MILAN – Calgary-born Fikayo Tomori was thrown into the fray at AC Milan.
The defender made his debut as an early replacement in the Italian Cup quarter-finals against rivals Inter Milan just four days after joining Milan on loan from Chelsea.
“I want to help the team as much as possible and the best way to do that is on the pitch… it was nice for me to play my first game,” Tomori, 23, said Thursday. “The match was a derby. When it’s a derby it’s very intense and very emotional, which is good.
“In England there are a lot of games like this. Here, it’s a little different but the spirit and the intensity were pretty much the same and I like this kind of situation.
Milan lost 2-1 on Tuesday after striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off, but Tomori made an impressive debut after replacing injured Simon Kj? R.
Milan are also fighting Inter for the Serie A title, which they last won 10 years ago. The team are two points ahead of second-placed Inter.
“I’m very happy to be here, to play again, to come to this club at a good time,” said Tomori. “The history of Milan is about trophies. Being in this position where we are now and not thinking about winning the scudetto is something we shouldn’t be doing.
“We should think about winning the scudetto. We can’t be afraid to say we want to win it and we can win it. We have to have that kind of motivation and purpose to win it.
Eligible to play for Canada, England and Nigeria, he has represented both Canada and England at the youth level, but has set his sights on the Three Lions. He made his senior England debut in November 2019, coming off the bench in a 4-0 win over Kosovo in Euro 2020 qualifying.
Born in Calgary to Nigerian parents, Tomori was less than a year old when his family moved to London, England. He joined Chelsea as an under-eight player.
Tomori turned heads when he attended Canadian youth camps in 2015 and 2016 in Mexico and England, respectively. In March 2016, 18-year-old Tomori captained a Canadian Under-20 team that included 15-year-old Alphonso Davies and 16-year-old Ballou Tabla in a memorable 2-1 victory over an England team Under-20 which featured Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford.
Tomori went on to play for England at the Under-20 and Under-21 levels. He had loan spells in Brighton, Hull and Derby.
This time, he not only has to deal with a change of club but also a change of country.
“Obviously I came to Italy and I don’t really know a lot of Italian,” said Tomori. “When the manager speaks, I try to reconstruct what he says. But everyone since I’ve been here has been helpful, helped me translate, and helped me understand what the manager wants and what everyone is saying. The transition was therefore not too difficult.
“And I’ve always wanted to try something new. I know there is more to life than the Premier League and England and everything in between. I was always ready to go abroad and try something different, to improve and develop not only as a footballer but also as a person. I know I’m in the right place to do it and probably one of the best places in the world to do it.
Tomori was signed the same week Milan acquired striker Mario Mandzukic. He said having to defend himself against him and Ibrahimovic in training – as well as playing with them – can only help him develop.
“Playing with players like Ibrahimovic and Mandzukic, players who have played at the highest level of football, is great,” said Tomori. “The way you see them not only on the pitch but off the pitch, you see how they act and what they say in the locker room to motivate the team.
“It’s important to watch this and try to learn from them. By playing against them, of course, you learn new things and see what it’s like to defend against the best players. It’s definitely something that I can’t wait to do more, to help me improve. I am happy that they are on my team during the games. “