Milan striker M’Baye Niang confessed he “risked ruining my career” with bad behaviour, but sorted himself out.
He will turn 21 later this month and is already something of a Serie A veteran, having arrived as an 18-year-old.
“I have matured and learned from my experiences,” he told France Football. “Psychologically I am no longer the same person and have become much more responsible.”
Niang had been known more for his bizarre off field incidents than goals, including the time he pretended to be a teammate when caught driving without a licence and receiving a suspended prison term for crashing a friend’s Ferrari.
“When I was young I made mistakes, it’s true, but certain events made me realise I risked ruining my career for some really stupid things. I regret all of that, but it did help me to mature.
“Some say I’m not fully mature yet, but they don’t know me. On the field I’ve always given my all. People said I wasn’t professional and that I came from a rough background… rubbish!
“I am a family man, although it is true I had some friends who wanted to take me down the wrong path, but now I only hang out with people who really care for me. I am happy.
“I had many injuries in the past, but the loan spell at Genoa allowed me to prove I deserve Milan. When I scored my first Serie A goal for Milan against Sampdoria, it felt like a weight taken off my shoulders.
“Until that point I’d only scored in the Coppa Italia, but I knew I could do it.”
Niang also thanks Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic for his rediscovered form.
“From the first day Sinisa relaxed me, I knew that I could improve with him and he realised that he was the Coach I needed. Clearly, part of the credit for my form is down to him.
“I was ok with Massimiliano Allegri, he believed in me, but those who came afterwards didn’t see me as part of their plans.
“Milan is my second home, as despite all the problems I had, the directors were always on my side. I want to become the Number One and take Milan back into the Champions League.
“I know that I’ll never be liked by everybody, but I can dream. Senegal? They called me and I didn’t give a firm answer, but in truth in my mind there’s only the French team.”