England defender Fikayo Tomori says playing under the gaze of Italian great Paolo Maldini at AC Milan has helped him produce the form to earn a recall to Gareth Southgate’s squad.
The former Chelsea defender, who joined the Serie A club in June after an impressive loan spell, is earning rave reviews at the San Siro and he now has the chance to resume his England career after earning one cap in 2019.
Some of Tomori’s defending has been likened to Maldini, a cult hero at Milan who is now the club’s technical director.
“When he was speaking to me, I was like ‘woah, it’s Paolo Maldini’,” the Canada-born 23-year-old told a news conference on Wednesday ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier in Andorra on Saturday.
“There is that kind of pressure knowing he is watching every game and he is at the training ground every day and as a defender you want to impress him.
“When I was midway through my loan, in April, we had a chat and he was speaking about what he thinks about my game and what I need to improve.
“He is really engaged and when it’s a legend like that, when he says something you’re going to listen. He’s been a really big help.”
Tomori has been a fixture in the Milan defence this season with the Rossoneri back in the Champions League and riding high in Serie A. He was impressive in the 3-2 defeat at Liverpool in the Champions League and is relishing being able to showcase his talent after a frustrating end to his Chelsea career when he fell pout of favour under Frank Lampard.
“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,” he said.
Tomori has tried not to dwell on his Chelsea frustration.
“When that opportunity came at Milan I was so excited and I’m happy it’s gone so well so far,” he said. “The club has shown a lot of faith in me and I feel very settled and that’s led me to be here.”
“There is a pressure to win and you feel the weight of the history of the club. But that brings out the best in me and for the team. That need to win it’s definitely a driving force.”
With Harry Maguire out injured and Manchester City’s John Stones having not having played a minute for Manchester City in the Premier League this season, Tomori is set to add to his single cap as England look to seal a place in the World Cup finals.