Sandro Tonali has been known as ‘the brand new Pirlo’ ever because the begin of his fledgling profession – with the nickname first talked about even earlier than he had performed a minute of senior soccer.
So when AC Milan’s 21-year-old midfielder traces up at Anfield on Wednesday for his Champions League debut, he will not be postpone by such lofty expectations, even when his sport is definitely styled on a really completely different Milan legend.
Tonali scored his first purpose for AC Milan with a superb free-kick in opposition to Cagliari two weeks in the past, an nearly equivalent effort to Andrea Pirlo’s debut purpose for the membership versus Parma again in 2002. The ‘new Pirlo’ tag was on everybody’s lips once more.
It has adopted Tonali from the very first time his title was talked about within the press. In July 2017, newspaper Giornale di Brescia printed a characteristic in regards to the promising teen, headlined: ‘A man born in 2000 who strikes and appears like Pirlo. With a hair like that, it’s inconceivable to not discover him.’
Certainly, Tonali – who was 17 on the time, but to make the primary group debut for Brescia – had nearly precisely the identical haircut because the 2006 World Cup winner who began his skilled profession on the membership in 1995, earlier than signing for Milan and making 401 appearances for them.
With Tonali taking part in in the same place to Pirlo on the pitch for Brescia, it proved to be a really troublesome job to erase it from folks’s minds – although his position mannequin was a very completely different kind of participant.
A diehard Milan fan, Tonali had all the time admired the abilities of Gennaro Gattuso. After signing for the Rossoneri in the summertime of 2020, following Brescia’s relegation, he even personally requested his idol for permission to put on his quantity eight shirt – and naturally received it.
“The Pirlo comparisons began due to that haircut. They do not trouble me, however they aren’t appropriate. We’re completely different on the pitch, and Pirlo had supreme qualities. I do not know who would have the ability to attain these heights,” Tonali instructed Corriere della Sera two years in the past.
Pirlo himself agrees, however another way. In Might, the previous Juventus coach claimed: “Tonali does not seem like me as a participant. He’s way more full, each defensively and offensively. He’s a combination between me and different gamers. He’s not my inheritor as a result of he performs in another way, however he will certainly change into a fantastic footballer.”
“The Pirlo comparability is a giant misunderstanding,” journalist Erica Bariselli tells BBC Sport. “Tonali is extra highly effective and dynamic, however much less imaginative than Pirlo. When Pirlo was at Tonali’s age, he wasn’t as bodily robust. Their characters are fairly comparable, although. Each had been very certain of themselves as children, each are reserved off the pitch, and each like to joke within the dressing room.”
“Tonali is a stronger chief at Brescia than Pirlo was at his age. Like Pirlo, he’s able to offering assists and has nice passing vary,” provides one other journalist, Cristiano Tognoli.
Tonali had all the time been thought of a prime prospect at Brescia.
“When he made his debut in Serie B, membership proprietor Massimo Cellino requested the coach to not play him till he signed an expert contract,” Alessandro Rodella, a author for Italian web site TifoBrescia, stated.
“Cellino promised Sandro to promote him to the membership of his alternative, and was true to his phrase. Naturally, the midfielder went to Milan, and even agreed to scale back his wage to remain at San Siro this summer season.”
Life at Milan hasn’t all the time been straightforward for the teen, who made simply 17 Serie A begins final season.
Corriere dello Sport journalist Andrea Ramazzotti stated: “He’s at a giant group now, and wanted to realize expertise. Tonali arrived with the ‘new Pirlo’ expectations, however after watching him in motion everybody understands that he’s extra much like Gattuso – he’s good at recovering the ball.”
“Sandro might need underestimated the variations between the golf equipment, and wasn’t mentally prepared final time period. It’s regular for such a younger participant. This season, he’s extra assured, stopped considering an excessive amount of and began taking part in at his true degree. This could possibly be his breakthrough season,” Corriere della Sera author Carlos Passerini stated.
Tonali has impressed in his three begins this season, with Milan making a profitable begin to the marketing campaign, and now he’s prepared for his Champions League debut at Anfield.
No matter comparisons, Liverpool would all the time be very particular opponents for a Milan fan like him. The finals between the groups in 2005 and 2007 will keep lengthy within the reminiscence, with Pirlo and Gattuso taking part in a significant half in each fixtures. Now Milan are dealing with their rivals for the primary time in 14 years, and Tonali is out to put in writing his personal chapter.