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AC Milan

Calabria revisits struggles with pressure, explains Pioli’s style and backs Elliott’s vision of ‘stability’

AC Milan defender Davide Calabria has spoken at length about his journey up to the first team and what he wants to achieve with the club that he always dreamed of playing of.

Calabria gave a long interview to Undici magazine during which he spoke about a number of different topics, starting with how he found himself in the position that he is in now, being the undisputed starter for Milan and a member of the Italian national team.

It has been a very positive recent journey for the 25-year-old, who was actually heavily linked with a move away from the Rossoneri during the summer of 2020 after a difficult prior season, but now the management will be nothing short of relieved that they hung on.

“It was difficult for sure. Because a path that seems almost obvious is not. I think that a boy who grew up in the youth sector may have more chances to make his debut but then it is difficult to stay, because there is the risk that they will always see you as the little boy you were,” he said (via MilanNews).

“The last few years have been wonderful, but with many difficult moments. So I am even more satisfied with the path taken. Especially for someone like me who has always been a fan of Milan before I even got there. It is one of the greatest dreams I have achieved.

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“Many boys struggle to face pressure, and to overcome it. For example, it is not nice to receive insults in a game, and it is not easy to play in a stadium like San Siro You must be very strong in character, because otherwise it kills you and then you are forced to leave.

“Only those who manage to maintain a very high level can remain in a team like Milan, indeed you have to keep growing. I think I have succeeded over the years. I managed to establish myself as a player and I think I am worth a lot and can give a lot to this team. It’s the good and the bad of football.”

On his growth: “Honestly, I have always been sure of my means. Even the very first years when I played little and often entered the game in progress, because I saw myself in training and I understood, even if I was a child, that I could play more, even if I was smaller than the others.

“I have always considered myself intelligent from a football point of view and this thing has always led me to believe in myself. Then I realised that I could play really high levels, I think in the second year I was already doing a bit in the First Team, and I felt ready to be able to make the leap among the professionals. Then I didn’t start immediately, but then my performances with Mihajlovic led him to confirm me. It was a nice journey.”

In many ways the path traced by Calabria has almost run parallel to Milan, having had those struggles when he burst onto the scene during 2015-16, having another tough patch in 2019 but then being on a constant rise from 2020 onwards.

“You can say what you want, but AC Milan in recent years, although it has always been a noble club, was not the real Milan. From the point of view of the emblem and of the history, it will always be obvious,” he continued.

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“But it is also obvious that there have been moments of great difficulty, it is a fact. So I am very happy especially as a fan that this new club is putting stability first, both from an economic point of view and from an ambition, mentality, planning, and also of visibility. Now Milan are returning to the Milan of the past. The team is well studied, has solid foundations, and it is not easy to come to San Siro as opponents.”

On the fans’ return to the stadium: “Even there it was strange at the beginning. We got used to hearing the coach from the opposite side of the pitch, and now you can’t even talk to him from ten metres. Surely from a show point of view, playing in an empty stadium it is uglier, no doubt, but from a purely tactical point of view it was positive because you were able to talk to you, to correct things during the game, in a moment of difficulty, that now you struggle with the fans because you can’t talk to you.”

On the Milan fans: “Even in recent years that have not been positive they have always supported us. They were patient, they understood the situation and they understood that it was not easy for anyone.”

On the national team: “I honestly thought I deserved the call first. Now I have been called several times, unfortunately for the last few times I have had physical problems and I have not been able to give the contribution I wanted. It is obvious that I was sorry for the European Championships, also because I imagine it was fantastic to live in that group.”

On Pioli’s game: “I feel very comfortable. At the beginning I struggled a bit, we came from another type of football. I think the coach took different ideas from different teams and united them in a mix that is right for us, and many of us, indeed I would say all of us, have managed to see each other again in these concepts, because then on the pitch everything comes easy and fast. There is more chemistry between us and we are very compact in this way to play.”

On confidence: “In the last two years I have understood that the head is more important than any athletic or physical and tactical preparation. If I am one hundred percent physically well, but mentally I have insecurities, perhaps also due to external problems, which is something that is often underestimated, unfortunately you enter the field that you have to look for to put those things aside and someone may find it harder. Because you will be focused on other situations and not on the pitch. It is a game but for everything around it it is no longer a game.”

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READ MORE: After Gabbia, Theo is next – the details of his imminent renewal

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