behind you at Milan there is a great goalkeeper – Donnarumma. What do you think about Donnarumma? You saw him as an opponent in the past, you admired him when you played for other European teams. Now he is Milan’s goalkeeper; what does Gigio mean to you?
“Since I joined Milan, Gigio has really grown a lot. In terms of personality, security which he gives to the team. For me, for a central defender, there is nothing more important than having behind me a goalkeeper that I trust 100%. He gives me the feeling that if I do something wrong, he will cover me. He also gives me the strength to play more aggressively, so leading me to have an advantage over the striker. Gigio is always there even if the striker ‘wins’ against me. That feeling is the most important thing for me.”
Who surprised you the most during this year at Milan? Is there someone who grew more than the others?
Maybe Gigio. I knew he was an amazing player, a good goalkeeper with great potential. But earlier in my career I was happy having elder goalkeepers whose strength was well known. Gigio’s ‘problem’ is that he does everything in the way it should be done. He is strong in everything. I’m pleased to play together. My trust in him can only grow.”
Milanello is not just a sports center. At Milanello there is a special, magical atmosphere. The trees have seen many great champions: Gullit, Van Basten, etc. What was your first feeling once you entered?
“It is very difficult to explain because as you said it is not just a sports center. For me, Milanello is Milanello.”
The atmosphere is enchanted…
“Yes, you enter and there is a photo of a great player, then another, then you see a large ‘7’ and there are things that remain. I am sure that, even the day I am no longer here at Milan, the emotion and impression that Milanello gave me will be something that will remain with me forever.”
What do you think is this team’s secret? This growth you’ve seen since January/February. (Milan have been leading since June/July, we can say…). Is it a more technical or mental growth? What do you think is the secret of this steadiness?
Visibly, confidence in the team has grown. The more games you win, the better you feel. That gave us only one path: continue to grow. Maybe the best thing is that we are learning things during each game. We are learning on how to start the game from below, controlling the game, counter attacks… and we are getting stronger in all game aspects.”
Today the most dangerous rival seems Inter. Do you believe that Juventus and Napoli can get closer and compete for the Scudetto as well?
“Absolutely yes. Juve is Juve. Juve has great players and Napoli as well. But as I told you, when we started the interview, we are on top now. We must think about us and our games ahead. Obviously, there are many teams in Italy that have a lot of quality and the championship is more difficult than 8 years ago – my first time in Italy. In my opinion, this year’s championship… if we give our best in all aspects… and we might also have some luck… this can be applied to each team, not just us, because if we have two or three injuries per match then it becomes difficult. That’s why it is important to recover well, prepare well and play one game at a time.”
Do you see yourself at 40 still on the pitch like Ibra? Go ask Ibra: ‘Sorry, but how is possible to be at those level at 40?’ And then, Ibra-Mandžukić together… is it better to have them as teammates or opponents? As a defender having Ibra and Mandžukić on a corner is complicated…
“Ibra is 39 not 40, lol! No, I have played against Ibra many times. It’s very difficult to explain how he is, because Ibra is Ibra, in my opinion he is a unique case. His way of working and his mentality fascinates me. I’ve never seen anything similar in my whole career. He is a leader he can instill strength to the others. He gives each of us feelings. The only thing we know for certain is that the only thing that matters to him is winning. That’s enough. How is possible at 40? In my opinion we need to study him I don’t think that in the next 50 years many players will do the same things Ibra is doing now at 39. Talking about the second question: Mario and Ibra together? Yes, they are not a nice duo for a defender. I played with Mario in Wolfsburg and it was a pleasure playing with him. In my opinion those two can do many things together. Mario is a professional, a good person, a good striker, one who never gives up, he never leaves you a meter. Let’s face reality, it is best to have them on your team than rivals.”
There is a lot of buzz about Ibra leading the group. But, and take it as a compliment you are the defense Ibra. Do you see yourself as this team leader? Can you tell me how to become the team leader?
“In my opinion you become a leader with performances, on the pitch but also off the pitch, every day in the gym, in anything you do – if you do it with the right mindset. When you win games, if your performances are good, then it’s faster to become a leader. When I arrived Milan asked me to be the leader it was natural for me to become so, because I also have the same role in the national team. The group here is great. It is a group that wants to work. When they see me, they see that I am serious and that I do my job. And then, slowly, we followed the right path. Each of us and all together. Off course, I am very happy with the time I am spending here, but I want to compliment the team.”
However, Simon Kjær hasn’t scored yet. At Lille you were a free-kick specialist. We haven’t seen it yet – also because it’s not that easy when you have Çalhanoğlu and Ibra. Do you miss the feeling of scoring? And above all, we are waiting for the Juninho Pernambucano free-kick! When will you score the first goal and when the first free-kick goal – If they let you shoot?
“A free-kick goal? I don’t think it will happen here at Ac Milan! In the places where I took free-kicks it was because there wasn’t a specialist in this filed thus I started practicing. Now I could, but I must practice. Honestly, I’m not practicing, if I think about the percentage of work to be devoted to this at the expense of something else, considering that we have Ibra and Chala, it doesn’t makes sense for me.”
So you focus on other things…
“Bravo… Obviously, I want to score my first goal. I came close. But, as mentioned before, I am a defender. For me, the important thing is that the opponents don’t score.”
Last 3 questions. You lived in Southern Italy – Palermo. You experienced the center – Rome. And now the North – Milano. What do you like about Italy?
“Lifestyle. A simple thing, like pasta, is done as it should be done. It’s hard to find a place where the food isn’t good. This way of living in my opinion, is where my heart stands. Italy is the best place compared to all the other countries I have been to. Yes, perhaps I enjoyed all the other places but here the mentality, the way of living, how you spend your days – go out, you buy the ham – Is something I like a lot. I Love Italy!”
How do you spend your free time? Do you play any games? Do you enjoy watching TV? What about reading?
“With my children. I take them to school in the morning. Then, when I finish here at Milanello, I grab them at school and take them home. We do our things, off course it depends on the weather, if it’s sunny we’ll go to the park otherwise I stay home and do my job. I am with my children and my wife. Now it’s a shame, because I think Milan is a beautiful city where there are things to do and see. We hope that in a little while we will also be able to go around, downtown maybe.”
Finally, what is your professional dream? What are your goals?
“Staying here as long as possible, but that means having the influence I am having now. When I am no longer able, I will go, or Milan will sell me!”
Would you like to end your career at Milan?
“Absolutely yes. But the question is ‘who knows how I will be in a year or two?’ Nobody knows. So, the important thing is to ‘enjoy’… How can I say it? Living the moment. Now I love being here, on the pitch and off the pitch I am very, very happy. Enjoying the atmosphere here as long as possible, then we’ll see what the future holds for me and my family. However, I’m fine, I’m happy. It’s a pleasure for me being here.”