Fikayo Tomori is eager to learn as much as he can from legendary defender Paolo Maldini after joining Milan from Chelsea.
The 23-year-old this week completed a switch to Milan on an initial loan deal until the end of the season with the option to make that move permanent.
Tomori struggled for first-team opportunities under Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge, featuring just once in the Premier League this term.
But the centre-back now has the opportunity to kickstart his career at San Siro, where he is hoping to follow in the steps of the great Maldini.
Five-time European Cup winner Maldini is now working as Milan’s technical director and Tomori says he could not turn down the chance to link up with one of the all-time greats.
“I chose to come here to Milan because it’s a club with a great history, with great players and obviously the club is in a good moment right now,” he told the Italian club’s official website.
“It’s an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. It’s a huge honour for me to be here. When I first got the call, I was a bit… I wouldn’t say confused, but I was surprised.
Ciao @acmilan fans
Honoured to have this opportunity to fight for this great club, I can’t wait to show myself on the pitch.
— Fikayo Tomori (@fikayotomori_) January 22, 2021
“I spoke to Paolo Maldini. The best defender to ever play football was talking to me and asking me to come, so from there I knew this is where I wanted to come and play football and to learn from him.”
Tomori added: “When I was young and I was [playing as] a striker or a midfielder, Kaka was someone that I really enjoyed watching, [Clarence] Seedorf as well.
“To be able to put on the shirt that they wore is a huge honour and if I have half the success that they had, I’ll have a good time here.”
Tomori, an unused substitute in Milan’s 3-0 home loss against Atalanta on Saturday, will wear the number 23 shirt during his time at the club.
Explaining the choice of jersey, the one-cap England international said: “I’m 23 years old so I thought I’d choose number 23.
“Michael Jordan is someone I look up to a lot and he wore number 23, so I think it made a lot of sense for me to choose it. Hopefully I can be successful in it.”
Tomori impressed during a spell on loan with Lampard at Derby County in 2018-19 and was used more regularly on his return to Stamford Bridge last season.
He featured 15 times in the Premier League and averaged 6.68 recoveries per 90 minutes, which is behind only Antonio Rudiger (7.42) among Chelsea’s regular defenders.
Only Kurt Zouma (70.68 successful passes per match), meanwhile, boasted a better pass success rate among Chelsea’s defenders than Tomori’s 69.95 in the league last season.
“I’m quite aggressive, I like to win the ball, go and take the ball off opponents,” Tomori added. “I like to defend, I enjoy defending and helping the team to win.
“That’s the attitude I’m going to bring to this team. I spoke to the manager and he was very happy for me to join. He gave me the fire to come and play and to enjoy myself.
“I spoke to some players who had been here before and who have played in Italy before and everyone had only good things to say about Milan. It was 100 per cent Milan for me.”