Diogo Dalot is getting ready to face Italy U21 and he doesn’t know yet where he’ll play club football next season.
Dalot played the past season on loan at Milan from Manchester United and despite some early difficulties, towards the end of the season he established himself as a valuable squad player for coach Pioli.
After helping the Rossoneri finish in second place and qualify for the Champions League, Dalot is now contractually obligated to return to Manchester United. However, his future involves Italy – at least the immediate future, as he’s getting ready with Portugal U21 to face Italy U21 in the quarterfinals of the U21 EUROs on Monday night (Ljubljana, 21:00 CET).
Portugal are no strangers to winning these competitions: they won the 2016 U17 EUROs with Dalot scoring in the final against Spain (Brahim Díaz scored for Spain), and in 2018 they beat Italy to win the U19 EUROs. Ahead of the game, Diogo spoke with La Gazzetta dello Sport:
Dalot, are you ready for the treble?
“It would be a good signal for our football. For me, it’s a pleasure to be part of this generation, even if there are now at least 3-4 representatives. It’s a nice mix.”
You had a decisive goal in the final with the U17, but was absent in the success of the U19…
“It was the summer of 2018, the summer of my move to Manchester United. I injured my knee at the end of April and was forced to have meniscus surgery. I remember cheering from a distance, also in the final against the Azzurri.”
For some of the Azzurro it will be a rematch for revenge…
“In the final in 2018 I remember there were Scamacca and Pinamonti. I’ve been playing against Pinamonti practically since we we’ve been 15!”
Gabbia, your teammate at Milan, will not be there…
“What a shame! We talked about this match in the quarterfinals every single day since we met after the group stage. This May 31st was a fixed subject in our locker room: Rafael Leão and I against Matteo and Tonali. But they always had the support of the other Italians…”
What do you feel you’ve learned in this year of Serie A?
“I like to become more and more complete. Italians love football, they always talk about it and being part of this culture has been a great experience. And on the field I feel I have improved a lot tactically.”
Tactically is often synonymous with defensively…
“I learned some defensive aspects here and it was fantastic to develop these qualities too. But not only that: in attack, like going into high pressure, winning back the ball as soon as possible… all very useful.”
How many times have you heard ‘marcature preventive’ [preventive marking]?
“Oh, a lot. And ‘stringi’ [be tight], ‘scappa’ [rush]… I learned a lot of words and a lot of new concepts.”
And what did Pioli teach you?
“That the team has to be focused for the whole 90 minutes and aware of every single aspect of the game, of what’s going on. And the conviction that everything you prepare for in training you’ll find in the match… that it will go exactly like this.”
How to reach the Champions League…
“It was our goal from the start. It’s true that at a certain point we also thought about the Scudetto, but the important thing was to get into the Champions League. And we are very happy to have succeeded.”
Unfortunately you did not see a full San Siro…
“The worst thing of the season: playing without fans. Before the Derby and before Atalanta, in Milanello, we had a taste of what they can give us. A full San Siro is something from another world.”
You still have time to see it, next season…
“I say I had a fantastic year and met beautiful people. It was a real pleasure to play for Milan but now I’m thinking of the U21 EURO and I really don’t know what will happen.”