‘When it’s a legend like that, you’re going to listen’: Fikayo Tomori reveals how AC Milan icon Paolo Maldini has helped improve his game since he joined the club from Chelsea as defender returns to the England fold
- Fikayo Tomori returned to the England squad ahead of World Cup qualifiers
- Three Lions play Andorra away this Saturday then Hungary at Wembley
- 23-year-old defender has been picked on the strength of his AC Milan form
- Tomori made permanent a loan move from Chelsea in £25m summer transfer
- He has revealed how chats with legend Paolo Maldini have improved his game
Fikayo Tomori has revealed the key role that one of the all-time great defenders has played in propelling back into the England squad.
Paolo Maldini turned the role of playing central defence into an art form during his 902 games for AC Milan and, after a spell out of football, he is now back at the club he loves in the role of Sporting Director. It means he is at the famed Milanello Training Centre on a daily basis.
Maldini has taken a keen interest in Tomori’s development since he arrived in Italy from Chelsea and the 23-year-old has explained how constant pep talks from a man who played 126 times for his country and won five European Cups have been crucial.
Fikayo Tomori has spoken about how Paolo Maldini has helped improve his game at AC Milan
Maldini is now the club’s technical director and has passed on advice about the defensive art
‘When he was speaking to me I was like: “this is Paulo Maldini!”,’ said Tomori, unable to suppress a smile.
‘He is at the training ground every day so me, as I defender, I want to impress him.
‘Midway through my loan, last season, we had a chat last season and were talking about my game.
‘He told me what I need to improve and he is really engaging and having a legend like that, when he says something you are going to listen. It is definitely a nice thing to have him around and he has been a big help.’
Tomori has returned to the England squad after strong performances for Milan this season
Tomori could add to the one senior England cap he already has when Gareth Southgate’s side play Andorra and Hungary in World Cup qualifiers this week
Tomori fell out of favour under Frank Lampard at Chelsea last season and went to the San Siro club initially on loan before a £25million move was completed in the summer.
Asked for specifics on where Maldini had aided his game, Tomori added: ‘He was talking about having my body position right and maybe having an extra look, whether it’s from a cross or maybe when they’re building up.
‘The strikers in Italy are nimble, they’re intelligent and they go off movements rather than maybe trying to beat you for pace or strength or get round the back of you.
‘Opening your body and maybe checking one or two more times to know where he is at all times. It is easier said than done but I’m learning.’
The defender is under no illusions about the pressure at Milan, the seven-time European champions, to return to success as soon as possible after a fallow decade.
Tomori made an immediate impression during his Milan loan, even scoring against Juventus
He said: ‘Everyone in football knows AC Milan and how big a club they are. There is a pressure to win and a pressure to perform with so many fans in the stadium and around Milan.
‘You’d definitely feel the weight and the history of the club. That weight and that pressure brings out the best in me and the best in the team. That kind of pressure and the need to win, it is definitely a driving force.
‘Milan for the past few years, it’s been a bit of a funny time but us back in the CL and fighting at the top of table in Serie A is a really good time and I’m really enjoying it.
With Harry Maguire and John Stones absent, Tomori has an opportunity to impress Gareth Southgate over the next week and is in line to start against Andorra on Saturday in a game that England should win without breaking sweat.
‘I want to show myself on the training pitch and if I get a chance to play, to do that,’ said Tomori.
‘Harry and John played at the Euros, they’ve got a good partnership and I’m ere to help the team as much as possible. I’ve just got to try and show my talent, what I can do on the pitch and I’m sure everything will happen how it is meant to happen.’