In Focus: Serie A star Tomori ready to roar for Three Lions again
England conceded just two goals at Euro 2020 and their defensive ranks have been strengthened even further by Fikayo Tomori’s recall.
The AC Milan centre-back received his first Three Lions call-up since 2019 following a superb 10-month spell in Italy.
Tomori, 23, fell out of favour at Chelsea last term but has revitalised his career since making the switch to Serie A.
Ahead of Saturday's Andorra clash, we take a closer look at how Tomori’s recent redemption has led Gareth Southgate to bring him back into the international fold.
Tomori’s permanent move to Milan in the summer went under the radar.
The Italian giants opted to sign the defender for a relatively modest fee of £25million following a fruitful loan spell.
It must be said, his initial temporary move in January had raised plenty of eyebrows given club captain Alessio Romagnoli and the experienced Simon Kjaer had seemingly formed an impenetrable alliance in the heart of the Milan defence.
But Tomori quickly displaced Romagnoli in the side and helped guide the Rossoneri to a second-place Serie A finish — the club’s highest league position in nine years.
The permanent capture of Tomori is already looking like smart business after the defender’s fine start to the new campaign.
New season, same Tomori
Tomori has started the season in the same form that he finished the last one.
The Cobham academy graduate is yet to be dribbled past in Serie A this season and has a scarcely believable 100% tackle success rate.
Comparisons have even been drawn between Tomori and club legend Paolo Maldini thanks to his reading of the game and impeccable timing in the challenge.
In fact, Maldini is said to have played a key part in the recruitment of Tomori in his role as technical director.
Speaking in January, Maldini said: “Fikayo is a player with particular characteristics, pace and intensity, so we thought he could be a good reinforcement for this second half of the season.”
Tomori’s only previous international cap came in November 2019 when he played six minutes in England’s 4-0 Euro 2020 qualifier win over Kosovo.
Soon after, he lost his place in the Chelsea side and, as a result, saw compatriots move above him in the Three Lions' pecking order.
John Stones’ turnaround in form at Manchester City has re-established him as Southgate’s first-choice partner to Harry Maguire.
Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings, meanwhile, are also firm favourites of the England boss, while Everton's Ben Godfrey and Arsenal’s Ben White both were included ahead of Tomori in the 33-man provisional European Championship squad.
Fans of the Premier League were reminded of Tomori’s quality in Liverpool’s 3-2 victory over Milan in the Champions League last month.
Despite being on the losing side and conceding three goals, Tomori certainly impressed on his return to England.
The defender made the third-most interceptions (three) in the contest while winning the second-most possessions in the defensive third (four).
Southgate even referenced the game when selecting Tomori for his latest squad.
The England boss said: “He [Tomori] is at a club that’s expected to win every week. I thought he did well versus Liverpool and Juventus.”
Southgate demands his centre-backs progress the ball and Tomori completed 49.6 passes per 90 last season — impressive when compared to White’s 40.94 and Godfrey’s 34.62.
Although Arsenal new-boy White managed more forward passes (19.72 per 90) than either of the others, Tomori (18.6) was close behind.
Tomori also won possession in the defensive third 3.93 times per 90, whereas Godfrey won the ball 3.15 times and White managed 3.16.
With Maguire injured and White and Godfrey left out — along with Eric Dier, Michael Keane and Joe Gomez — Tomori now has the opportunity to cap a remarkable 2021 by cementing his place in Southgate’s plans.
If recent months are anything to go by, expect him to take the opportunity with both hands.