The UEFA Champions League semi-finals are upon us, with Manchester City vs Real Madrid being the first contest in the last four and the Milan Derby between AC Milan and Inter the second. As the anticipation for the crucial showdowns builds, former English footballer and manager Ashely Westwood spoke to NDTV in a select media interaction on the semi-final battles. Giving his verdict on AC Milan, who are one of the most successful sides in the Champions League history, Westwood said that the Rossoneri have become a ‘selling club’.
Question:Rafael Leao has been one of the most promising forwards in Europe this season. Still very young. How important do you think it is for Milan to hold on to him to consistently remain in the Champions League?
Ashely Westwood:The club knows where they are with regards to finances. He is 23. He does score a lot of goals. His speed puts teams on the back foot. Predominantly, AC Milan over the last few seasons have been a selling club. But they need to retain Champions League football if they are to keep hold of your best players. When the big clubs come calling, though AC Milan are a big club, it depends on the ambitions of the player, whether it’s in Spain, Premier League, or the Bundesliga. It will be tough to keep hold of him. The way they finish in the Champions League may make his mind up. Hopefully, they go to the final and win it. Then, players could get emotional and they stay at the club.
Question:Olivier Giroud isn’t spoken about among the top strikers in the world but if you look at his career achievements, they leave you in awe. Do you think he has been one of the most underrated players of his generation? And more importantly, a team man that every manager loves?
Ashley Westwood:I wouldn’t say he is underrated. He is not a prolific goalscorer. He is not fast. He is an out-and-out target man who holds the ball and gets his fair share of goals. Big clubs look for a prolific striker. Maybe that’s why sometimes he has found himself on the bench. His goal return isn’t as prolific as he would like. He is strong, physical, works hard and every defender who plays against him knows he’s been in a football match, knows they’ve been in a contest that makes it hard for the opposition. But I don’t think he is at the right end of his days (as a player). He is a World Cup-winner, he has had his fair share of games for France. But for me, he is not underrated as he isn’t as prolific a striker as world-class clubs look for.
Watch the LIVE coverage of UEFA Champions League 2022/23: Semi Final (leg 1) – Real Madrid vs Man City and Milan vs Inter on Sony Sports Ten 2, Sony Sports Ten 3 (Hindi) & Sony Sports Ten 4 (Tamil & Telugu) channels at 12:30 am IST on 10th & 11th May 2023
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