Theo Hernandez wants to ‘revive Milan’ and revealed that he was close to joining Bayer Leverkusen before Paolo Maldini stepped in.

The 24-year-old Frenchman is one of the most important players in Stefano Pioli’s squad in the Lombardy capital, playing a key role in both the attacking and defensive phases of the match. The Rossoneri currently sit top of the Serie A table and have a genuine shot to win their first Scudetto in a decade.

Speaking to L’Equipe today, Hernandez first discussed which formation he prefers to play in.

“The 3-5-2 is the best system for my qualities. I can attack more, I have the whole wing in front of me and I can get forward. And I also know that I’m covered at the back when I get forward. It’s different when you play in a four-man formation, I’m less free from an attacking point of view.”

He commented on the way that he plays football and what role he fills.

“More than a ‘defender’, I’m more of an ‘attacker’. I’m a modern full-back who likes to take part in the game, follow the action and score. This involves risks, but we know that.

“I have the physique to do this job, even if it is sometimes difficult, back and forth, back and forth… I do about 10 kilometres in a game.”

The Frenchman spoke about his happiness with Milan and their return to the top.

“I found the right club at the right time. We have a great future as a team, we can revive Milan. The people around us are great too. That’s why I extended my contract until 2026.

“Everything is here to live well. Now we have to win the title. This is what we need to put Milan back in its place, at the top.”

Hernandez discussed how it felt to wear the captain’s armband for the Rossoneri.

“I’m the 3rd or 4th captain in the pecking order. There’s Romagnoli, Kessié, Calabria and Kjaer ahead of me. But between injuries and COVID I’ve worn the armband for three games.

“At 24 years old it’s great to be the captain of Milan! You command more and you also feel stronger. It was the first time in my career that I wore the armband. I’d never been captain in my youth team. It’s a great experience.”

He revealed the importance of Maldini in helping him to chose Milan.

“If I signed for Milan it was largely thanks to him. I was very close to signing for Bayer Leverkusen, but he turned everything around. He came to see me on holiday in Ibiza.

“We talked about football, I immediately felt that Milan was the right place. He told me many good things about my game and my progress. There’s no better reference for my role and for Milan.”

He gave his thoughts on his relationship with coach Pioli.

“As soon as he arrived he insisted that I play as I know how. He freed me up. He understood my nature, my strength, he didn’t limit me. I have the DNA of an attacker in the body of a defender.

“At Milan I improved in front of goal, something clicked with Pioli. Even in the national team Deschamps tells me to push, but he also tells me not to forget to defend.”

The Frenchman spoke highly of compatriot Olivier Giroud, who continues to score a number of key goals for the Rossoneri.

“We’re close, he’s a good guy. He’s doing incredible things this season. If we are still in the race, we owe him a lot. He is a generous person on and off the pitch. Olivier is an example, a warrior.”

Finally, Hernandez discussed veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“He is a ‘bad boy’! But in the right way. He is a fighter. In training he is the same, but he is a good guy outside, he always wants to help us, he gives us advice. And when Zlatan speaks, we listen.”

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