Simon Kjaer says that completing a permanent move to AC Milan is the realisation of a career-long ambition.
The 31-year-old centre-back has spent his career playing around Europe at the likes of Wolfsburg, Lille, Fenerbahce and Sevilla, but his goal was always to return to Serie A, where he made his breakthrough at the top level with Palermo.
Although he had subsequently spent temporary spells with Roma and Atalanta, on Wednesday it was confirmed his switch to Milan, where he had been since January after being loaned from Sevilla, has been made permanent.
- Ballon d'Or 2021 Power Rankings: Could Lewandowski still catch Messi?
- Barcelona's big week: Three games which could decide Koeman's future
- European zeroes to Premier League heroes: How Lingard and De Gea turned their Man Utd careers around
- Milan's 'Magic Mike' Maignan making Juventus look like losers in Donnarumma PSG transfer
“Milan is simply Milan. It has always been a special club for me,” Kjaer explained to Goal. “Since I went abroad as a young player 12 years ago and arrived in Palermo, this was simply the club for me.
“Back then I told my agent that one day I would love to play in that red and black jersey.
“It has been close a few times before, but now the timing was right. Milan is a gigantic club with a gigantic history.
“I honestly believe that it is a privilege to play here and at the same time have the opportunity to help bring this club back to where we belong: to the top of Italian and European football.
“I had some good years in Sevilla, and it was great playing in La Liga and in the Champions League with this club. Sometimes things just change, and when many players come in, many players must leave, and that happened last summer. I wish everybody in and around the club all the best, and I know that they feel the same about me.”
That Milan moved to sign the Denmark international is perhaps no surprise given the success they have enjoyed with him in their side. Prior to Saturday's fixture with Bologna, eight of the 10 Serie A matches in which he has played have been won by the Rossoneri, who have suffered only one loss in the 14 competitive fixtures in which he has featured.
“Since I arrived in January, we have been working hard, developing as a team, and I have seen great progress,” he said. “We have a very young team with a lot of potential, and I believe that here in 2020 we have shown the way back to the top. It will demand a great deal of work from everybody, but I believe in a bright future for AC Milan. We have the history, the winning mentality, the passionate support of our fans, and great ambitions.”
Kjaer has been left particularly impressed by the atmosphere around the club and the city, and he explained that the players are missing the influence of the support in the stadium currently.
“You can sense football in the air in Milan - San Siro, Milanello, Casa Milan as the headquarters, supporters everywhere. Everything tells you that AC Milan is a great club, one of just a few global clubs with an amazing history and a great future,” he said. “I am happy that I will now be a part of this future, and I will give everything for this club.
“The fans have received me so well. Right now, because of the corona crisis, we miss them in San Siro, and everybody in football knows how much a great home crowd means to the players. But still we manage to get the great results even without their support in the stadium. We still play for them, even when they are not there.”
As one of the older members of the squad, Kjaer is shouldered with additional importance, but it is a challenge he embraces, having performed a similar task at international level.
“My role in Milan is pretty much the same as for Denmark,” he explained. “With my experience - also from being the Denmark captain - I am expected to take responsibility both on and off the pitch, and I enjoy that both as a person and as a player. When Milan came for me, I believed that I could help the team, and I immediately got the confidence from my coach.”
Meanwhile, he is excited what the future holds, particularly at international level, where he is set to lead a Denmark side undefeated in 90 minutes since 2016 (excluding a fixture in which an amateur side faced Slovakia), into a rescheduled Euro 2020 next summer.
“It is a great thought, especially after all these years in international football, that the next two years could actually be the most exciting of my whole career; playing for my dream club and with Denmark facing the Euros with our group games back home in Parken Stadium and then the World Cup in 2022,” he said.Kjaer has won 95 caps for his country and has captained them for the last four years.