Sandro Tonali admits he ‘closed all the other doors, as I had to go to Milan’ and follow the footsteps of idols Gennaro Gattuso, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paolo Maldini.
The 20-year-old had been on the verge of joining their arch-rivals Inter, but as soon as the Rossoneri stepped forward to match the offer, he jumped at the chance.
“More or less everyone supports Milan where I’m from, including my father, who passed that passion on to me as a kid,” revealed Tonali in his press conference.
“I’ve wanted to wear this jersey for a while. I don’t speak much to (Brescia President Massimo) Cellino, but he realised straight away what it meant to me. He said he’d let me make my choice and he kept his word.
“I asked him to make this effort for me and he was super about it. When I realised there was this opportunity to join Milan, I closed all the other doors. I had to go to Milan. I had to.
“My agent did most of the negotiating with Inter, so he quite rightly left me out of it so I wouldn’t get distracted. As soon as I heard about Milan, and he knew that I supported them, we talked and I let him get to work.”
Tonali even called Napoli coach Rino Gattuso to ask for his blessing to wear the Number 8 jersey.
“Gattuso was my idol, and still is. The Number 8 was free, so I chose it, as it has various meanings in my life. Just working with Maldini was a pretty shocking thing to begin with too.
“I was at San Siro for Milan-Chievo, with Clarence Seedorf’s goal into the top corner in the final minutes. It was a pretty bad game, but that’s the one I wished I’d been playing, because I was there.”
Tonali could make his competitive debut on Thursday in the Europa League preliminary round tie with Shamrock Rovers.
“We can’t wait, we want to just go out there and play. It’s a very high level of quality in this squad and all the teammates – starting with Zlatan Ibrahimovic – pass on that desire to win. We want to prove on the pitch what we can do.
“Ibra is another idol, someone I already admired the first time he played for Milan. He manages to just put the team on his shoulders and carry them to victory. He’s a man to be taken as an example.”
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