Saturday September 5 2020
Roback: 'Turned down Arsenal for Milan'

New Milan signing Emil Roback admits he was ‘on the verge of a transfer to Arsenal, but I followed my instinct’ to join Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Rossoneri.

The 17-year-old Swedish forward made the move from Hammarby, the club co-owned by Ibrahimovic, for €1.5m and already impressed in his first friendly outing.

“Milan were tracking me, but I was all ready for a transfer to England and Arsenal, because I realised they really wanted to invest in me,” Roback told Swedish newspaper Expressen.

“Bayern Munich were interested too, but in the end I followed my instinct and chose Milan, even if I knew Arsenal already had a deal in place with Hammarby.

“Once I arrived in Italy, it was all fantastic, I visited the training centre and spoke to Zlatan. Having him here is like a guarantee, he knew all about my situation and experienced it when he was young. He said it will be difficult at the start, but that I must be patient.

“I had my first senior team training session on September 1 and I was not anxious, not trembling, I felt confident. This club paid a pretty important price for me, so I can’t go around thinking ‘oh wow, I’m training with the first team.’ It was important for me to prove myself.

“After the session, (coach Stefano) Pioli told me I’d done really well and praised me to some of the other players, too.”

Roback made his debut in a pre-season 4-2 friendly win over Novara, where he made a real impact, providing an assist, almost creating another and seeing his goal chalked offside.

“I am not usually nervous before games, but I was this time,” continued the 17-year-old. “I was on the bench to begin with and I tried to play it simple, not go overboard. Then Zlatan told me to show what I could do and take men on one-on-one. So that’s what I did.

“They kept giving me instructions on how to move, but it was all in Italian, so I barely understood any of it. I’ve started studying Italian now, as nobody here really speaks English.”