Rio Ferdinand has lauded Fikayo Tomori’s defensive improvement at AC Milan and believes he “deserves” to be in the England team.
Tomori left Chelsea to join Milan on loan in January 2021 before making the move permanent the following summer.
He played more minutes than any other outfield player last season as the Rossoneri won the Serie A title and this season he has continued to impress, starting every game for Stefano Pioli’s side.
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However, despite his form he has been overlooked by England since joining Milan. He was called up to the squad for the recent games against Italy and Germany but didn’t feature in either.
“On form he deserves to be in there, he deserved to play the last game,” said former England defender Ferdinand on BT Sport.
“He was very brave in going to another country and stepping out of the shadows of Chelsea to test himself. I saw a quote the other day from him saying a lot of the Italian strengths in defending he has started to pick up and learn. One of the things that stand out immediately is his tenacity and pace.
"He is remarkably quick, but the way he comes out and closes down people and spaces is tremendous to see. He would have learnt. He is a student of the game, he is intelligent, he will keep on growing.
“There are still hurdles for him to jump but that is part of parcel of the career and I’m interested to see how he gets through the next stages.”
Tomori said ahead of facing former club Chelsea in the Champions League week this week that he has become a “cleverer defender, whether it's little fouls or positioning yourself”.
Since Tomori made his Milan debut the team have conceded an average of 0.8 goals a game with him in the side, compared to 1.3 goals when he does not play.
“He’s an outstanding young player and young man,” said former Chelsea winger Joe Cole.
“He has taken a massive gamble going there, there’s no better place to learn your trade. That club is steeped in it, [Franco] Baresi, [Alessandro] Costacurta, [Cesare and Paulo] Maldini, their ghosts are going to echo through that club and there will be people at the club from that era and there will be pearls of wisdom he has picked up.
“The Italians are the masters of defending. He has gone there and been outstanding. He is coming back with a point to prove.”
Gareth Southgate is expected to name his England squad for the World Cup later this month.
Tomori admitted he was frustrated not to feature in the most recent matches.
He said: “Yeah, obviously every player wants to play and you want to be involved but it’s an honour for me to be selected. I know now that I’m not quite there, I’ve still got some stuff to do to get myself in the frame to be there for the World Cup, so hopefully I can do that.
“There are a lot of games between now and then for me to try and get in that squad or, hopefully, be in a position where I can get some minutes on the pitch as well.”
Former England forward Eni Aluko, also speaking on BT Sport, says there is a “fearlessness to his defending”.
She said: “You don’t think about him as a young defender that’s coming off the back of not playing at Chelsea, he is on the front foot. For England it will be huge as the back three is a question mark.”
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