Jean-Pierre Papin spoke to La Gazzetta today about Milan’s new French players and about the aspirations of the Diavolo.
The eyes of the Milan directors are on French talents, so much that the three new players that have joined Milanello so far are all French: Mike Maignan, Olivier Giroud and Fodé Ballo-Touré.
The posters in Giroud’s bedroom had the Milan jersey with his number 9 printed on the back: Jean-Pierre Papin made Olivier dream, as he did with so many other kids born in the 1980s. “Today I am the one dreaming”, the 1991 Ballon d’Or winner, who played at Milan between 1992 to 1994, told La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Marco Fallisi, “Because Milan are becoming great again.”
Giroud said that you were his idol…
“I thank him and I confirm it – he had confided it to me in Russia, with the World Cup in his hands.”
What will he bring to Milan?
“First of all, goals. Oliver knows how to score. Then experience and weight: he is a penalty area persona like there are no more. I know that the fans suffer because so many ‘9s’ at Milan have failed recently: perhaps they weren’t real strikers. Giroud is.”
How do you see him with Ibra?
“When you have two strikers like that, you start from a certainty: something will happen, all it takes it takes is a cross to create a mess. Giroud can play in a pair with another forward or on his own, supported by two wide wingers. He creates space, improves the maneuver. It’s a great signing.”
Even if he’s going to be 35-years-old?
“He has an incredible hunger, if he’s chosen Milan and Serie A then it’s because he wants to do great things.”
Some people say you resemble each other: you were the one with the impossible goals, and so is Giroud…
“In terms of instinct and coordination, we are similar. I was faster, but Oliver doesn’t need that: he will take advantage of Milan’s quick dribbling.”
What advice do you give him?
“Learn the language and Milan’s way of playing. But there will be no problem: he adapts easily to the characteristics of his teammates.”
He said he’s aiming for the Scudetto. Do you agree with him?
“Of course, Milan cannot have intermediate objectives, they will fight for the title. Making their way in the Champions League is more complicated, it’s a difficult tournament, but the important thing is to play it and do it with continuity.”
Milan have two great strikers, but they’ve lost a great goalkeeper. Will Maignan be up to the task?
“He is an excellent goalkeeper. If Lille won the league it’s also due to his great saves.”
Gigio has chosen PSG. How do you evaluate this decision?
“He went to a club of stars, but it won’t be easy. Their obsession is the Champions League. If you don’t win it…”
There is also talk of him for the Ballon d’Or…
“Two of them should be awarded, one for the EUROs, and in this case I would award Donnarumma or Jorginho, and one for the season, and I’d say Lewandowski.”
Ballo-Touré has arrived from Ligue 1. What kind of player is he?
“A box to box sprinter. He impressed me when he was at Lille. At Monaco he had less space and struggled a bit.”
He will be the deputy of Theo, who doesn’t play in the national team. Do you see him at the World Cup?
“I would bring him, he has grown a lot in Italy. But it’s also true that we are well-covered in that role.”
Ligue 1 is a mercato reservoir for Milan…
“We are good at training talents, but with you we become great.”
Reasoned spending and a cap on salaries. Do you like the Milan line?
“It’s the right way. And my friend Maldini does a great job: he chooses talents with a future as Champions.”
Chapter trequartista: Vlašić, Ziyech or Sabitzer?
“Ziyech would bring what is needed for the Champions League. He’s a player for the big stage, he scores and lets other score.”
Will winning the EUROs give the Italian clubs a boost in the cups?
“Absolutely. Mancini has created a new Italian style that has won everyone over. At the World Cup you’ll be in pole position, if you win a EUROs like that… France will be back: it’s right to keep Deschamps.”
Allegri, Mou, Sarri, Spalletti. How do you place Pioli among the big names in Serie A?
“He is he right man for Milan. He’s brought them back to the top and has raised the level of many elements of the squad – I’m thinking of Kessié. Pioli has no choice but to win, but he needs time and patience for that.”
Inter: after Conte there is Inzaghi…
“The team remains equipped for the Scudetto, Lukaku has many Champions around him. It’s difficult to repeat, however: Juventus did 9 in a row but it’s a feat. In fact they’ve recalled Allegri…”
Will Ronaldo still have motivation?
“He is an ageless phenomenon. A guy like that never has problems with motivation.”
Immobile, quietly, will return as European Champion…
“He’s been criticized but he played a EUROs of sacrifice, investing himself for his teammates – like Giroud at the 2018 World Cup.”
Who will win the Scudetto?
“It’s an open fight between Inter, Juve, Roma, Napoli, Atalanta who I have followed with great admiration for years, and obviously Milan. Do you need me to tell you who I will be rooting for…?”