Charles De Ketelaere introduced at AC Milan: “Kaka?  Great player, but I have my own qualities”

Phew, Charles De Ketelaere must have thought around 2.35 pm on Friday afternoon. With his baptism of fire for the numerous gathered press, a hectic week of contract negotiations, medical tests and media obligations is finally over. From now on, the Belgian record transfer only has to think about football. On Saturday evening he can make his official debut with AC Milan in the exhibition match at Vincenza. “I am ready. The coach has told me that I can play for a few minutes. I hope to show something,” said De Ketelaere, who was asked about thirty questions. “I am still integrating myself. I’ve only had three workouts. I still have to get to know the players and the dynamics of the team. But I have been very well welcomed. The players and coach help me on the field. I hope to be integrated and ready as soon as possible.”

Several questions were about a nickname. The Italian press clearly wants to give the new top transfer of the Serie A a pet name, but De Ketelaere kept the boat off. “I don’t have a nickname yet. Everyone just says Charles. That’s good enough. In French by the way. I know many Italians pronounce Charles the English way. But I don’t care. I’m just happy to be able to play here.”

The new Kaka? Or the new Ronaldinho then?

The Italian journalists tried to determine whether he is the new Kaka. But De Ketelaere did not like to compare himself with the Brazilian world football player from the last real glory period of AC Milan. “I know what a fantastic player he was. I saw videos of him. He may look like me, but I have my own qualities. We are different. I hope I can bring the same to AC Milan as he ever did.” Also the comparison with other legendary attacking midfielders of AC Milan – Savicevic, Ronaldinho,… – did not want to know the Bruggeling. “AC Milan has a great history of fantastic attacking midfielders. But I only look to the future. That is what the board does. We want to be competitive again with the best clubs in the world. I want to make the team better and then it’s up to you to see how I do it. I don’t think about the comparisons with such legends, but about progression.”

© AC Milan via Getty Images

Another club legend. How important was the role of Paolo Maldini, club icon and current technical director, to lure De Ketelaere to AC Milan? “I have a lot of respect for Paulo Maldini. He is part of AC Milan’s past, but also of the present. I am very grateful that he wanted to get me. That did play a role. But AC Milan’s project was more important to me than the person Maldini. That AC Milan gives young people opportunities and also makes them better has convinced me.”

Another world star to end with: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The 40-year-old Swede was injured in training last week, so he has not yet met De Ketelaere. “I can learn a lot from him. If you see how many years he already played in top European competitions. I’m looking forward to being his teammate, sitting in the locker room with him and training with him.”

Preferably at the front in support of another striker

On to De Ketelaere itself. What kind of player is he, the curious Italians wanted to know. “I am a player with a lot of technical qualities and a first good touch on the ball,” he said confidently. “I can score and give assists. I am dynamic, a player who likes to run deep and make a lot of meters. And creates spaces in function of the team. My best position? I have played in many positions in the past. As a youngster I was an attacking midfielder, but grew into a striker. I prefer to play with a striker around me. So that I can run deep, but also pick up the ball in midfield.”

“When I was young, Cristiano Ronaldo was my idol. Of course I’m not at his level. It’s impossible to compare me to him. I am still a young player coming from the Belgian league. I want to grow and become the best I can be.”

De Ketelaere gets the number 90 at AC Milan, coincidentally the same number as Romelu Lukaku at city rival Inter. That makes the Italian tifosi look forward to the next Milan derby. “It was the jersey number I already wore at Club Brugge. That brought me happiness and success. So why shouldn’t I keep it? I know Lukaku has it at Inter, but it has nothing to do with that. I just want to be the best player I can be. The Serie A has a lot of big names, but I don’t want to measure myself against anyone in particular individually. I only look at myself.”

Spoken with Martinez

The 21-year-old from Bruges would like to go to the World Cup in Qatar with the Red Devils in November. Has he discussed this transfer with Roberto Martinez? “I spoke to him, but he just listened and didn’t try to influence me. I told him that I wanted to go to Milan and that I am convinced that I will play to go to the World Cup. I know I’ll get opportunities here to show myself. This is an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.”

De Ketelaere closed a few difficult weeks with this press conference. The transfer talks between Club Brugge and AC Milan were extremely difficult. For a moment, it looked like the deal might even fall off. “The last few weeks have been very intense. You hear all those stories about that transfer. My brokers kept me well informed. I made the choice to come to Milan. Agreements have been made with the clubs to drop something from my side. Then it was up to Club Brugge and AC Milan to work it out among themselves. That worked. What is different than in Belgium? You immediately feel that the weather is warmer here. Also the intensity of training. Everyone is always full. That’s good to see. Because that’s what you need to become a champion. The Champions League is also an important goal for us. With the quality we have it should certainly be possible to go to the next round. Once you’re in the knockout phase, anything is possible and it kind of depends on the draw.”

(MD, DVD)

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