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Interview

La dolce vita

Fikayo Tomori has made the move to AC Milan, a club that’s steeped in European legend. It also has something of a reputation for imperious defenders – so is the former Chelsea centre-back apprehensive of the challenge ahead of him? Not a bit of it. Champions Journal meets a humble and hungry England international who’s well suited to the challenge

INTERVIEW Vieri Capretta | PORTRAITS Tullio Puglia

Oluwafikayomi Oluwadamilola Tomori: a big name aiming to get bigger and bigger. “Fik” is what they call him at AC Milan, where the England international has already made himself at home. Relaxed, talkative and ready to joke, he looks properly at ease at Milanello, where he has won over staff and colleagues with a proactive and fun-loving attitude. It helps that he also fits the brief of the kind of footballer that the club is trying to recruit: progressive, young and technically adept.

Italian football boasts a rich tradition of centre-backs – and Tomori’s breathing it first hand at Milanello, with the likes of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi still at the club. As he talks about his roots you can read the London years in his eyes, growing up with one thing on his mind: football. Inspired primarily by his father, he was always hungry to learn from the best, be it watching the Rossoneri lift the trophy in Athens in 2007 or learning from Frank Lampard during his stint at Chelsea.

With more time will come more exploration and knowledge, something the 23-year-old is eager to grasp – just like Italian itself. He understands everything that coach Stefano Pioli says and, challenged to speak the local language, he impressed our interviewing crew with a perfectly structured sentence. “I’m hoping to do this kind of interview in Italian next time,” he calmly says to end the chat. Ready when you are, Fik. The story so far isn’t bad either.

Tell us about your journey. Where did it all begin?

When I was about five or six, I had a few friends who were around my age in southeast London. My mum got all the other mums together and said, “Let’s give these boys something to spend their energy on.” So we went to a local leisure centre and I used to score so many goals. Then I had to move to Kent and the coaches were saying, “He’s good so make sure you put him in a club.” Then I joined my school team, then I ended up playing for Chelsea when I was seven and it’s gone on from there.

And you were born in Canada?

Yes. I moved to England before I was one but Canada is part of my story. I used to go back a lot but then football came and I was playing four times a week, so it was difficult. But I’ve got a lot of friends and family there; they keep an eye on what I’m doing and I always get messages. I want to go back; I haven’t had the opportunity but hopefully I can soon.


And you have roots in Nigeria too, is that right?

Very much so. My grandparents are from there, my parents are from there; all the friends that I have back home are all from Nigeria. And my parents used to speak to me in Yoruba, which is a language there, so I understand it. I’m very much present in the Nigerian culture: eating the food and things like that. I am very Nigerian.

Can you tell us a bit more about your first steps at Chelsea?

When you’re young you’re just playing for fun and you never really know how far it’s going to go. Then, as you get older, you get closer and closer and you see people playing with the first team; you start to take it more seriously. So growing up at Chelsea has definitely shaped me as the player I am today. I’ve played with a lot of good players, been with a lot of good coaches, and then I had the opportunity to play in the first team – and it’s got me to the stage I am now.

Did you have a moment where you realised that you'd made it?

I managed to start off at Brighton in the Championship, where they were top of the league and they got promoted to the Premier League. I didn’t really play too much for them though. The next step for me was to go to a team where I could be in the thick of it for a full season; at Hull City I managed to do that. Then I think going to Derby was the time where I thought, “OK, maybe I can really make a career.” Then Chelsea, playing in the Champions League and Premier League, playing 20-something games that season, that’s when I thought, “OK, I believe I can play at this level.” I wouldn’t say I’ve made it yet, but I’m still on the way.

What are your memories of playing in the Champions League for the very first time?

I was lucky enough to do it with people that I’ve been playing with growing up: Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James. I remember walking out against Valencia and to hear the Champions League music, it was surreal. Talking before the game we were so excited, and during the game and after we were kind of like, “Wow, this is the Champions League; this is the real stage.” It was a special day.

And do you have any standout memories of watching AC Milan when you were a kid?

Yeah, of course, the Champions League nights come to mind. I remember when I was really getting into football, watching it a lot – unfortunately it was the Istanbul game. But obviously that was a great football match. And then I remember watching the 2007 final in Athens, when Milan won. And there are so many great players associated with Milan; one I really liked growing up was Kaká. So to be able to say I’m part of the club that these great players have played for is amazing.

Growing up in London, everything is so fast and so busy. Everybody seems like they’re in a rush. But in Milan, everything’s a lot slower and the way of life is easier
By

When it comes to AC Milan and defenders, the tradition is massive – and some of them are still around the club. Have you spoken to Paolo Maldini or Franco Baresi?

I spoke to Paolo and he was saying how he thinks I can improve my game in terms of positioning and on the ball, so there are little things that I can work on. But having these kinds of people to learn off and take advice from is something that you can’t coach, you can’t buy. And to know that they’re watching is definitely a motivation for me.

There’s a legacy of English players at the club too: the likes of David Beckham, Ray Wilkins and Jimmy Greaves, for example.

Yeah, when I came here people were saying about the English players that have played here. And they weren’t just any players – they were big players in the English game. I want to go on and do great things here, and hit the levels that they hit in their careers.

Speaking of English players, there are two others who play in Serie A right now: Tammy Abraham and Chris Smalling. Do you keep in touch?

Tammy is a childhood friend; we grew up together and we always kind of end up being around about the same place – so yeah, we speak almost every day because we’re really good friends. Having him here and for him to experience this like I am is great. Chris Smalling? Not so much because we haven’t really crossed paths, but I’m sure when Milan play against Roma we’ll have a chat.

What's it like when you’re marking Zlatan Ibrahimović in training?

It’s difficult! He’s so strong, so intelligent with his movement. And you know, even at 40 he’s still shifting pretty quickly, he’s still really sharp. Having someone like him to defend against, someone who’s played at the highest level for pretty much his whole career – the learning from that is amazing. And having him on your team is definitely better than not having him on your team because he’s a winner. He drives the team a lot, he drives himself and he makes sure everyone raises their game. Having him around is definitely a positive.

Have you explored the city yet?

I did some exploring but now we have so many games – and obviously the Covid situation – unfortunately I haven’t really been going out too much. But I’ve still managed to see and do some things: the Duomo, the shopping, the food and everything like that. It’s a city that I enjoy and hopefully, as things start to open up, I can see some more.


What’s it been like to move to not just another club but another country?

There was always something in my head where I thought I wanted to try something abroad and see what that life is like: the culture, the different types of football. When Milan came in for me it was kind of a shock: AC Milan, the European giant, was asking for me. But at that point I was really ready to go and try something new.

And how’s your Italian now?

Yeah, my Italian is OK. I’m understanding a lot more than when I first came. You know, when the Mister [manager Stefano Pioli] is talking in meetings I don’t really miss much, I kind of understand everything. But that’s football stuff. If I go to a restaurant or I’m talking in the changing room, I think I’m OK but there are still some things I need to work on.

Can you say a sentence for us?

Vivo a Milano. Sono felice di giocare per il Milan. Spero di fare una buona stagione. [I live in Milan. I’m very happy to be a player for AC Milan. I hope to have a great season.]

Fantastico! What are the biggest cultural differences between Milan and London that you’ve noticed?

Growing up in London, taking public transport and being in the centre, everything is so fast and so busy. Everybody seems like they’re in a rush. But in Milan, everything’s a lot slower and the way of life is easier. It suits me because I’m a laid-back character; after training people can go and sit out on the terrace, enjoy the sun, be outside. And obviously the weather here is better…

Do you still pinch yourself sometimes?

When I first signed and I had a bag with an AC Milan sign on it, I was like, “Wow, I’m here. This is real.” My dad was watching football back in the 1980s and 1990s, when Milan were winning Champions Leagues and were the best team in the world, so for him it’s like, “Woah, crazy.” I’m really, really happy, and really grateful to be here. If I were to retire today or if something were to happen, God forbid, I could say, “Yeah, I played for Chelsea, AC Milan, managed to play for England.” To think about that is mad.

Insight
Father knows best

Fikayo Tomori’s dad continues to be a guiding presence

Ask Fikayo Tomori who has had the greatest influence on his career and there is only one answer: his father, Olayinka. “My dad is always honest with me,” he says. “He’s not a coach or anything – he never played the game – but he watches a lot of football. So he tells me what he thinks I can maybe improve. He always manages to keep my feet on the ground.”

Tomori Sr knows how to enjoy the successes too – and not always with his own feet on terra firma. After Fikayo helped Derby defeat Manchester United in the English League Cup in 2018, he made news by posting a video of his dad jumping up and down with excitement. Nevertheless, the defender has learned not to take anything for granted. “He’s given me words of advice, not just football related but in terms of life,” says Fikayo. “He has these quotes that he likes. He always says, ‘Everything yields from diligence,’ which basically is saying that whatever you do work hard. I’ve kind of had that mantra in my head.”

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Interview

La dolce vita

Fikayo Tomori has made the move to AC Milan, a club that’s steeped in European legend. It also has something of a reputation for imperious defenders – so is the former Chelsea centre-back apprehensive of the challenge ahead of him? Not a bit of it. Champions Journal meets a humble and hungry England international who’s well suited to the challenge

INTERVIEW Vieri Capretta | PORTRAITS Tullio Puglia

Oluwafikayomi Oluwadamilola Tomori: a big name aiming to get bigger and bigger. “Fik” is what they call him at AC Milan, where the England international has already made himself at home. Relaxed, talkative and ready to joke, he looks properly at ease at Milanello, where he has won over staff and colleagues with a proactive and fun-loving attitude. It helps that he also fits the brief of the kind of footballer that the club is trying to recruit: progressive, young and technically adept.

Italian football boasts a rich tradition of centre-backs – and Tomori’s breathing it first hand at Milanello, with the likes of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi still at the club. As he talks about his roots you can read the London years in his eyes, growing up with one thing on his mind: football. Inspired primarily by his father, he was always hungry to learn from the best, be it watching the Rossoneri lift the trophy in Athens in 2007 or learning from Frank Lampard during his stint at Chelsea.

With more time will come more exploration and knowledge, something the 23-year-old is eager to grasp – just like Italian itself. He understands everything that coach Stefano Pioli says and, challenged to speak the local language, he impressed our interviewing crew with a perfectly structured sentence. “I’m hoping to do this kind of interview in Italian next time,” he calmly says to end the chat. Ready when you are, Fik. The story so far isn’t bad either.

Tell us about your journey. Where did it all begin?

When I was about five or six, I had a few friends who were around my age in southeast London. My mum got all the other mums together and said, “Let’s give these boys something to spend their energy on.” So we went to a local leisure centre and I used to score so many goals. Then I had to move to Kent and the coaches were saying, “He’s good so make sure you put him in a club.” Then I joined my school team, then I ended up playing for Chelsea when I was seven and it’s gone on from there.

And you were born in Canada?

Yes. I moved to England before I was one but Canada is part of my story. I used to go back a lot but then football came and I was playing four times a week, so it was difficult. But I’ve got a lot of friends and family there; they keep an eye on what I’m doing and I always get messages. I want to go back; I haven’t had the opportunity but hopefully I can soon.


And you have roots in Nigeria too, is that right?

Very much so. My grandparents are from there, my parents are from there; all the friends that I have back home are all from Nigeria. And my parents used to speak to me in Yoruba, which is a language there, so I understand it. I’m very much present in the Nigerian culture: eating the food and things like that. I am very Nigerian.

Can you tell us a bit more about your first steps at Chelsea?

When you’re young you’re just playing for fun and you never really know how far it’s going to go. Then, as you get older, you get closer and closer and you see people playing with the first team; you start to take it more seriously. So growing up at Chelsea has definitely shaped me as the player I am today. I’ve played with a lot of good players, been with a lot of good coaches, and then I had the opportunity to play in the first team – and it’s got me to the stage I am now.

Did you have a moment where you realised that you'd made it?

I managed to start off at Brighton in the Championship, where they were top of the league and they got promoted to the Premier League. I didn’t really play too much for them though. The next step for me was to go to a team where I could be in the thick of it for a full season; at Hull City I managed to do that. Then I think going to Derby was the time where I thought, “OK, maybe I can really make a career.” Then Chelsea, playing in the Champions League and Premier League, playing 20-something games that season, that’s when I thought, “OK, I believe I can play at this level.” I wouldn’t say I’ve made it yet, but I’m still on the way.

What are your memories of playing in the Champions League for the very first time?

I was lucky enough to do it with people that I’ve been playing with growing up: Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James. I remember walking out against Valencia and to hear the Champions League music, it was surreal. Talking before the game we were so excited, and during the game and after we were kind of like, “Wow, this is the Champions League; this is the real stage.” It was a special day.

And do you have any standout memories of watching AC Milan when you were a kid?

Yeah, of course, the Champions League nights come to mind. I remember when I was really getting into football, watching it a lot – unfortunately it was the Istanbul game. But obviously that was a great football match. And then I remember watching the 2007 final in Athens, when Milan won. And there are so many great players associated with Milan; one I really liked growing up was Kaká. So to be able to say I’m part of the club that these great players have played for is amazing.

Read the full story
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Growing up in London, everything is so fast and so busy. Everybody seems like they’re in a rush. But in Milan, everything’s a lot slower and the way of life is easier
By

When it comes to AC Milan and defenders, the tradition is massive – and some of them are still around the club. Have you spoken to Paolo Maldini or Franco Baresi?

I spoke to Paolo and he was saying how he thinks I can improve my game in terms of positioning and on the ball, so there are little things that I can work on. But having these kinds of people to learn off and take advice from is something that you can’t coach, you can’t buy. And to know that they’re watching is definitely a motivation for me.

There’s a legacy of English players at the club too: the likes of David Beckham, Ray Wilkins and Jimmy Greaves, for example.

Yeah, when I came here people were saying about the English players that have played here. And they weren’t just any players – they were big players in the English game. I want to go on and do great things here, and hit the levels that they hit in their careers.

Speaking of English players, there are two others who play in Serie A right now: Tammy Abraham and Chris Smalling. Do you keep in touch?

Tammy is a childhood friend; we grew up together and we always kind of end up being around about the same place – so yeah, we speak almost every day because we’re really good friends. Having him here and for him to experience this like I am is great. Chris Smalling? Not so much because we haven’t really crossed paths, but I’m sure when Milan play against Roma we’ll have a chat.

What's it like when you’re marking Zlatan Ibrahimović in training?

It’s difficult! He’s so strong, so intelligent with his movement. And you know, even at 40 he’s still shifting pretty quickly, he’s still really sharp. Having someone like him to defend against, someone who’s played at the highest level for pretty much his whole career – the learning from that is amazing. And having him on your team is definitely better than not having him on your team because he’s a winner. He drives the team a lot, he drives himself and he makes sure everyone raises their game. Having him around is definitely a positive.

Have you explored the city yet?

I did some exploring but now we have so many games – and obviously the Covid situation – unfortunately I haven’t really been going out too much. But I’ve still managed to see and do some things: the Duomo, the shopping, the food and everything like that. It’s a city that I enjoy and hopefully, as things start to open up, I can see some more.


What’s it been like to move to not just another club but another country?

There was always something in my head where I thought I wanted to try something abroad and see what that life is like: the culture, the different types of football. When Milan came in for me it was kind of a shock: AC Milan, the European giant, was asking for me. But at that point I was really ready to go and try something new.

And how’s your Italian now?

Yeah, my Italian is OK. I’m understanding a lot more than when I first came. You know, when the Mister [manager Stefano Pioli] is talking in meetings I don’t really miss much, I kind of understand everything. But that’s football stuff. If I go to a restaurant or I’m talking in the changing room, I think I’m OK but there are still some things I need to work on.

Can you say a sentence for us?

Vivo a Milano. Sono felice di giocare per il Milan. Spero di fare una buona stagione. [I live in Milan. I’m very happy to be a player for AC Milan. I hope to have a great season.]

Fantastico! What are the biggest cultural differences between Milan and London that you’ve noticed?

Growing up in London, taking public transport and being in the centre, everything is so fast and so busy. Everybody seems like they’re in a rush. But in Milan, everything’s a lot slower and the way of life is easier. It suits me because I’m a laid-back character; after training people can go and sit out on the terrace, enjoy the sun, be outside. And obviously the weather here is better…

Do you still pinch yourself sometimes?

When I first signed and I had a bag with an AC Milan sign on it, I was like, “Wow, I’m here. This is real.” My dad was watching football back in the 1980s and 1990s, when Milan were winning Champions Leagues and were the best team in the world, so for him it’s like, “Woah, crazy.” I’m really, really happy, and really grateful to be here. If I were to retire today or if something were to happen, God forbid, I could say, “Yeah, I played for Chelsea, AC Milan, managed to play for England.” To think about that is mad.

Insight
Father knows best

Fikayo Tomori’s dad continues to be a guiding presence

Ask Fikayo Tomori who has had the greatest influence on his career and there is only one answer: his father, Olayinka. “My dad is always honest with me,” he says. “He’s not a coach or anything – he never played the game – but he watches a lot of football. So he tells me what he thinks I can maybe improve. He always manages to keep my feet on the ground.”

Tomori Sr knows how to enjoy the successes too – and not always with his own feet on terra firma. After Fikayo helped Derby defeat Manchester United in the English League Cup in 2018, he made news by posting a video of his dad jumping up and down with excitement. Nevertheless, the defender has learned not to take anything for granted. “He’s given me words of advice, not just football related but in terms of life,” says Fikayo. “He has these quotes that he likes. He always says, ‘Everything yields from diligence,’ which basically is saying that whatever you do work hard. I’ve kind of had that mantra in my head.”

Interview

La dolce vita

Fikayo Tomori has made the move to AC Milan, a club that’s steeped in European legend. It also has something of a reputation for imperious defenders – so is the former Chelsea centre-back apprehensive of the challenge ahead of him? Not a bit of it. Champions Journal meets a humble and hungry England international who’s well suited to the challenge

INTERVIEW Vieri Capretta | PORTRAITS Tullio Puglia

Oluwafikayomi Oluwadamilola Tomori: a big name aiming to get bigger and bigger. “Fik” is what they call him at AC Milan, where the England international has already made himself at home. Relaxed, talkative and ready to joke, he looks properly at ease at Milanello, where he has won over staff and colleagues with a proactive and fun-loving attitude. It helps that he also fits the brief of the kind of footballer that the club is trying to recruit: progressive, young and technically adept.

Italian football boasts a rich tradition of centre-backs – and Tomori’s breathing it first hand at Milanello, with the likes of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi still at the club. As he talks about his roots you can read the London years in his eyes, growing up with one thing on his mind: football. Inspired primarily by his father, he was always hungry to learn from the best, be it watching the Rossoneri lift the trophy in Athens in 2007 or learning from Frank Lampard during his stint at Chelsea.

With more time will come more exploration and knowledge, something the 23-year-old is eager to grasp – just like Italian itself. He understands everything that coach Stefano Pioli says and, challenged to speak the local language, he impressed our interviewing crew with a perfectly structured sentence. “I’m hoping to do this kind of interview in Italian next time,” he calmly says to end the chat. Ready when you are, Fik. The story so far isn’t bad either.

Tell us about your journey. Where did it all begin?

When I was about five or six, I had a few friends who were around my age in southeast London. My mum got all the other mums together and said, “Let’s give these boys something to spend their energy on.” So we went to a local leisure centre and I used to score so many goals. Then I had to move to Kent and the coaches were saying, “He’s good so make sure you put him in a club.” Then I joined my school team, then I ended up playing for Chelsea when I was seven and it’s gone on from there.

And you were born in Canada?

Yes. I moved to England before I was one but Canada is part of my story. I used to go back a lot but then football came and I was playing four times a week, so it was difficult. But I’ve got a lot of friends and family there; they keep an eye on what I’m doing and I always get messages. I want to go back; I haven’t had the opportunity but hopefully I can soon.


And you have roots in Nigeria too, is that right?

Very much so. My grandparents are from there, my parents are from there; all the friends that I have back home are all from Nigeria. And my parents used to speak to me in Yoruba, which is a language there, so I understand it. I’m very much present in the Nigerian culture: eating the food and things like that. I am very Nigerian.

Can you tell us a bit more about your first steps at Chelsea?

When you’re young you’re just playing for fun and you never really know how far it’s going to go. Then, as you get older, you get closer and closer and you see people playing with the first team; you start to take it more seriously. So growing up at Chelsea has definitely shaped me as the player I am today. I’ve played with a lot of good players, been with a lot of good coaches, and then I had the opportunity to play in the first team – and it’s got me to the stage I am now.

Did you have a moment where you realised that you'd made it?

I managed to start off at Brighton in the Championship, where they were top of the league and they got promoted to the Premier League. I didn’t really play too much for them though. The next step for me was to go to a team where I could be in the thick of it for a full season; at Hull City I managed to do that. Then I think going to Derby was the time where I thought, “OK, maybe I can really make a career.” Then Chelsea, playing in the Champions League and Premier League, playing 20-something games that season, that’s when I thought, “OK, I believe I can play at this level.” I wouldn’t say I’ve made it yet, but I’m still on the way.

What are your memories of playing in the Champions League for the very first time?

I was lucky enough to do it with people that I’ve been playing with growing up: Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James. I remember walking out against Valencia and to hear the Champions League music, it was surreal. Talking before the game we were so excited, and during the game and after we were kind of like, “Wow, this is the Champions League; this is the real stage.” It was a special day.

And do you have any standout memories of watching AC Milan when you were a kid?

Yeah, of course, the Champions League nights come to mind. I remember when I was really getting into football, watching it a lot – unfortunately it was the Istanbul game. But obviously that was a great football match. And then I remember watching the 2007 final in Athens, when Milan won. And there are so many great players associated with Milan; one I really liked growing up was Kaká. So to be able to say I’m part of the club that these great players have played for is amazing.

Growing up in London, everything is so fast and so busy. Everybody seems like they’re in a rush. But in Milan, everything’s a lot slower and the way of life is easier
By

When it comes to AC Milan and defenders, the tradition is massive – and some of them are still around the club. Have you spoken to Paolo Maldini or Franco Baresi?

I spoke to Paolo and he was saying how he thinks I can improve my game in terms of positioning and on the ball, so there are little things that I can work on. But having these kinds of people to learn off and take advice from is something that you can’t coach, you can’t buy. And to know that they’re watching is definitely a motivation for me.

There’s a legacy of English players at the club too: the likes of David Beckham, Ray Wilkins and Jimmy Greaves, for example.

Yeah, when I came here people were saying about the English players that have played here. And they weren’t just any players – they were big players in the English game. I want to go on and do great things here, and hit the levels that they hit in their careers.

Speaking of English players, there are two others who play in Serie A right now: Tammy Abraham and Chris Smalling. Do you keep in touch?

Tammy is a childhood friend; we grew up together and we always kind of end up being around about the same place – so yeah, we speak almost every day because we’re really good friends. Having him here and for him to experience this like I am is great. Chris Smalling? Not so much because we haven’t really crossed paths, but I’m sure when Milan play against Roma we’ll have a chat.

What's it like when you’re marking Zlatan Ibrahimović in training?

It’s difficult! He’s so strong, so intelligent with his movement. And you know, even at 40 he’s still shifting pretty quickly, he’s still really sharp. Having someone like him to defend against, someone who’s played at the highest level for pretty much his whole career – the learning from that is amazing. And having him on your team is definitely better than not having him on your team because he’s a winner. He drives the team a lot, he drives himself and he makes sure everyone raises their game. Having him around is definitely a positive.

Have you explored the city yet?

I did some exploring but now we have so many games – and obviously the Covid situation – unfortunately I haven’t really been going out too much. But I’ve still managed to see and do some things: the Duomo, the shopping, the food and everything like that. It’s a city that I enjoy and hopefully, as things start to open up, I can see some more.


What’s it been like to move to not just another club but another country?

There was always something in my head where I thought I wanted to try something abroad and see what that life is like: the culture, the different types of football. When Milan came in for me it was kind of a shock: AC Milan, the European giant, was asking for me. But at that point I was really ready to go and try something new.

And how’s your Italian now?

Yeah, my Italian is OK. I’m understanding a lot more than when I first came. You know, when the Mister [manager Stefano Pioli] is talking in meetings I don’t really miss much, I kind of understand everything. But that’s football stuff. If I go to a restaurant or I’m talking in the changing room, I think I’m OK but there are still some things I need to work on.

Can you say a sentence for us?

Vivo a Milano. Sono felice di giocare per il Milan. Spero di fare una buona stagione. [I live in Milan. I’m very happy to be a player for AC Milan. I hope to have a great season.]

Fantastico! What are the biggest cultural differences between Milan and London that you’ve noticed?

Growing up in London, taking public transport and being in the centre, everything is so fast and so busy. Everybody seems like they’re in a rush. But in Milan, everything’s a lot slower and the way of life is easier. It suits me because I’m a laid-back character; after training people can go and sit out on the terrace, enjoy the sun, be outside. And obviously the weather here is better…

Do you still pinch yourself sometimes?

When I first signed and I had a bag with an AC Milan sign on it, I was like, “Wow, I’m here. This is real.” My dad was watching football back in the 1980s and 1990s, when Milan were winning Champions Leagues and were the best team in the world, so for him it’s like, “Woah, crazy.” I’m really, really happy, and really grateful to be here. If I were to retire today or if something were to happen, God forbid, I could say, “Yeah, I played for Chelsea, AC Milan, managed to play for England.” To think about that is mad.

Insight
Father knows best

Fikayo Tomori’s dad continues to be a guiding presence

Ask Fikayo Tomori who has had the greatest influence on his career and there is only one answer: his father, Olayinka. “My dad is always honest with me,” he says. “He’s not a coach or anything – he never played the game – but he watches a lot of football. So he tells me what he thinks I can maybe improve. He always manages to keep my feet on the ground.”

Tomori Sr knows how to enjoy the successes too – and not always with his own feet on terra firma. After Fikayo helped Derby defeat Manchester United in the English League Cup in 2018, he made news by posting a video of his dad jumping up and down with excitement. Nevertheless, the defender has learned not to take anything for granted. “He’s given me words of advice, not just football related but in terms of life,” says Fikayo. “He has these quotes that he likes. He always says, ‘Everything yields from diligence,’ which basically is saying that whatever you do work hard. I’ve kind of had that mantra in my head.”

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