Life is sweet for AC Milan and Denmark’s Simon Kjaer right now. The Rossoneri are back in the UEFA Champions League and competing for the Serie A title after restoring their reputation as Italian giants, while the Danes have followed their exhilarating UEFA Euro 2020 with 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification without conceding a single goal.
The 32-year-old from Horsens has been a key cornerstone in all of that as one of the most experienced members of the Milan squad and the captain of the Denmark national team.
Earlier this week, Kjaer extended his contract at San Siro until 2024 and the Danish skipper discussed with CBS Sports what he describes as the “big dream” that is currently his everyday reality.
“I am very happy,” he said. “It is a big signal from the club that they are also pleased with my work and our progress. My family and I are delighted in Milan. I am very content with the team. We are in a good place. I said when I arrived that I would like to finish my career here. This was a big step. We will see in a few years’ time. I am very, very happy with the new deal.”
Milan has always been a club close to Kjaer’s heart and one that he absolutely wanted to play for during his career and he is now relishing his extended stay with the club after a complicated start which saw injury and the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to cut short his time with the club.
“I was speaking with my agent the other day when we submitted the contract and I said that if I could have written my career and played for Milan the entire time, then maybe, maybe I would change it, Kjaer said.
“With this new deal, I will have been here for four-and-a-half years. Who knows, maybe longer. With all the experience from the other countries’ cultures, I would not change that for anything, but I am very, very happy right now. It is an honor and a big privilege for me.”
Kjaer is under no illusions that Milan expect him to maintain his excellent current form and he also views the club’s faith in him as a reflection of the impeccably high professional standards he sets himself and brings to Stefano Pioli’s group.
“Nothing is handed to you,” the ex-AS Roma, Atalanta BC and Palermo man told CBS Sports. “What you put in, you get back. It is also a reflection of our progress as a team as well as my individual level. I take these two additional years as a major compliment. The club also knows that I will not lean back and relax — they know my mentality.”
Milan not only provides the challenge that Kjaer is currently sinking his teeth into on the pitch, but they also provide a home away from home for the well-travelled defender after spells in Germany, France, Turkey, and Spain since he left his homeland in 2008.
“I love Milan,” he said. “It has everything. We are close to the mountains and to the sea. The airports make it very international for my wife, the kids and me. I love Italian culture. Absolutely the best place that I have been. We have everything that we need. I am also at the club of my dreams, so how could I complain about anything? I am so grateful to be here.”
Ahead of Sunday’s clash with former club Roma (streaming on Paramount+), Milan have been restored to Serie A title contention since Kjaer’s arrival in early 2020 and he feels that the progress made since then is tangible as we head toward the Christmas period.
“We progressed since last year,” Kjaer said. “I think we were also first at the end of December then. So far, 28 points from 30 is a lot and it has been a very good start. I think we have grown as a team. Games we drew last year we are winning, and we are also winning when we have not played so well.
“We have been difficult to beat, and we have shown maturity in that which is a big step. With last summer’s signing, we have grown and added quality to the squad. Of course, we are fighting for the title now, but I also said at the start of the season that we needed to better second place last year. That only leaves one place to go.”
Kjaer admits that Napoli are Milan’s main rivals for the Scudetto at present as the Rossoneri seek their first title since 2010-11. Depending on the result Luciano Spalletti and his side come away from Salernitana with this weekend, Milan could soon be leading the pack.
“Napoli are looking very, very strong,” Kjaer said. “They are very dynamic, and they play very good football. I think that it is still early in the season because there are so many things that can impact an entire season. You have Corona and injuries — two, or three bad ones and you can lose six or seven crucial games.
“I think that there are so many teams, especially this year, which are around the same level. It is a little bit about the circumstances we discussed earlier but it is amazing. It keeps you on your toes every game to be competitive all the time. Small details can make the difference. It is exciting for people on the outside but also for us to be part of such a season.”
Kjaer also feels that Rafa Leão is coming into his own this term and that the Portugal international has the potential to regularly make the difference in Milan’s favor with four goals to his name already this campaign.
“Rafa has so much quality and potential that I think we have seen him grow a lot this season,” he said. “He needs to improve even more and be decisive for the team in every game, but I think that he has improved, and it seems like his head is in a better place. We try to help to push him, but it is up to Rafa at the end of the day. He has some qualities that we have not often seen. If he can be more consistent than he already has been, he will be a great future figure for me.”
You can follow Kjaer and his Milan teammates as they travel to Stadio Olimpico to face Jose Mourinho’s Roma on Sunday exclusively on Paramount+.