The mistake that led to the first Udinese goal in their comfortable 3-1 victory over AC Milan on Matchday 27 was not the first for Fikayo Tomori this season, with the defender’s recent decline a worry for coach Stefano Pioli ahead of three crucial fixtures with Napoli.
After drawing the Partenopei in the Champions League quarter-final, the Rossoneri know that to have any chance of success against the runaway Serie A leaders they will have to reduce the Neapolitans goal scoring threat as much as possible, and that will require the England international to recover the form of last season.
As pointed out by La Gazzetta dello Sport, The 25-year-old was one of the standout performers in the Diavolo’s 2021/22 title-winning campaign, forming an impressive partnership with Pierre Kalulu at the heart of the Milan defence despite having only arrived on the peninsula in January 2021.
Tomori falling short for Milan
Against the Zebrette, the former Chelsea defender looked uncharacteristically sluggish when attempting to beat Lazar Samardzic to a loose pass by Ismael Bennacer, allowing the attacker to break towards goal and eventually assist Roberto Pereyra. Having been left out of England’s 2022 World Cup squad, Tomori should be fresher than most, but the mistake was the latest in a growing list.
Worryingly for AC Milan fans, the first of the defender’s errors this season came against Napoli at the Stadio San Siro, allowing Giovanni Simeone to flash across his path and head home the winning goal. They will hope that it does not play on his mind when the sides meet again three more times this season.
However, high-profile games have not been kind to Tomori. During the first Derby della Madonnina of the campaign, an ageing Edin Dzeko was quicker to react to score, while international teammate Tammy Abraham got the better of him when Milan faced AS Roma. A rash foul on Jonathan Ikone to hand Fiorentina a penalty in November was enough to convince England to leave him in Italy.
England duty continues to elude Tomori
After topping the charts in Serie A for tackles, successful passes and ball recoveries last season, had the World Cup been played in its traditional summer slot, Three Lions coach Gareth Southgate would have struggled to exclude the defender. However, Tomori has never appeared to secure the confidence of the man who also wore their national team shirt in the same position.
Having resisted the attempts from Canada and Nigeria to wear their colours on the international stage, Tomori has the unusual record of winning each of his three England caps in separate calendar years – Kosovo (2019), Andorra (2021) and Italy (2022) – despite club performances that deserved far more. Until the centre-back’s Milan form improves, though, an appearance in 2023 seems unlikely.
Whilst Tomori’s decline is primarily a worry for Milan on the pitch, away from it, they are also aware that his market value is decreasing. Even with an ever-inflating market, were they to decide to sell him this season, they would struggle to recoup the €31 million that they paid for him not long ago.