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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 9 hours ago
Read
Oct 22, 2009

Pato champions Milan's cause

Alexandre Pato's two goals in AC Milan's stunning Champions League victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday night may just have turned the Rossoneri's uncomfortable start to the season on its head.

Ahead of their Serie A clash in to Chievo on Sunday evening, ESPN Soccernet's Nick Bidwell caught up with the Brazilian international.

So how do you sum up that extraordinary victory against Real Madrid?
We all lived through a very special evening at the Bernabeu. Even during all the difficult times in the last few weeks, we always said things could turn around very quickly and maybe this result answers some critics.

So how would you sum up the first few weeks of this season?
Losing games and points saps your morale and makes you frustrated, but the mood at the club has never been as bad as some would have you believe. We always had faith in ourselves. I have remained optimistic for lots of reasons.

How did you maintain your belief as the pressure mounted on coach Leonardo?
We have a squad of champions, guys of strong character who remain extremely ambitious. Players like Nesta, Ambrosini, Gattuso, Seedorf and Inzaghi will not lose their heads and they drive us on. When results don't come, a squad can fall apart, but that's never going to happen at Milan. Our pride was hurt, but we are not at all out of the hunt. I laugh when we are written off as Milan is not a club where failure is tolerated.

Some of the fans have not been so convinced you would turn the corner. What do you say to them?
Personally, I've never had any problems with Milan supporters. They show me all the respect in the world. Of course, the fans are upset if we lose and it would be a miracle if they were happy after we lost at home to FC Zurich in the Champions League and the derby 4-0 to Inter. What everyone has to realise is we are in a period of transition after the departure of our coach (Ancelotti) and most important player (Kaka). A new Milan is being built, though I accept results right now are also important.

Is Kaka's loss the main reason why Milan struggled early on this season?
For sure it was a huge shock for us all when he left because Ricky lived and breathed Milan. I thought this was his home and he wouldn't stray, but it just goes to show you can never say never. Any team in the world would miss a player of his talent. He is one of those match winners, a player who can change the course of a game with one magical run or shot. He left a big hole, but with every guy in our team playing a bit harder, we can move forward. You don't give in because the star man has gone.

Do you see yourself following Kaka out of Milan any time soon?
It might happen, it might not. All I can do is repeat that that I'm 150% committed to Milan for as far as I can see into the future. I have a contract here until 2012 and intend to honour it. I have a deep affection for this club as they brought me to Europe and had faith in me. They made the big step of investing in me and this counts for a lot. I would love to have the career of a Paolo Maldini, who was the symbol of Milan for his entire career, but I'm also aware that life is unpredictable.

Would you like to play in the English Premier League one day?
I'm fascinated by football in England and Spain. I love the colour and enthusiasm for the game in those countries and they have so many players that I rate as world-class. I have to admit I love travelling and enjoying new experiences. Also, my hero Ronaldo played in Holland, Spain and Italy, but for now, Milan is a place I feel very comfortable on and off the pitch.

There were string rumours that you may have followed Carlo Ancelotti to Chelsea. Was there any truth in that?
I can't deny I had a great relationship with Ancelotti when he was Milan coach. He is a wise man and showed this by winning everything in football as a player and a coach. He is someone who brings the best out of every player he comes into contact with. When he speaks, he always talks common sense and doesn't waste time. Ancelotti gets straight to the heart of the matter.

It seem like you had a special bond with Ancelotti?
He was a father-figure to me, but this does not mean I'm going to pack my bags and follow him immediately to London. AC Milan is too important to me and I have unfinished business here. I want to be part of a Milan team that becomes a force in world football once again and the aim is to win the Champions League and the Scudetto at this club. Some will smile at this, but I'm serious. Milan is a great club and will achieve great things again.

Do you think you can improve as a player?
I would be crazy if I thought for a minute that I was one of the best players in the world. I'm only 20 so it's like I've just turned up at school. I can't think of one aspect of my game that is perfect and there are many, many players better than me at the moment. One day, I'd love to be the world's number one but you have to earn that status.

Are you looking forward to David Beckham's return to Milan in January?
Every great player is welcome at Milan. David proved with us last season what an exemplary professional he is and you have to admire the way he conducts himself in the spotlight and his desire to keep his career going at the top-level for so long. He is also a brilliant striker of the ball, an artist at crosses and free-kicks. Italian football suits perfectly and he can certainly help us.

• AC Milan's trip to Chievo is live on ESPN (UK) this Sunday at 7.45pm (GMT)

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