Davide Calabria spoke to Sportweek at length about different topics, saying he wants to return to the Italian national team, and saying he would now like to win something with Milan.
Two days before Atalanta-Milan, the most important match in the recent history of the Rossoneri, the one that sealed the club’s return to the Champions League after 7 seasons, Calabria posted social media a black and white photo – a team hug after a goal, with no caption: “I wanted to remember that it was all in our hands,” he told Sportweek. “They were giving us up for dead, but we simply had to win a match against a great team, which we had already done in this campaign. In every difficult moment we reacted great: I was sure that we could do it.”
Calabria’s contribution against Atalanta and in general during the season allow him now to close his eyes and hear the music of the Champions League, and think of a very specific opponent: “Messi, because I think he is the strongest ever. It would be nice to play against him in a Milan-Barcelona match, like in the old days.”
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Davide came this week for an interview and a photoshoot with Sportweek’s Giacomo Detomaso. The La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist writes that Calabria, “with his beautiful curly hair, had shown up well in advance: exactly the behavior you would expect from him. Even if you don’t know him, you know: without seriousness, without professionalism, he couldn’t have become the starting fullbacks of one of the most glorious teams in the world, statistically the best in the just-completed Serie A in terms of numbers of tackles won (over 3 per game).”
Calabria explains: “You definitely need talent to play at this level. But then there are other components, including the historical period of the club. I think I have the qualities to play here: above all mental strength, resilience and the desire to stay with this team.”
Another memory ties you to Bergamo: there you made your Serie A debut with Inzaghi on the bench, on the last Matchday of the 2014/15 campaign. In your heart, what were you thinking? “I am one of the many youngsters making their debut in the first team” or did you imagine that you would stay there for so long?
“Honestly, I imagined it. Right from the first training sessions I thought I could fit in that group. Then, of course it wasn’t only up to me, but completing the path started in the Youth Sector has been wonderful.”
How did your love for football blossom, did you want to emulate a Champion?
“No, I just wanted to play with my friends. On the street, at the youth club… we played everywhere.”
What game did you watch for the first time at the stadium?
“Milan-Lille, in the Champions League. I was young, we were in the Settore Verde, my friends and I with our parents: a wonderful experience.”
What role did you family play in making your dream come true?
“A fundamental one. Unfortunately, my dad was almost never at my training sessions because he had to work from morning to night: he was a bricklayer and then he opened a bar. My mom was a clerk and she was always there for me: it wasn’t easy to take me from home to school, prepare my lunch, take me to practice and come home at 20:00. Without them I wouldn’t be here now.”
What did your parents teach you?
“The importance of sacrifices. Nothing is owed to you, you have to earn everything with work.”
What was it like growing up in Adro, in Franciacorta? What kind of place is it?
“Very quiet, I’ve always been happy there and I come back whenever I can. I have my family and childhood friends there, to whom I am very much attached. I think it’s an ideal setting for me: it allows me to disconnect from my everyday life.”
And in Milano, what is your favorite place?
“Milano is beautiful: parts, restaurants, clubs… you can’t feel bad in Milano. However, I don’t go out very often since we play every three days and in the last year and a half it has been even more difficult, because of the limitations imposed by COVID.”
Pioli said that you are “very intelligent”: what does it mean for you to be an intelligent footballer?
“Understanding the moments, the details, and the particulars of the game. Making the right choice. This is what leads you to get the results.”
For many, you are the most improved player in the league; yet according to Pioli you still have ample room for growth. At what do you think you can become stronger?
“In everything, I’m still relatively young. Playing in the Champions League will be a big jump: facing great players, in great matches, in great competitions, is the only way to improve.”
You grew up in Berlusconi’s Milan, then you experienced Li’s parenthesis, now Elliott with the new management. As players, did you perceive any differences?
“You understand it when there is a stable club behind. And you inevitably feel it when it’s missing: it’s more difficult to isolate yourself to try to give your best. But in these years Milan have not made us lack anything. Even in the negative moments, it has been a strong club, from all points of view.”
And then there is Ibrahimović. In an interview you acknowledged that it’s not easy to play with him, because he puts so much pressure on you. What effect has that had on you?
“He has pushed me and the others to give their best, since he’s been here we have improved so much. I’m really happy that Ibra is one of us.”
The thing that surprised you the most about him?
“The desire to never lose: for him there is only the victory. And that’s it.”
On the other flank, Theo Hernández is a player and also a guy (apparently at least) very different from you. Is there anything you envy him?
“Mother Nature has given him a physical overpower and speed that make it difficult to stop when he accelerates. But I wouldn’t say I envy him, everyone has their own characteristics. I’m happy to play with him, he’s a good guy who works seriously.”
And is it more satisfying for you to score goal, make an assist or make a decisive defensive play?
“It depends on the game. In a dirty, masculine game, like on the last Matchday against Atalanta, in which they attacked us a lot, it was nice to contribute with important closings. In the end, I’m still a defender. Of course, scoring a goal or making an assist is always satisfying, but our defensive phase is fundamental.”
Your generation is more attentive to social issues than the previous ones. For example, you care a lot about the environment and sustainability…
“I was born in the countryside, in a small town, in nature. Certain issues are still not talked about enough. Above all, not enough is done for our planet.”
You also suggesting adopting a dog or a cat…
“There is too much meanness in people abandoning animals. And I don’t think it makes sense to spend money on a dog when there are so many of them in kennels. My dog is a crossbreed, similar to a Labrador, named Gohan. I’m a big Dragon Ball fan.”
Another passion of yours is oenology…
“My grandfather, like many in my neck of the woods, had fields and made wine for family and friends, but he wasn’t really an enthusiast. Since I grew up in Franciacorta, it’s normal to walk in the vineyards. A few years ago I started agricultural school with the idea of becoming an oenologist. After football I would like to know more about this world.”
You said you feel very much tied to Italy and to its traditions. What makes you proud to be Italian?
“I think we live in the most beautiful country in the world, we were lucky enough to grow up surrounded by beauties that are envied by everyone. But I’m sure we could do a lot more to enhance them even more.”
You were excluded from the EURO 2020 squad. Is returning to the national team an objective?
“Absolutely yes, I think I deserve it and I believe that sooner or later the call will come again.”
We know you don’t like video games, what is your relationship instead with social networks?
“I like them and I spend time on them. When I’m away from home they allow me to see what my friends are doing and to talk to them. In addition, they give us the opportunity to send positive messages to those who follow us. We have an incredible following and it is right to exploit it like this.”
Do you read the comments on your posts?
“There are too many! I can’t read them all…”
But how do you react to criticism?
“With positivity. By now I have entered the mentality that I’m here because I deserve it, because otherwise there would be those who criticize me.”
The nicest compliment you’ve received?
“I’m not interested in receiving compliments for what I do on the pitch, football is just a game. I give more importance to the human side. But it’s obvious that compliments from someone like Maldini or other representatives of the club have pleased me.”
The best piece of advice they ever gave you?
“To think a little more ‘selfishly’, to believe in my means and exploit them. In the beginning I was far too humble. In football you have to be aggressive and mentally strong. The sooner you understand it, the sooner you get results.”
A dream to be realized as a football and one to realize as a person…
“Playing for Milan was my dream, now the objective is to win with this jersey. For the first, I want to live my life to the fullest, give it all I can and enjoy every moment of this journey so that I don’t have any regrets when I’m old.”
What bottle will you uncork for your first important trophy with Milan?
“I have many to choose from in my cellar… but I think I’d go for a Burgundy.”