Fikayo Tomori says he felt he had to join AC Milan when he got a call from Paolo Maldini.
The Italian defensive icon, now working as technical director at the club where he spent his entire playing career, helped bring Tomori in from Chelsea on an initial loan deal.
AC Milan have the option to buy Tomori for €30 million (£26m/$36.5m) at the end of the season if things go well, and the 23-year-old is hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of his footballing heroes.
“I chose to come here to AC Milan because it’s a club with a great history, with great players and obviously the club is in a good moment right now,” Tomori told the club’s website.
“It’s an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. It’s a huge honour for me to be here.
“When I first got the call, I was a bit… I wouldn’t say confused, but I was surprised! I spoke to Paolo Maldini. The best defender to ever play football was talking to me and asking me to come, so from there I knew that this is where I wanted to come and play football and to learn from him as well. I’m very happy to be here now.
“Paolo Maldini, the best defender that ever played! When I was young and I was [playing as] a striker or a midfielder, Kaka was someone that I really enjoyed watching, [Clarence] Seedorf as well.
“To be able to put on the shirt that they wore is a huge honour and if I have half the success that they had, I’ll have a good time here.”
Maldini, Kaka and Seedorf aren’t the only sporting greats Tomori is hoping to emulate at San Siro, as he explained his choice of shirt number.
“I’m 23 years old so I thought I’d choose No. 23. Michael Jordan [is someone] I look up to a lot and he wore No. 23, so I think it made a lot of sense for me to choose it. Hopefully I can be successful in it.
“Off the pitch, I’m very relaxed, very chilled. I like to spend time with family and friends and be quite focused.
“On the pitch, I’m quite aggressive, I like to win the ball, go and take the ball off opponents. I like to defend, I enjoy defending and helping the team to win. That’s the attitude I’m going to bring to this team.
“I spoke to the manager and he was very happy for me to join. He gave me the fire to come and play and to enjoy myself.
“I spoke to some players who had been here before and who have played in Italy before and everyone had only good things to say about Milan. It was 100 per cent AC Milan for me.”