Interview Simon Kjær in Sportweek - La Gazzetta dello Sport
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Interview Simon Kjær in Sportweek - La Gazzetta dello Sport

Interview: Sportweek · 6 Aug 2022

Simon Kjær is on the cover of Sportweek, a magazine by the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. In the interview Simon Kjær speaks about his heavy knee injury and the recovery from it. And much more. It's a lot, but it's worth reading it. Every word of what he says.

Translation and photos: Emanu - Many thanks for the enormous effort. And a short video by simon_kjaer_fan_page_milan_ on Instagram.

Interview Simon Kjær in Sportweek

Simon Kjær: "I lived like a hermit, but now I want to play."

6 months spent recovering from injury, beard, and long hair "because I felt like those who live alone". Now he's back, the Milan defender looks ahead "there will be a chance for everyone, but the derby is mine".

Punctual, with a nice haircut, tall and impetuous as only a Viking could be (forgive us the banality) Simon Kjær introduces himself like that "I don't like talking about myself and in any case, I don't have much to tell, I've always been a reserved person, I like my job and being at home with my wife and children: I take the children to school, I go to Milanello and I stay there until it's time to go and pick them up. One day I should think of another job but today I don't I do anything else, I don't think I'm very interesting."

Honestly, we cannot believe such an inspiring figure has nothing to say: he was the one who helped to save Eriksen during EURO 2020, he's the one designed by Pioli as a huge inspiration and as a great role model for the youngest of the team, indeed he has a lot to say in our opinion.

You say that sooner or later you will have to think about a different job, do you have already some ideas at the moment?

Simon Kjær: "No, it's still too early. If I start thinking about what comes next, I'd move part of the focus I have on football today to something else."

But do you imagine yourself staying in this environment?

Simon Kjær: "I don't know, it depends on many things: for example on the place where I will live. I am Danish, and my wife, Elina, Swedish. At 18 I arrived in Italy in Palermo and this will be my seventh year here. But I liked also Spain, where I also played, but then I think that my parents and Elina's ones are starting to get old and live far away from us, but staying in Italy is a possibility."

"I don't like talking about myself and in any case, I don't have much to tell."

- Simon Kjær

Where did you meet your wife, since you are from two different countries?

Simon Kjær: "On vacation in Barcelona. She came to stay with me when I was playing in Roma, then Milas and Viggo arrived, they are now 9 and 6 years old and play football. The first, moves between midfield and defense: he is not interested in scoring goals, the second is still a kid and does not have a precise role, but he runs all over the field. They are both starting to have a lot of enthusiasm."

Where you the one who brought them into football?

Simon Kjær: "I have never taken a ball to play with them: I wanted the passion to born in them without me passing it on to them. TI was still very young when they were born, at that time my day was all about football: playing, recovery, resting, training, and again playing. I didn't feel like going to play with them in the garden."

About your wife and children, did they prefer you with a beard and long hair, since, after your cruciate left knee injury on December 1st a year ago, you decided not to cut them again until you were back on the pitch?

Simon Kjær: "(Laughs) Absolutely not. But at a certain point, my wife realized that she could no longer bother me: I had made up my mind. If I say one thing, I do it. Elina said: at least settle it down a bit. I admit that the beard looked terrible. I trimmed my mustache a little because the hair was starting to get into my mouth."

But what was yours, a challenge to bad luck or a bet with yourself about recovery times?

Simon Kjær: "No. I had never suffered such a serious injury and for the first time in my career, I had to face a period in which I would be working alone, away from the rest of the group. My mother told me: try to pretend you are a hermit, one of those people who live in the forest, separated from everything and everyone. I felt just like one of them. Yes, Milan was close to me, and my teammates wrote to me encouraging me really often, but in the end, it was I who had to get up at 8 in the morning every day to work until 8 in the evening: therapy, re-education, all alone with the physiotherapist. So I said to myself, if I look like a hermit, so be like a hermit: I will cut my beard only when I return to work with the team."

"My mother told me: try to pretend you are a hermit, one of those people who live in the forest, separated from everything and everyone."

- Simon Kjær

You came back playing against Marseille a week ago. Have you always thought positively?

Simon Kjær: "Never had any doubts about my recuperation. I know how many hours I've put in so far. I had a lot of patience, even if now I am starting to lose it because I'd like to go faster. I would like to push, but I know I can't do it too much because if I stretch myself now, I'll be out for four weeks. I don't have to do nonsense, I have to respect the times and the signals that my body transmits to me. If I had been 24 or 26 years old, it would have been another matter, but I don't have the resilience of that time."

Did the injury change you, did it make you discover something about yourself that you didn't know?

Simon Kjær: "Yup. Undergoing heavy and boring exercises every day because you know you need to do them is not easy. If I would have been younger, I don't know if I would have succeeded. Today I realized that I have the experience to understand that if they ask you for ten repetitions, you have to do one more not one less."

It was a painful six-month-long re-education: what helped you endure it?

Simon Kjær: "There were times when I had to play music for the duration of the training, as a stimulus. And I thought about how much and how Kobe Bryant worked in his career, he was my model."

And what about at home?

Simon Kjær: "When I got hurt, people told my wife: now you can enjoy your husband a little more. True, I was at home with her and the children, but my physiotherapist lived with us for three months, he was with me five days a week. My priority has always been the knee. But I've never been pissed off."

Did you discover yourself as a warrior or did you always have a spirit like that?

Simon Kjær: "In the last five years or so, I've always had the same mentality, which I built slowly. I have come to a point where I know what to do and have no problem with suffering. If something makes sense, I do it. But it must make sense. If someone says to me: do ten stretches, I ask: why? Give me a good reason and I do them, even if I'm dying."

When did the spark that allowed you to build the mentality you are talking us about?

Simon Kjær: "When my first child was born. At that moment I put things in a different perspective and realized that from that moment on I would no longer be the most important person in my life, but would always come later. I went from first place to second. And now that I have two children, I have slipped to the third place."

You spent seven years in Italy, four in France, two in Germany, Spain and Turkey: what is left of Denmark inside you?

Simon Kjær: "The basis: punctuality and the same respect for everyone, from the cleaning woman to the president. If a Dane tells you: we're here at two, it means we're here at two, not ten past two."

Ouch ...

Simon Kjær: "In Italy, it depends on where you are: in Milano it's a little better than in Palermo. There the two become also half past two ... But in Sicily, I had a great time, there I opened my eyes to the world."

And traveling around Europe, what have you learned as a man?

Simon Kjær: "I learned a little everywhere. I really like the Italian mentality, their taste for food, for good wine… Yours is the perfect cuisine. Here, in France and Spain, you know the art of slowing down, of taking time for the pleasures of life. In Denmark, you only live on Friday afternoons, Saturdays, and Sundays. The rest of the week you just work. If you invite someone to dinner on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, they look weirdly at you."

It remains to talk only about Turkey.

Simon Kjær: "A country that thrives on passions, in football and abroad. My second child was born in Istanbul: it will always be a special place for me. It is a metropolis full of different cultures, a separate body from the rest of Turkey."

As a footballer, however, where did you learn the most?

Simon Kjær: "My defending style, the way I think about football, are Italian. In France the game is more physical, in Spain it is more technical, but you can adapt. My bases are here."

Thinking about the scudetto, what did your injury steal from you? Which emotions and sensations?

Simon Kjær: "When I got hurt I pulled the plug from football for four months. I didn't even watch the games. I was only in contact with Pioli and my teammates, nothing else. I didn't go to Milanello because I had nothing to say and nothing to give. I returned more or less with ten games to go because I could start doing some work with the team again and give them something mine. The boys welcomed me by giving me a jersey with my name signed by all of them as a gift. Milan is really like a family and I love everyone. What did my injury steal from me? I know I have given a great hand in winning this Scudetto, because it was the conclusion of a path of growth, both technical and mental, which we began two and a half years ago when I arrived in Milan. Last year I only played 11 games, but I feel the Scudetto as mine. We all won it together."

After the victory over Sassuolo, decisive for the title, did you celebrate in the locker room in the same way as the others?

Simon Kjær: "Of course. We celebrated as champions have to do. Usually, I keep things inside me, but every now and then I can get them out."

How would you define yourself in three adjectives? Simon Kjær: "Professional. Reliable, one hundred percent. Optimistic".

Is there something you would like to change instead?

Simon Kjær: "No. I can always learn, I'll stop playing football when I'll stop growing. I'm not perfect, but I'm willing to correct my mistakes. But I am as I am, and as I am, it has allowed me to get here. My wife often reminds me that for me it's all black or white, even with our children. Whenever I say no, it is no. She, instead, has many more colors. But my father was even stricter than me, sometimes I can tend to gray, but not much. I don't like gray."

"I'm not perfect, but I'm willing to correct my mistakes."

- Simon Kjær

Your father was the team manager of Midtjylland where you started playing

Simon Kjær: "Yes, I started to play there when I was 15. My mom, instead, played handball: I tried it too as a child, but in the evening at the table, the topic was always football. My sister too played football."

In a confrontation between you and Ibra, who has the last word?

Simon Kjær: "If I think you can win an argument with Ibra, you will end up disappointed. You have to understand who you have in front, and he is unique in his genre. But Zlatan appreciates those who disagree with his opinion and tells him. Then, in the end, he is the one who always decides and this cannot change."

Speaking of leadership, you proved it by first rescuing Eriksen, who was on the ground, passed out. Even then, did you act by instinct or by reasoning? And were you surprised by your reaction?

Simon Kjær: "In cases like that, you can never think before you act. Surprised? I only hope that I would have acted the same if, instead of helping a teammate in a European match in front of millions of spectators between the stadium and TV, I had found myself on the street in front of a stranger in need."

And were you surprised by Eriksen's arrival at United?

Simon Kjær: "No, because after what happened to him he became stronger than before. I am very happy for him: we are old buddies and we talk to each other every week."

Denmark is nature, lakes, and forests. You are worried about climate change, and do you think it is just a coincidence that two Scandinavians like you: the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and the Norwegian (former Sampdoria player) Thorsby, are at the forefront of environmental protection?

Simon Kjær: "I do not think it is a coincidence: Copenhagen is the greenest city in Europe, but although we citizens can do something, we cannot do everything: it is the world governments that should intervene, but the discourse as always falls on the economic interests of the one or the other and, unfortunately, it's always money that leads."

We close talking about Milan: Pioli said that at the beginning of last season, he immediately understood that Leão and Tonali were different from the previous season: did the same happen to you in those last training by observing some of your teammates?

Simon Kjær: "Daniel Maldini looked more matured, more ready. I hope he can prove it in Spezia, where he went playing on loan. The club did well because he needs to play. About Rafa Leão and Tonali, I say that I want to see them this year: they are no longer the youngest, they need to grow enormously. What they did last year is no longer enough. Leao has extraordinary qualities, therefore he can no longer afford games in which we can see him only a little: he must always be decisive. If he can make that step, he can be one of the top five in the world. Then, I want to see Origi: I played with him in Lille, he was just a kid, then but now I expect to see a champion who makes the difference because he has everything to be a champion: he has the speed, body, and good feet. Bennacer needs to grow too, carving out an important role."

And Kalulu? What are you planning to send him back to the bench?

Simon Kjær: "It will be a decision of the coach. Pierre played a fantastic season. From my point of view, he is not a rival. If I do my job, if I'm fine, there is only one person who can decide and that person is Pioli. Then I may get angry with him, but not with Kalulu, Tomori, or Gabbia because they are colleagues and one of them will be at my side on the pitch. I will need them, their help, so I can never see them as rivals. I know that I will not play 45 games this season. There will be opportunities for everyone, but of course, I want to play. When it's derby time, I want to play."

"There will be opportunities for everyone, but of course, I want to play. When it's derby time, I want to play."

- Simon Kjær

Despite the Scudetto, in the predictions you are still behind Inter and Juve: what do you need to do to convince the skeptics?

Simon Kjær: "Well... I understand them. The opponents were aggressive on the market. When there were ten games to go, no one believed in our Scudetto either. Now it gets even harder because everyone wants to beat the Italian champions. But we can still grow. Nobody, here in Milan, has finished doing it yet. Even us old people: if the body starts to fail, the head needs to go faster."

How did you find Pioli?

“He pushes us hard to keep everyone awake. He always repeats that we will have to suffer. It will be a challenging season for him too. But it will also be a very interesting season for us all. And it can be a very beautiful one."

That was it! Inspiring words of Simon Kjær and food for thought. One last picture with the interviewer Fabrizio Salvio.

Many thanks to Emanu for the full English translation.

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