Tonali: “I’ve grown a year and this year will be a different story, reducing my salary? The desire to stay at Milan came first, here I can achieve all my goals”

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Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Sandro Tonali spoke at length to La Gazzetta dello Sport, saying the upcoming season will be better for him than the previous one.

Tonali became a full-time Milan player this month, joining from Brescia permanently after one year on loan.

Sandro sat down with Marco Fallisi of La Gazzetta dello Sport for an interview ahead of the upcoming season:

You begin your second season at Milan. What has changed?
“Quite simply, I’ve grown a year. On and off the pitch, a fundamental aspect. We start again with the advantage of knowing each other, us players and the coach. What hasn’t changed are the objectives: we’re always aiming high.

How do you rate last season? Could you have done better?
“Definitely. It wasn’t my best year, also because it was particular, complicated: COVID stopped me almost immediately, it took me a while to get going. This year will be a different story, although I know I have to improve: there are no arrival points, you always grow.”

Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

How did you live through the criticism?
“When I’m not playing or training, I read or watch a film. It’s not easy to remain impervious, but I try, with both criticism and praise. There will always be people who don’t like me, and that’s okay, you can’t please everyone.”

It’s not every day that you have to cut your salary, you did it. Why?
“Because the desire to stay at Milan came first of all. The buy-out terms from Brescia had expired and we were starting from scratch: it was important for me to take a step towards Milan. There were other clubs, even with higher salaries to offer, but I’m happy here.”

Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Do you think your gesture could be a signal for a more economically sustainable football?
“Every player thinks differently. There are those who think about their career and ambition, others about money. I believe that being well in a team is essential. At Milan I can achieve all my goals, I can have everything in the club where I’m happy.”

What relationship do you have with Pioli?
“Very nice, he’s like a father. We’re young and he knows what kind of strings to pull, he knows us inside out. We work a lot as a team, we analyze the games we’ve played and prepare for the next ones: we are really united.”

Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Speaking of fathers, you’ve also described Ibrahimović and Kjær as fathers. Who is more of a “father” between the two?
“They’re two different people, but they both give a lot to the team. Playing with Ibra gives you inexplicable stimuli, Zlatan fires you up even if he doesn’t play. He does it even now that he’s not training with us: he’s always there. He knows we need him but he needs us too, we’re almost one. Kjær talks and explains a lot on the pitch, he’s a sort of second coach.”

You’re Italian and one of the youngest in the squad. Advantage or responsibility?
“We’ve always said that we all have responsibilities, all players, regardless if we’re young or old. We share everything.”

Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

What have you learned from Kessié and Bennacer?
“I studied them and they taught me a lot, even in training. They’ve grown a lot at Milan, they’re role models for their team-mates.”

You immediately got used to the internal competition, but the crowding in the midfield could increase: Pobega can stay and there’s talk of Bakayoko. Ready to compete even more?
“Having so many excellent teammates should not create competition but offer input to give everything and improve. The bar must be kept high, it’s good for the whole team.”

Pioli plays with a 4-2-3-1, but if he were to switch to a three-man midfield would you see yourself more as a deep-lying playmaker or a mezz’ala?
“It’s been a couple of years since I last played in front of the defense in a three-man midfield, but I think my team-mates and I can move into any position. That’s the beauty of our midfield: there are no defined roles a priori: everyone can move around.”

Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

Giroud immediately talked about the Scudetto, Tomori too, we know how Ibra thinks… Will you fight for first place?
“Yes. We’re all fighting together for the same goal. The team’s thoughts are the same.”

What goal have you set for the Champions League?
“We want to go as far as possible. We’re returning after many years away and we know it won’t be easy, but we’re Milan. Europe is our home.”

If you close your eyes, which great midfielder do you imagine to challenge?
“Modrić, I’ve always admired him. Playing against him would be a pleasure.”

Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

How important is it to see Maldini at Milanello every day?
“Paolo is a pillar, especially in this moment: we’re young and training under his eyes, talking to him, gives you special energy. When I signed my new contract, we took stock of myself and Milan together: the past year, the changes, and the future to be built… It was nice.”

You played in a packed San Siro as an opponent, soon you might do it as a Rossonero. How do you imagine it?
“I’ve been waiting for two years, a full San Siro is the best, and it will be exciting. I hope it can happen soon, and with as many people as possible, obviously respecting safety regulations.”

Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

You were on the national team when you were 19, but you watched the European Championship on TV. Did you suffer?
“As a team-mate and as a fan, but it was also fantastic to experience it from home. The victory made me proud like all Italians.”

When Mancini called you up for the first time, your grandmother Gina said: ‘I thought of my husband, he said Sandro would become a world champion’. In a year and a half there’s the World Cup in Qatar: will Tonali be there?
“The national team is a consequence of what you do with the club. The field will do the talking, we’ll see. I’ll work hard to be there.”

Between family and friends, who is Sandro Tonali’s biggest fan?
“It’s a good fight, also because almost all of them are Milan fans… At home there are also some ‘coaches’ who scold me: ‘You should have given it like that… You missed that shot…’.”

Sandro Tonali during training at Milanello. (@acmilan.com)

At Brescia he had excellent averages as a free-kick assist. Now that Çalhanoğlu is gone, are you ready to take on the responsibility of taking set-pieces?
“Definitely. We’ll decide with the coach and his staff.”

You’ve gone 37 games without scoring for Milan. Have you missed scoring?
“I’m not someone who scores often, but it’s a box that needs to be filled. A goal is always a goal, even for a midfielder who is happy if he assists a team-mate.”

You wanted Milan, but Milan also believed in Tonali. What can you promise the club and the fans?
“First of all I would like to thank the club, because they bet on me twice. I don’t like proclamations, but I can assure you that I’ll do everything I can to prove I’m ‘da Milan’.”

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Martin Bernhard
Martin Bernhard
2 months ago

Really love this kids commitment and attitude hopefully he will one day become a milan legend

I cant remember if this video of Tonali and Tatarusanu singing after their arrival last year was ever posted here but i always found it to be a blast 😀
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7drjVmdn-Hw

Ted
Ted
2 months ago

I am not Italian but I’ve always been fond of idea that the core of the team must be built with players of country nationality the clubs performs in. I miss this with new management. I understand it’s hard to profit off Italians and I see them turning to players most profitable in world of football who can be bought on cheap, nurtured and sold on with high added value – French, African, Scandi, Belgium for example. That is why I sincerely hope to see Tonali flourish along with Pobega, to see them as fundamental core players in our midfield… Read more »

Martin Bernhard
Martin Bernhard
2 months ago
Reply to  Ted

Neither am i but i fully agree ted but i think when the club is in a better financial state we will start investing more in italians than foreign players. Anyways our current squad has been doing a fine job up untill now so i can live with this setup for the time being as they at least got us a second place last season. Id go as far to wish teams in their local leagues would only be allowed to have max 5 foreigners in their starting lineups as it will strengthen the leagues development of homegrown talent while… Read more »

Ted
Ted
2 months ago

I completely agree about a rule that would allow only certain number of foregin players. A lot more homegrown kids would get opportunity to live up to their true potential, not to mention the health of finances. It was quite strange and I was also a bit disappointed seeing no Milan player participating the Euros. We have the likes of Romagnoli, Calabria and Tonali who are all NT level players.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ted
Martin Bernhard
Martin Bernhard
2 months ago
Reply to  Ted

Absolutely and it would even strengthen the small leagues because it would make them keep their players a bit longer and then capitalize better on them when they are more ready for the bigger stage and thereby make football more equal in some sort in my view. Im pretty much a hardliner on this matter and wouldnt even mind going back to the 3 foreign players in a team sytem but with teams in eu it simply wont happen as it goes against free movement for the working force, I almost completely boycotted all of their games and i generally… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Martin Bernhard
Ac milan
Ac milan
2 months ago
Reply to  Ted

They should make rules like at least 30 percent Italian on the starting line up, Bench, reserve, etc…
If for some reason team wants to break that rule, they pay an additional tax on the revenue. 5 percent for making it falling 5 percent below the requirement.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ac milan
Ac milan
Ac milan
2 months ago

I hope we get Mikkel Damsgaard what a talent!

Martin Bernhard
Martin Bernhard
2 months ago
Reply to  Ac milan

doubt it will happen as it will be 30-40 mil euros upfront but as a dane i would absolutely love him to join us. I was aware of his and mæhles talents even if many didnt even around here in denmark but milan should keep an eye open permanently on danish and generally scandinavian talents while they are affordable. Another potential issue is if any bigger spanish teams shows interest i think he will be bound to join them as he has professed his interest in playing in la liga at some point.

Last edited 2 months ago by Martin Bernhard
Ted
Ted
2 months ago

That’s true, especially danish and norwegian leagues have so much talent in their clubs and they are selling for peanuts. Ajax are poaching their clubs every market. Belgium is another, still quite overlooked and interesting league for exploring talent.

Martin Bernhard
Martin Bernhard
2 months ago
Reply to  Ted

previously ajax bought up most of the top danish talents so you are absolutely right but nowadays they have gotten competition from other clubs and leagues so its not a guarantee that they can get them any longer but ajax is and always will be a club that knows how to get talents at the right time and capitalize on it a few years down the road. Yeah belgian league is deffently a league that should be scouted regularly. I will say though that with recent youth transfers like the 3 swedish players + jungdahl+ saeleaekers by the management they… Read more »

Oluwashevy
2 months ago

A good one but still need to get an attacking midfielder