Fikayo Tomori determined to end England agony after defender lands recall

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Recalled defender Fikayo Tomori is determined to make his mark with England after shining for title-winning AC Milan, where his front-row seat for Italy’s Euro 2020 celebrations has provided extra motivation.

The 24-year-old has just helped the Rossoneri win Serie A for the first time since 2011, having flourished since switching Stamford Bridge for San Siro, initially on loan, at the start of last year.

Tomori earned plaudits aplenty in Italy but was largely overlooked by Gareth Southgate, who handed the Chelsea academy product his England debut against Kosovo in November 2019.

Italy Soccer Serie A
Fikayo Tomori celebrated title success with AC Milan (Spada/LaPresse via AP)

The only call-up since then came last October, when the defender came off the bench against Andorra to win a second cap – a figure that will surely swell after being recalled for this month’s Nations League matches.

“If I don’t get called up, I’m not thinking ‘ah, what’s happening?’” Tomori said.

“I’ve seen (Jadon) Sancho, Tammy (Abraham), Jude (Bellingham) – players who play abroad still getting called up so I wasn’t panicking in that sort of sense or thinking ‘what’s going to happen if I don’t get called up?’ or whatever.

“I was just focusing on my own performance and helping Milan as much as possible. From there, if I do get called up, once I’m here, making sure I take the steps to stay here.

Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate gave Tomori his England debut in 2019 (Nick Potts/PA)

“That’s been my mentality all the way through. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself, getting wound up about not being selected. It was just ‘stay calm, keep doing what I’m doing’ and then from there hopefully I can get in the squad.

“Being back into the set-up and having the opportunity to be here is nice for me. Hopefully I get the chance to play and give a good account of myself.”

Tomori certainly has the quality to help England’s backline, which will be tested as fixtures against Hungary bookend matches against Germany and Italy.

The latter will be a particularly enjoyable occasion for the 24-year-old, who has embraced life in Italy and been speaking to Milan team-mates about the Molineux meeting.

Tomori, who is already fluent in Italian, was also involved in a lot of their excited chatter around the Euro 2020 final, which he watched end in shoot-out heartbreak from a Milan city centre hotel alongside a friend.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like on the pitch but yeah it was difficult to watch and being there when they won, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” he said.

“It was an experience and near the Duomo so I guess in a way it was nice to see them celebrating. I was right in the middle of it but I just got home as quickly as I could.”

Asked if seeing the Italian celebrations drive him on, Tomori said: “Yes. Obviously I was actually in England until the final. I was seeing people in the streets and for the Ukraine game I was in Shoreditch with my friends and we watched it in Boxpark, so I have seen how it was when England qualified and it was madness.

“I have gone to Italy and seen them celebrate after the final so I have seen both sides and I have seen how it can really, really be such a celebration. Obviously thinking about it, imagine we were to win the Euros or the World Cup how big it would be. So, yes, it is definitely a motivation. Every footballer likes to win but to see how a country reacts to it, it is something that motivates you.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Tomori has learned from ther likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at AC Milan (Fabrizio Carabelli/PA)

That is not all that inspires and motivates Tomori, who gets to listen to Milan veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic rousing the troops and receives pointers from club great Paolo Maldini.

The 24-year-old recently met all-time great Franco Baresi and continues to be blown away by the “different legends just flying about” a club where defending is an art form, just as it is across Italy.

“I think the way they are as defenders, I wouldn’t say it’s personal but it’s like ‘I need to make sure what I’m doing is on the money and no one’s getting past me no matter what’,” Tomori said of defending in Italy.

“They have that pride to be like ‘I am the big defender’ – not in an arrogant way, but just in football terms of wanting to be the best they can be. Being there and watching the likes of (Leonardo) Bonucci and (Giorgio) Chiellini, all these kinds of defenders, you see the things they do and they are very streetwise. When I see that I want to try to put that into my game.”

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