AC Milan centre-back and recently-recalled England international Fikayo Tomori has revealed he has been getting pointers off legendary defender Paolo Maldini.
The 23-year-old has been a revelation since trading Chelsea for Milan earlier this year, first joining the Rossoneri on loan in January, and completing a permanent switch to the San Siro in the summer, with the club paying £25m for his services.
His form in Serie A has culminated in Gareth Southgate recalling him to the England squad for this month’s World Cup Qualifiers, in which the Three Lions take on Andorra and Hungary, with the Canada-born defender looking to build on the one cap he earned in October 2019.
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Under Stefano Pioli, Tomori has continued to go from strength to strength in the Italian’s backline, but the influence of his recent showings may be coming from another source, a more eminent, defensive source in the guise of Milanese immortal Maldini.
Speaking at a press conference after his England recall, Tomori explained how Maldini, who now takes up a Sporting Director role at Milan, makes regular appearances at the training ground, and offers him invaluable nuggets of advice on how he can improve defensively.
“When he was speaking to me I was like: ‘this is Paolo Maldini!’,” said Tomori.
“He is at the training ground every day so me, as I defender, I want to impress him.
“Midway through my loan, last season, we had a chat last season and were talking about my game.
“He told me what I need to improve and he is really engaging and having a legend like that, when he says something you are going to listen. It is definitely a nice thing to have him around and he has been a big help.”
Quizzed further on the exact areas where Maldini has helped shape his game, Tomori added: “He was talking about having my body position right and maybe having an extra look, whether it’s from a cross or maybe when they’re building up.
“The strikers in Italy are nimble, they’re intelligent and they go off movements rather than maybe trying to beat you for pace or strength or get round the back of you.
“Opening your body and maybe checking one or two more times to know where he is at all times. It is easier said than done but I’m learning.”