Riccardo Montolivo is a player who has experienced every setting, sight and sound that the elite game offers. What's more he's a captain who carves a strong style with a creative edge. We sat down with him as he donned the 17/18 AC Milan home and away shirts for the very first time.

First of all, there have been many positive things written about you but from your mouth, how would you describe yourself on and off the pitch? 

"I would describe myself as a very honest, rational and balanced personality. I think these are characteristics that define me both on and off the pitch."

Can you describe what it’s like to grow up as a football fan in Italy? Just how much did you live and breathe the game as a child? 

"Football in Italy is basically like a religion. The sport dominates every single Italian newspaper – perhaps it gets too much press in some respects. But I have always been a football fan, ever since I was a child. I couldn’t wait for match-day to come round so that I could go and see my beloved Milan play."

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How does it feel to have made over 100 appearances for Milan, over 400 in the club game and so many international caps too. Does it still feel special to pull on the AC Milan shirt? 

"Football is my profession, but first and foremost it is my greatest passion. The feeling that I get when I pull on the Milan shirt is always special."

Have you kept hold of a lot of your shirts as mementos? Do you like to collect them? 

"When I was starting out in my career I liked to swap shirts with my opponents, but over the years I’ve done it less and less. Nowadays I reserve shirt-swapping for the most important matches."

Do you swap shirts with opposition? Which are the best ones you've got and what do you do with them all? 

"I’ve not swapped enough! In fact, my main footballing memories are actually attached to my sweatshirts. I have kept one from each season I’ve been involved in for both club and country. There’s one from each major game or competition I’ve been a part of."

Every player is different but what do you think the formula has been for you, to have such a successful career? 

"My formula for having a successful career in football was always based on profound respect for the profession: putting football at the heart of my life both whilst playing and in my spare time. Training hard is certainly the absolute priority, but I’d say knowing how to manage your life outside of the game is just as important as a player."

What qualities do you think you need to possess to be able to rise to the top in such a way that you have? 

"There are so many contributors to achieving success, but certainly sacrifice and humility at all times are fundamental to get to the top. Make sure you listen carefully, above all to the advice of your coaches. This will stand you in good stead particularly through your youth career. And never think that you have made it as a player – there is always more to learn and new ways to improve."

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What’s it like to walk out at the San Siro? Can you describe what goes through your head as you’re about to step out from the tunnel? 

"I believe that the San Siro is the most beautiful stadium in the world. In the big games it comes to life, and the atmosphere is truly incredible. The choreography and the songs coming from the stands leave you with goosebumps."

How did it first feel to hear your name read out or see your name on the back of a shirt in the club shop? 

"It’s a great feeling, especially just as you are making your breakthrough into the first team. It makes you realise that your dream has become a reality, your passion has become your profession. It’s a very emotional moment."

What goes through your head when you first put the captain’s armband on? Does that responsibility fill you with a lot of pride? 

"I am lucky to not just have captained Milan but also Fiorentina. To wear the armband is an honour, but a great responsibility at the same time. You represent the club, the fans, your team-mates. Every mistake you make is in the spotlight. You have to set an example both on and off the pitch."

Your style of play is all round creative. Do you see yourself as a creative person across all aspects of your life?

"My game is based on creativity but also on order and organization. I have to keep a clear head out on the pitch, which I think also reflects my personality outside of the game. I would say I am a very measured and thoughtful person."

Do you go through a routine before a game, in that you tape your ankles and always wear a base layer? 

"Before our matches we each have both personal and team rituals, although, having been out with an injury for six months now, I have forgotten some of them slightly! I’ll have to re-visit my rituals soon."

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Were there players you really idolised growing up? 

My footballing model was always Steven Gerrard. I admired him a lot."

As a football fan as well as player, what shirts did you own as you were growing up? 

"I’ve always been a Milan fan ever since I was a kid, but when I was little there were no names on the backs of shirts, so I had Milan shirts but they were never tied to any one player in particular. Even at that time I would have been spoilt for choice, with all the great champions who have worn the shirt."

The Milan shirts are iconic all over the globe. What do you like to see when a new shirt comes out? 

"The style of the shirt I think is important. You’ve got to keep the symbols with which the fans identify themselves. Personally I think it’s a bit of a mistake to drastically change the style of the team’s shirt because supporters take pride in being identified by certain colours or designs of a kit." 

What do you think of the new AC Milan home and away shirts, there’s a lot of class there don’t you think? 

"The home and away shirts for next season both definitely reflect my taste because they are a modern interpretation of the classic design of the Milan jersey."

What’s it been like to work with adidas, are they a brand you have a strong connection with? 

"adidas are an amzing brand, a brand of real beauty. It’s definitely one of the best brands out there. They’re extremely well organised, and my relationship with all of the staff is great. The way they prepare my boots is great – they’re a real pleasure to work with."

Football shirts are being worn more and more as fashion pieces. Do you like seeing shirts worn like that?

"This is something that we’re seeing more and more of in collaboration with adidas. I for one really appreciate these influences coming from different worlds and bringing refreshing ideas to football. I especially enjoy the leisure shoes produced as a result of these collaborations, I find them really interesting."

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You’ve played against a lot of greats. Who would you say is the greatest you've played against? 

"I would say the best player I’ve ever played against would have to be Iniesta. I don’t think it needs saying that he is a very tough player to play against!" 

What’s been your greatest moment in an AC Milan shirt to date? 

"I think the best moment might have to be the Italian Super Cup final in Doha. Although I didn’t take play in that game because of injury, it was amazing to be part of a beautiful night and take home a trophy we had not won for many years." 

You can get the adidas AC Milan 2017/18 Home and Away Shirts here.