AC Milan defender Davide Calabria has insisted that the Scudetto was always the target throughout the season, discussing his personal journey to being a key part of the team.
For someone like Calabria who came through the youth academy at Milan, winning the league title might mean that little bit more than it would to other players if that is possible, but especially when considering that it has been a tale of ups and downs.
There have been times when it seemed as though the full-back would be sold as he was no longer guaranteed of a starting spot, yet through hard work and determination – plus a lot of passion for the shirt – he became a fundamental part of the Scudetto campaign.
He spoke during an interview with Corriere della Sera to reflect upon his journey to this moment and to reveal his emotions after winning the big prize.
“As a kid, up to fifteen, I never played. I was always on the bench, I even thought about quitting, and not just once. I didn’t want to burden my parents who every day took me from Brescia to Milan for training. It cost us a lot of money, but I held out, we held out. Well, this Scudetto make it all worth it,” he said (via MilanNews).
“When did we understand that we would win? The first day. We have been saying it all season, the Scudetto was our target. We had the qualities and we have shown it, since the first day of the preseason retreat.
“Italian football needed Milan and Inter to return to these levels, it’s a rivalry that is good for the whole movement. It was great to challenge Inter, who are a great team and have done very well in the past years. We will have fun in the future too.
“The secret of our success? The group. There were better equipped teams, with more experience, who have been fighting at the top for more years than us. But we always had the certainty that we could do it. The right team was created. mix of youngsters and experts, who are essential to win. There was a particular energy, we felt it.”
Among those who deserve a lot of credit for transforming the mentality of the group are head coach Stefano Pioli and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“He came and it seemed he would go away in a short time. It was not easy to work with the difficulties that existed. He listened to us, we listened to him. And all this happened. I am proud and happy for the coach, he deserved it.
“Ibrahimovic? It was fundamental. Zlatan is a champion who has given so much. I hope he can get better, he is there. I’m sorry he had problems in the last few months, even if he has been invaluable with his leadership, with words, with gestures. I hope he can get better next year. We still need him.”
Having a club legend like Paolo Maldini so close to the squad is also fundamental.
“Paolo doesn’t want to interfere in field affairs and I think he’s doing very well, his role is different. But seeing him on the sideline gives you something more. You can’t pull back and take your leg off,” Calabria added.
Finally, Calabria set a target for next season: “We want to do more in the Champions League, without a doubt. Milan are used to playing at the top. Now let’s enjoy the Scudetto, but we know what we want from the future.”