(SOURCE: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 8 August edition)
Translation of a short interview with Nigel de Jong, from today’s La Gazzetta, is below.
It seems that your absence of many months has done you well. You have returned brilliantly – one of the best in pre-season, and not only from Milan….
“Above all, I thought to use the time to return stronger. I am committed to this and I have had great support from everyone at the club – teammates, directors, fans. Milan truly is a family.”
Now you will return to the middle [of the midfield, in front of the defence] and Montolivo will move. Many do not like your interpretation of the role – there are those who prefer creativity in this position and the choices of Allegri have been criticised in the past.
“I am not that concerned about these things. The numbers in the systems count for little – the positions change on the pitch – the important thing is to move and function as a team. To play united.”
The purists sneer and say that, at one time, your role was played by Pirlo.
“I am Nigel and I live football in my own way. I am never compared with anyone, I just think of being what I am. And as I said, I believe that a squad should be judged as one. I have a lot of heart, a strong motivation and I work for my teammates. This is what I can give. This is what I do in every match.”
Do you feel a leader?
“Leader is a very big word, but I like it. You do not need the armband to be a leader, you need the opinion that you carry in the dressing room and how you behave on the pitch.”
Is there a player that has impressed you more than other in these last few months at Milan?
“No, it is the atmosphere as a whole that impresses me. In this period I see that many young players have improved, there is a positive atmosphere and we are working well. We all train hard and this is the most important fact.”
What is it like being with Balotelli every day?
“Entertaining. He is a great player and has grown a lot. I was with him at Manchester City and I remember the things he said. Every now and then he would say stupid things, do stupid things. Here it is different, he has changed completely – 360 degrees. I think for him it is very important to have returned close to his family, his friends, in an environment that he loves. He is another person. He laughs and still makes jokes – like the rest of us – but he does not do anything wrong.”
Realistically, and even with a Balotelli like this, do Milan have a chance to go forward in Europe?
“We are in progress, but when you focus on young players you need to give them time. Of course, if you think about how much money the big clubs have spent to take the established players you understand that there is a difference. However, we do not need to give up. This Milan has a model, based on young people, like Ajax does – it gives a chance to the kids.”
Ajax, however, do not win. They play well, but are no longer elite.
“Even though I came through at Ajax, the beautiful game itself ends if there is no interest. My objective is success. However, you can arrive at success through many roads.”
The favourite for the Scudetto?
“You see what’s written on this shirt? Milan. What answer can I give?”