Fikayo Tomori has an appetite for self-improvement.
During the lockdown, a time many remember as a haze of procrastination, he turned off his TV remote and finished graduating from an undergraduate degree in business administration.
“I saw it as an opportunity to focus and get everything done. I like to engage my brain and keep it going,” he said.
Tomori’s education was just beginning. After his academic studies, moving to AC Milan in January 2021 provided the center back the opportunity to learn defense at Uxbridge: San Siro.
The former Chelsea player joined a club known for building the most impressive defences, with superb defender Paolo Maldini serving as technical director.
Milan will win their first Serie A title in 11 years by avoiding defeat at Sassuolo on Sunday. Tomori, 24, forged an impressive partnership with Pierre Calolo, while behind them emerged another young French player, goalkeeper Mike Minnan – and formed a defensive unit dubbed “the bunker” or “the wall” in the Italian media referred to as the . .
Milan have conceded two goals in their last 10 league games and kept five clean sheets in a row – and 17 this season – the club’s best defensive record in a decade. Members of the Milan royal family have praised the fortified bunker.
Mauro Tassotti, who formed one of Milan’s great defenses, along with Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta, said: “Tomori is good at recovering the ball, his speed is great. He expects a lot and is always aggressive.”
Alessandro Nesta said Tomori and Kalolo are “modern center backs who press high on the field and leave a lot of space – that allows the team to stay high, which is key these days”. For former coach Fabio Capello, they represent the “future of Milan”.
The club’s supporters will look no further than Sassuolo, a disturbing prospect given the talented Nirverde side’s 3-1 win at the San Siro in November.
Tomori missed that day through injury, and three of Milan’s four league defeats this season came when the England international missed.
However, only after a shock 2-1 defeat to Spezia in January – another match missed by Tomori – did the defense gain momentum. Since then, The Wall has only been breached six times in 15 unbeaten matches.
Tomori was pivotal in that. It wasn’t long before England captain Alessio Romagnoli usurped the standings after arriving last season, but Denmark international Simon Kjaer’s injury in December suddenly presented a new challenge.
Tomori is no longer the young replacement for the old chief, but the 21-year-old leader of Kalolo. He has played 2,638 minutes more than any other player this season.
They have built a solid partnership. “Let’s remember that it is not easy to replace a player like Chiar,” said Alberto Zaccheroni, the former Milan coach for the title-winning team. “As soon as I saw Tomori last year, I knew we were in the presence of a great player.”
He is also very popular and is credited with giving an Italian-language interview in March, 14 months after he joined the club. “Not perfect yet but I’m trying,” he wrote on Twitter. Always the student.
Leading rivals Inter to the Scudetto in his first full season, ending the long, agonizing wait in the process, would put Tomori’s name down in the history of one of the sport’s most iconic clubs.
The anticipation is palpable, as is the nervousness. The queue for online tickets for the game in Sassuolo has exceeded 100,000 people for a stadium with a capacity of 21,500 people.
Milan one point is enough because facing the Italian league is the tiebreak and Inter, who play with Sampdoria at home, are two points behind.
For Tomori, immortality is at hand.