A product of Chelsea’s Academy from the age of eight, Fikayo Tomori would have dreamed about starring for his boyhood club throughout his many years at Stamford Bridge.
Fifteen appearances under Frank Lampard at the helm would be his most significant spell for the club, given an opportunity in the first team fold after starring out on loan at Derby under the Chelsea legend turned manager. Yet, after dedicating over 15 years of his football education to Cobham, Chelsea would allow Tomori to leave at the start of the 2021/22 season – the 24-year-old signing for AC Milan after a loan spell the season before, the San Siro now Tomori’s permanent home. This is a move Chelsea will live to regret, with Tomori revitalising his career in Italy.
A club known for some defending greats – the likes of Paolo Maldini idolised by the Rossoneri – AC Milan have taken to Tomori almost immediately. The defender has been paramount in AC Milan lifting their first Serie A title in over a decade, his staunch performances from the back resulting in Milan only shipping 31 goals. Leaving Chelsea behind for pastures new abroad could’ve been deemed a risky move, but with pictures from AC Milan’s title celebrations filtering through on social media, it’s clear Tomori has regained his confidence and feels loved by the passionate San Siro masses.
Tomori was loaned out multiple times before joining AC Milan permanently, making a name for himself initially out on loan with Frank Lampard’s Derby County. Tomori, however, never felt settled – constantly in-flux, moving from team to team with his boyhood club less than keen to give him first team minutes. In AC Milan, Tomori now feels like an important part of the jigsaw. He’s become a commanding presence for the Serie A giants, often the main man to rely on at the back with the likes of Simon Kjaer having an injury ravaged season this campaign. He’s stepped up to the mark subsequently, a heroic figure at centre back who is now a firm fan favourite. When Tomori was absent for injury issues of his own, his absence from the side was telling – two matches on the spin without the Englishman saw Milan suffer back-to-back defeats at the end of October, shipping seven goals in the process against Fiorentina and Sassuolo. An unbeaten run that proved crucial in Milan lifting the Serie A – their 19th in total after a barren spell – came when Tomori was ever-present. Five successive matches in March and April saw Milan keep five clean sheets in a row, edging past title rivals Napoli 1-0 in a crucial contest courtesy of Olivier Giroud’s goal. Tomori was crucial in stacking up these clean sheets, a confident defender on the ball when Stefano Pioli’s men are building an attack but also a quick and strong presence to keep any opposition strikers at bay.
AC Milan might not have the same attacking quality as the likes of Inter or Napoli – both boasting strikers such as Lautaro Martinez and Victor Oshimen – but the defensive unit for The Rossoneri gave them the edge over their two main competitors for the title. Alongside Tomori, breakthrough star Pierre Kalulu has been crucial at the heart of the Milan defence with summer recruit Mike Maignan also pivotal in keeping the ball out of the net as goalkeeper. Pioli’s men won the title by having the most effective defence in the division, a collective unit grinding out key performances at the back with Milan then finding a way to win when it mattered the most. This culminated in the ecstasy of AC Milan lifting the Serie A title for the first time since the 2010/11 season, a 3-0 win away at Sassuolo officially securing the Scudetto. Another strong defensive display was on show, no complacency creeping in after a flurry of first half goals gave Milan the 3-0 lead before the half-time interval – a driving run from Rafael Leao, another star this campaign for Pioli’s side, saw the Portuguese attacker put it on a plate for Giroud to finish through the keeper’s legs for 1-0. Leao was a constant menace, intercepting the ball from Sassuolo after pressuring the opposition defenders for Milan’s second through a Giroud tap-in before Franck Kessie’s goal all but clinched the title-winning three points.
The scenes in Milan after this monumental victory was a release of pure joy from the AC Milan fans, the city centre of Milan covered in spectators all celebrating the 19th Serie A title for the Rossoneri after many years of hurt and pain. Now, the AC Milan players and fans felt on top of the world. All of the players were jubilant on the parade that travelled through Milan with the Serie A trophy, Tomori pictured with a huge smile on his face with the golden trophy itself.
His unbelievable season was made even better when news broke of an England call-up for the former Chelsea man, the decision to join AC Milan permanently paying off. He was also joined by the likes of Tammy Abraham in this squad announcement, another Englishman benefiting from moving further afield to Italy. Tomori won’t be content at simply making up the numbers however, he’ll be eager to show Gareth Southgate what he’s all about after being excluded a number of times prior to this announcement. Tomori will be able to stake a claim in the upcoming Nations League fixtures, tough opponents for Tomori to challenge himself against in Hungary and Germany with his new adopted nation of Italy closing out the three fixtures awaiting Southgate’s men. If he impresses, he could well put himself in contention to be on the plane to Qatar for the World Cup at the end of the year.
For now, Tomori will just be over the moon at how his career has progressed in recent months – a player disheartened by leaving Chelsea behind, now a defender adored by AC Milan fans in helping to secure the Serie A title and a player looking to add more International caps to his name. He looks to have found a club that cherish him, a player with the world at his feet.