Fikayo Tomori has given an interview to GQ Italia, discussing different things.
A veil of platinum blond eye is still visible on his hair. “I did it for the summer, you know? And yes… also for the Scudetto,” Tomori, with a smile on his face, told GQ Italia’s Francesco Paolo Giordano.
Tomori has many reasons to smile: at 24-year-old he helped lead Milan to their first Scudetto in 11 years, becoming an important cog in the machine of Stefano Pioli, while also winning call-ups to the England national team after some snubs.
“At the beginning of last season, not many people thought we were capable of winning,” he said. “But ever since I arrived [January 2021], we realized that we had a very good team. That we were strong. We know that and we were able to build something important on that, we improved throughout the season and an extra year of experience helped us a lot. In the end we had the opportunity and we took it, winning the last 6 games – I think we deserved it, it’s never easy to win a championship.”
The Scudetto battle last season was wild, with Milan beating Inter to the title by just 2 points. After the 3-0 against Sassuolo, a wild celebration kicked off for several days; the Milan fans went crazy after years of wait.
“It was all… crazy. The bus tour through the city streets was incredible, everywhere we went there were our fans, it was crazy. Definitely it was the best moment of my career. It’s good to look back, we tasted what it’s like to win, but now we want to try to repeat it. To succeed once is amazing, but a second time…”
Tomori was born in Canada to Nigerian parents, but from an early age he grew up in England, the country he chose to represent at national team level. His football training took place at Chelsea, where he came when he was not even 8, and he continued there all the way through to the first team. From a very young age, he was considered among the most promising defenders of his generation, however he could not find space in the Premier League giants and chose to leave Chelsea to go to Milan, which for him – was an easy destination to accept.
“Anyone who follows football knows what Milan is. It’s a team with an important history, a great club known all over the world. And then it was Maldini who wanted me, as a defender that was something that made me very happy.”
In 2021, Fik arrived, choosing the shirt #23: his age when he came, but it was also a tribute to Michael Jordan, who inspired him in particular in The Last Dance. In a very short time, Tomori convinced everyone, from his teammates to the coach, to management. In the summer of 2021, he was bought out by Milan for nearly €30 million.
Tomori was an ideal Milan signing, in line with the philosophy of the club: young, talented and with a good personality. Alongside the likes of Rafael Leão, Sandro Tonali, Pierre Kalulu, Theo Hernández and Ismaël Bennacer, he was asked to raise the bar and make the jump in quality, especially after Simon Kjær’s injury, which forced Tomori to take a leading role in the defense.
“With Simon’s injury, I realized it was time to raise the level of my game, to achieve that consistency that could make me a leader. It all came quite normally to me.”
Tomori, with Kalulu, definitely turned Milan’s defense even stronger as in the last 11 games of last year, the Rossoneri conceded only 2 goals. “I’m always happy when we don’t concede goals, also because we know that our chances of winning increase: with great strikers like Leão and Giroud up front, we manage to score sooner or later.”
Tomori is well settled-in in Italy, in addition to already knowing the language, he also has the habit of Caffè macchiato. And then he’s also very interested in fashion. In fact, he talks about style also with his teammates. Leão and Calabria are the ‘coolest’ in the locker room according to him, while Bakayoko has bold color combinations he can’t help but remember.
During the GQ interview, Fik asked them when the Fashion Week takes place in Milano. He is not interested in showing up, however, unlike some footballers in the past from Moise Kean to Héctor Bellerín to Eduardo Camavinga, but fashion interests him nonetheless. It can also be seen from the way he dressed for the interview: a pink AMI Paris shirt, white shorts Essentials of Fear of God and a white and pink Trainer of Louis Vuitton. On his wrist – a Rolex Day-Date, which together with 2 Audemars Piguets makes up his personal watch collection. “But now I want to enrich it further,” he said.
There was also a photoshoot taking place with GQ, during the sounds of Drake, Gunna, Future were played. Tomori is a devourer of music, of all genres, with Drake, Lil Baby and Naza being his favorite artists.
There’s a new generation of football players, one that is not afraid to take a stand and talk about things that also go beyond the pitch. England in particular is the country where this social consciousness is most pronounced: Marcus Rashford, for example, has fought to ensure free meals for destitute children, Héctor Bellerín has since his Arsenal days launched various initiatives related to the environment and sustainability, Jordan Henderson has been the spearhead of fundraisers in favor of the National Health Service.
Tomori, who has a degree in Business Administration, does not shy away from talking about subjects are less comfortable, such as racism: “It’s an education issue. Sometimes people who say stupid things should be ignored, but there always comes a time when you have to stand up for our people.”
He stood up for Mike Maignan last season when the goalkeeper was insulted by Cagliari fans who threw bottles at him and made racial slurs. Maignan posted on social media a photo of a monkey showing its middle finger along with a short of himself with Tomori facing the Cagliari Curva, putting fingers in his ears. These are signs that football no longer wants to turn its back and pretend that nothing is going on, but instead is taking the initiative and stands up.
“I know I have a responsibility, I know I can be an example and inspire boys and girls. It’s hard to say what football can do to combat racism, because it’s something that goes beyond sports, it’s up to the governments, to those who make the rules. But football remains a big business and enjoys an important audience to send messages to: campaigns like Keep Racism Out [promoted by the Lega Serie A] are the right initiatives, it’s a road we need to keep going down.”
Milan is one of the clubs that wish to promote awareness on issues such as social equity, equality and inclusiveness, formalized in a real manifesto, called Respact. The idea behind it is to raise awareness, educate and share the importance of these values through targeted campaigns and initiatives, with the ultimate goal of making a real cultural transformation concrete and practical. It is all part of a modern and progressive club model that has guided Milan’s transformation in recent years, which passes from an idea of economic sustainability based on the virtuous circle between sporting performance and increased revenues, from investments in the youth sector and the women’s section, and from the push on lifestyle to engage new generations.
It’s a new culture of football that is surfacing in Italy. Tomori, in this sense, has become the perfect testimonial of the direction in which football will go: modern and aware, but still passionate. Because the love of the game drives everything: the beauty of being on the pitch, the allure of the challenge…
“When I arrived in Italy, the stadiums were empty because of the pandemic. I had never been to San Siro before, so when I saw it full for the first time, it was great. I felt comfortable right away. I remember the first Champions League game at home, against Atlético Madrid: even though we didn’t win, the atmosphere was incredible. Here, compared to England where people arrive at the last minute, you see the stadium full already when you enter the field for the warm-up. And then, the last league game against Atalanta: my friends were in the stands, and every time they show me pictures of that day…”
Tomorrow, San Siro will be as loud as ever, as Milan play Inter in the Derby della Madonnina (18:00 CEST). Tomori, of course, will be in the starting XI of coach Stefano Pioli.