Champions League: 2021 Ballon d’Or nominee Simon Kjaer on his ‘need to win’ and get AC Milan back ‘on top’

It’s crunch time for AC Milan after they host FC Porto on Wednesday (on Paramount+) with the Italian giants understanding that their first foray into the UEFA Champions League since 2014 might come to an finish if they don’t take all three factors at San Siro.

The Rossoneri are on a run of 5 consecutive UCL defeats relationship again seven years and defender Simon Kjaer is decided that he and his teammates flip issues round understanding how vital high continental competitors is to the membership.

“It is extremely vital,” the Denmark worldwide instructed CBS Sports activities completely. “Milan is a Champions League membership with the historical past and titles gained right here. It is extremely vital for the membership’s id and for gamers to come back to play within the UCL. We have to do as we at the moment are and be in competitors for the Champions League yearly.

“It’s not that straightforward to go and simply win video games, as we see this 12 months after seven years away from the UCL. It’s a very powerful competitors, and it actually is dependent upon small particulars. These particulars haven’t been in our favor thus far and we have to be taught from that. we are going to hold pushing and do our job to be again subsequent 12 months. That doesn’t imply that now we have no ambitions this 12 months, although.”

Milan are again for the primary time since 2014 after they had been mauled 5-1 over two legs by eventual overwhelmed finalists Atletico Madrid and though the outcomes counsel in any other case –notably a 3-2 loss to Liverpool at Anfield and a 2-1 loss at house to Atleti in September — Kjaer doesn’t imagine that this season essentially needs to be a interval of re-adaptation to the Champions League.

“Folks will most likely say sure, now as now we have misplaced video games and haven’t any factors,” he mentioned. “Nonetheless, in soccer, if you don’t get a crimson card within the sport at house (Atletico), I’m certain that we might have gained that sport. We had been at a excessive stage and the circumstances had been so small. We must always have even been two or three up by then as we created probabilities.

“Liverpool and Porto away we have to be taught from. Now we have two house video games now and one away in Madrid. We have to get factors if we need to have any enterprise being within the Champions League and also you get nothing handed to you. Now we have a chance towards Porto on Wednesday. We have to win, or the Champions League is gone.”

Kjaer prolonged his contract with Milan till 2024 final week and the 32-year-old admitted that he and the membership intend to win titles quickly as they at the moment push SSC Napoli for high spot in Serie A with a seven-point lead over bitter rivals Inter in third forward of Derby della Madonnina this weekend.

“I feel we set them after I signed the brand new contract,” Kjaer instructed CBS Sports activities. “We don’t want it to be lengthy earlier than we win one thing. That’s our goal. For me personally, I do know it’s the identical for the membership too, I have to win this 12 months and subsequent 12 months. We’ll push as arduous as we will to try this and to get Milan again to the place this membership belongs — on high.”

One of many contributing components towards Milan’s current reinvigoration is the change in model of play in Serie A which Kjaer believes has been noticeable since he returned to the Italian top-flight in 2019 with Atalanta after which Milan after spells with AS Roma and Palermo prior to now.

“The model has modified lots,” he mentioned. “It is extremely, very completely different to after I first arrived with Palermo. Then, video games had been static and also you had been both in an attacking or defensive section. It was accepted and also you simply went again to face in your traces. The video games now are way more dynamic, and the standard of the groups now could be tremendous excessive — there are such a lot of good and aggressive groups.

“When you say that Italian soccer is tactical now, it’s as a result of you haven’t seen an Italian sport for fairly a while. It is extremely dynamic, and it has gotten lots higher.”

Kjaer’s performances over the previous 12 months or so are arguably probably the most spectacular and constant in his profession thus far and the person from Horsens is happy with his current Ballon d’Or nomination which mirrored a stellar 12 months each with Milan and Denmark.

“It’s, in fact, one of many largest compliments of my profession,” Kjaer mentioned. “I’m very honored and really proud. My nomination displays that I’ve had an excellent 12 months with Milan and with the nationwide group. It reveals that I’ve labored arduous, and I’m grateful and honored. I’ll hold pushing and I feel that it’s superb at 32. Like I mentioned, although, I nonetheless have a few years left in me.”

It was a rollercoaster summer time for Kjaer and his Danish teammates with the group recovering from the shock of Christian Eriksen’s on-pitch collapse to make a deep run at Euro 2020 to the semifinals earlier than shedding out to hosts and overwhelmed finalists England.

Kjaer and Eriksen each reside in Milan with the latter nonetheless an Inter participant and the previous is happy to see his good friend “in a great place” after such a scare: “I see Christian sometimes, and we discuss. He’s in a great place. I’ll go away it at that.”

Sticking with the Dynamite Danes, Kjaer singled out two Serie A-based skills as two of probably the most spectacular members of Kasper Hjulmand’s group with Mikkel Damsgaard and Joakim Maehle his two picks after their Euro exploits.

“I didn’t count on issues to go so quick with Damsgaard given the circumstances,” mentioned the previous Lille OSC, VfL Wolfsburg, Sevilla and Fenerbahce man. “He went in straight and took nice duty on the ball and in our model of play. Maehle got here in throughout the left aspect offensively and defensively. I didn’t count on that both.

“It nonetheless impresses me how far now we have come and the way we hold transferring the boundaries for what is feasible. I imagine that now we have a fantastic, nice future forward of us. I’m excited to be part of it as captain and as a participant for my nation. The long run appears very vivid with all of the gamers and high quality that now we have.”

Kjaer additionally believes that this Denmark group can go on to win one thing internationally within the coming years and factors to their sensational 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification file as proof that the Scandinavians might be on the cusp of one thing very particular.

“With Denmark, it’s the identical as Milan,” he mentioned. “If you wish to win one thing, you will need to have the dream of successful one thing. It’s a query of small particulars, particularly with accidents as lots can change. Nonetheless, to qualify for the World Cup with 26 targets scored to zero. Which means our coach is already planning for these two November video games to maintain bettering.

“On the World Cup, we are going to attempt to do our greatest and the target and the dream is to win. If you don’t purpose excessive and don’t dream, then you’re going to get nowhere. That’s the identical for Denmark or AC Milan. When you put within the work, then many instances you get again what you place in. Nothing comes without cost.”

You possibly can comply with Kjaer and his Milan teammates for his or her crunch matches with each Porto and Inter this week with the Champions League and Serie A broadcast on Paramount+. | Champions League: 2021 Ballon d’Or nominee Simon Kjaer on his ‘have to win’ and get AC Milan again ‘on high’


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