Fikayo Tomori has claimed working with Milan legend Paolo Maldini is like having Lionel Messi as a boss for a striker.
And the on-loan Chelsea defender said he wants to use his time in Serie A to become one of the best centre-backs in the world.
The England international decided to go to Italy in January after falling out of favour at Stamford Bridge under Frank Lampard – and receiving a personal phone call Milan’s technical director Maldini.
And Tomori, 23, said the World Cup winner remains now a big influence on his career.
“Having him as head of the technical department is like an attacker having to deal with Messi sporting director,” he said. “You want to impress him every day.”
The former England Under-21 star has also learned from former Manchester United star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede, 39, has called the young generation of Milan stars his “children”. Tomori told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “Maybe he doesn’t speak to us as children but he motivates us and speaks to us a lot. He is an example for everyone for his dedication and his competitiveness.”
Tomori names his other role models as John Terry, Sergio Ramos, Virgil van Dijk and Fabio Cannavaro.
He is studying for a degree in business management and learning Italian – and the art of defending for the seven-time Champions League winners who sit second in the table behind Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan..
“My aim is to be among the best in the world in my role as soon as possible,” Tomori said. “I work every day for this. Is Serie A a university for defenders? Absolutely I am getting better, I am learning all that I can.
“The gap is not so big with the Premier League. There you play a lot on instinct, here it is a bit different.”
“I like Milan and Italy. The weather is better than in England, the people are kind and friendly. You can relax, go out and have a cup of coffee. In London everyone is always in a rush. They know how to enjoy life.
“I would 100% advice young English players to come to Italy. It is a great country to play football. Especially at Milan, a big club where you immediately feel at home. So I would say to them: guys, it is worth grabbing the chance.”
Milan fans have started a crowdfunding project to help meet Tomori’s €28m price in the agreement with Chelsea. “I didn’t know but it makes me happy,” he said.
“I was a little surprised to have immediately entered the hearts of the Milan fans, but it makes sense given the character of the people here.”
Tomori left Stamford Bridge before the arrival of Thomas Tuchel and revealed before the first leg of the Europa League tie with Manchester United last month that he had yet to speak to the new Blues coach.
“I’m not the only one to decide my future,” Tomori added. “I am enjoying myself, I am living the moment, I am happy to be here. I honestly don’t think about the future.”