A player who has burst onto the scene with a thunderbolt like finish, the journey of Fikayo Tomori has been one of great experience. Years of graft to get to the top, met with a real hunger for success, he's equally a character of both humble and inspired quality. Always aspiring to hit new levels, we get his take on this current chapter as well as an insight into his mind. 

Start with the here and now. Tell us one thing that happened to you or you saw happen that made you feel like life is good...

I had a banging meal. Last Friday, it was like a tortilla with bbq chicken and tater tots. I went to bed with a smile on my face that day.

Let's go back to you as a child, how would you describe yourself as a kid?

As a kid I was always pretty active. I was always wanting to play football and get out and about. I wasn’t really the type of kid to sit around and do nothing. I was a lads lad when I was young. Whenever someone would knock on my door saying do you want to go play, I’d be like, “yeah let’s do it”. I’ve always been a pretty active person. I’m pretty bubbly and just enjoyed being around my friends.

When you think of those days, knocking on your mates front doors - was it always football since day one?

Yeah. I mean, I think it had me because I was good at it. I would always play and I think growing up in London and in Kent as well, every young person wants to grow up and play football. It just made everything a lot easier as well because I was able to do something fun that I was good at. I enjoyed it and obviously it’s been part of the journey to where I’ve got to today.

How much do you treasure those memories of the early days? The long games into the night and all that kind of stuff?

I think back then you take it for granted. Now there’s just not that much free time to do that and everyone is getting older. Back then when you’re just care free and you’re just going out to have a kick about with your friends, it would be after school or on a weekend or over the summer holidays - you’re just playing outside for hours and hours playing football. I remember never getting tired so back then it was amazing. Looking back to times you would maybe ride your bike to a field and then play football there and then ride back home. It was a carefree time.

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A carefree time is a nice way to describe your youth. How else would you describe your whole connection to football back then?

Because I was good at it I think I enjoyed it that little bit more. I think when you start playing football, it’s about playing at school during break times and then you’re playing in games on a Sunday with the same friends. It’s just fun and it’s something to do to release all that energy that you have bottled up. It definitely kept me out of trouble I’d say.

What can you tell us about how they formed you to be the person you’ve become - what values were instilled early on?

I’d say definitely my dad. My mum didn’t really watch football when I was growing up. Obviously she watches me now but my dad is just a football fan and he likes to analyse and stuff. He used to help me a lot and talk to me about what he’s been watching professionals do. He always used to help me not get too carried away but also not too down. That helped me stay pretty neutral and helped me just focus on myself and just try and progress as much as possible without putting too much pressure on myself. I think that has got me to where I am today.

What about flavour and tastes culturally, where did that come from for you?

My parents were very no nonsense I’d say. I had to do well at school, I had to be focused in everything I was doing and I had to give 100%. They didn’t allow me to quit things easily. They were big on making sure I had respect for other people and things like that. They were very disciplined people and I think that comes from their Nigerian side where things are very no nonsense and it’s about doing everything to the best of your ability and having respect for others. I’ve carried that with me throughout my life even though I’ve been playing in England.

Did they introduce you to music? Do you remember what music was being played in the house?

Yeah my dad used to listen to all kinds of music. Sometimes he’d wake up in a particularly good mood and would be playing music off his phone or from his laptop and it used to be old school Nigerian music with talking drums and stuff. I don’t know how to describe the sound of it but you can recognise it instantly. I think another thing that helped me was that where I went to school in South East London, there were a lot of Nigerian families there so I went to school with a lot of Nigerian kids. Everyone could bounce ideas around what happens in their respective households that you thought only happened in yours - you realise it is happening everywhere. It also exposes you to new things and you learn about others that way and develop your own culture with your own friends.

Are you a person who goes looking for new experiences? From food to travel, are you inquisitive like that?

Yeah I’d say so. In certain aspects. I’ve been told I have a very addictive personality so when I find something I like I just keep doing it or getting more into it. With food, I’m the type of person who will know what they’re having off the menu before I’ve stepped inside. If I have something by accident or try something different, I enjoy how that opens your eyes and mind to something different. It’s the same with places I visit as well. Sometimes with my friends, we’ll just say “let’s go here, let’s give it a chance” and then I’ll end up loving it. Then I become the person telling them, “let’s go back to this place”. I’m definitely open to new experiences but then again I still like my comfort zone.

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What highlighted to you that you had an addictive personality?

First of all my friends used to say it. So for example if I heard a song I really liked, I probably would know the lyrics by the end of the day because I would have listened to it so many times. I’d be humming it or playing it or stuff like that. It’s the same with soft drinks, I might have a flavour of the month each month. It was one of my friends who first said to me that he thought I had an addictive personality. If I see a funny video for example, I’ll watch it for ages, over and over again. That’s just how it is for me. I didn’t notice it until he said - once he told me I started noticing me being like that with everything.

Does that cross over into football - would you say you’re addicted to the game?

Yeah, I am. Obviously I’ve been playing since I was seven and I’ve been full time since sixteen years old. So that’s five or six years of my life just that I’ve been training full-time, playing matches regularly and as much as it’s something I love, I am addicted to it. As much as it is a job it is an addiction where you just want to keep playing football, you just want the next game to come and the next training sessions to come and keep hitting new milestones. I would say that I definitely have that with me. When I was younger I would be playing football and being that one person knocking on people’s doors to come and play too. I think it’s definitely one of my personality traits.

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At just seven years old, getting that call from Chelsea. Can you remember that moment when they asked you to come and play for them?

I remember I was playing for my Sunday team. I think the scout had been watching me for a while but my parents never told me. I think they just wanted me to keep playing for me and for the love of it and not be distracted by who was watching. I always wondered how footballers become footballers. I didn’t know there was an academy system or anything like that. My parents then introduced me to the scout from Chelsea. He asked me to go to the development centre. Being six or seven at the time, I was like “oh ok”, didn’t think much of it. My parents drove me there and then the next week they said to me that I should go to Cobham, where the real academy is. Even then I didn’t know what was going on. It was all just kind of happening. My parents drove me to Kidbrooke, then they drove me to Cobham and it’s all just snowballed since then to where I am. At first I didn’t really know what was happening so I didn’t really have a chance to get excited about it. The first time I really got excited was when I went to Stamford Bridge and signed a contract when I was around eight or nine years old.

Being so young and signing a contract must have been an amazing feeling. Can you remember the emotions at that point?

I think everyone’s dream is to become a professional footballer. I think the excitement then came around because Chelsea had just won the league and it meant that we were able to go and hold the Premier League trophy. I remember thinking “woah, this is crazy, the Premier League is right there”. I think I’ve got a picture of me, my dad, my mum and my sister. We all stood round the trophy for the picture. I remember thinking, “this is Chelsea, they’ve won the Premier League”. At that point, you know it’s big. There’s players like Thierry Henry, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and all these players playing in the Premier League and you know you’re far off it and you want to get to that stage. At that age, you don’t know the real steps it takes to get you to that position. Back then it was just fun and it’s all just happening and you’re enjoying playing football. As you get older, you start to realise what it takes and now I’m here.

What exactly does it take? It’s one of those things people say all the time but just how hard was it for you to go through the academy and come out the other-side?

It’s a lot of sacrifice and a lot of dedication and hard work. And I guess humility to say, “ok, I’m not as good as I think I am” or “I’m not as good as this person in front of me so I have to work harder to get in front of them”... yeah I don’t think that ever really stops. Football brings so many great players who are coming and going all the time. It never stops and you have to keep on pushing yourself and just trying to achieve what you want to achieve. It’s not easy, especially when you get to 18/19 and you start going on loan or start breaking into a first team somewhere. It is a different kind of world and you have to be very prepared for that physically and mentally.

You’ve come through as part of a wave of so many strong young players at Chelsea. What’s it been like to be around so much talent, yourself included - do you feel like a strong group of you have risen together?

I’d say so. Obviously we all played as part of the same age group - me, Mason, Tammy, we’ve all played at the same age group through the academy experience. Then Mason has played with Reece, Callum and Billy and everyone has played with each other. I think there’s only about three years between all of us. It’s definitely been a nice thing for all of us to be doing together and at Chelsea too - such a big club - it is amazing and hopefully we can continue on this trajectory.

On this journey, are there people who you feel particularly grateful for in making it happen?

My dad helped me out a lot and the coaches at Chelsea are amazing. Coming through the youth ages you had different coaches who teach you different things. Everyone may have their favourite coach that helped them. I had those coaches as well, maybe those that were a bit harder on me helped me a lot. Also those coaches were a bit softer on me who allowed me to go out and play, you learn from each of them. There are a lot of people and a lot of coaches who have helped me. Even on the loans I’ve had as well, a lot of different experiences. That’s something Chelsea also gave us early on - a lot of exposure to a lot of different things that go on and happen in football. Things like going to different countries and playing against different teams, going up and down the country, playing in Premier League tournaments - It just builds you up and builds a mental log of everything that is going on.

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Are there times or things that stand out along the way as pivotal moments?

Yeah definitely. Of course, things like winning the FA Youth Cup and the FA Youth League are things that are an explosion of what has happened prior like all the hard work from the coaches and all the work that has gone in before that, it all kind of comes out at moments like that. It’s hard to pick one specific moment that was definitive in that sense, I think it was more about how the whole experience shaped us with lots of moments that have helped each of us to get to this stage. There have been a lot of experiences and a lot of things that have gone one and I’m very happy and grateful. It’s hard to pinpoint just one - it’s about learning from them all.

You come across as someone who is a sponge for experiences to help shape your mindset…

I think seeing the things that happen to you or noticing those things that affect you are what helped me learn and alter how you think or react in the future. You start thinking about how you will react to a moment differently when you go through certain experiences. It’s all learning curves.

With that in mind, how would you describe yourself? You seem like a calm guy…

I’d say I’m pretty laid back, pretty calm, I don’t get flustered by things. Obviously as a human being I have emotions and I have things that happen to me. Like anyone I have my down days but normally I’m pretty calm and pretty mellow. I like that trait about me. I’m not too up or too down, just more middle of the road and good like that.

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When you go through the age groups and you sign for a brand, like adidas, how much do you see that as an opportunity to explore other industries?

Kind of. I think football is the most important thing first and foremost. Signing for a brand is amazing and I’ve always loved adidas. When that chance came to sign for them, I was always going to do it. I kind of thought, “now that I’ve signed with them, I have to keep playing football well so that I get the next honor”. Obviously I was 18 when I signed with adidas. I remember it was a nice moment for me.

We all take inspiration from different places...Where do you look for motivation these days? How would you describe your mindset or that hunger to succeed?

I think a lot comes from other people. I like to see people doing well. When you see others doing well, it pushes you to drive yourself on and you think to yourself, “I’m going to do that too”. Obviously my family, my friends as well - they keep me motivated as well. I want to go on to do things so that I can share those moments and experiences with them as well. Obviously with Covid it’s a bit difficult but under normal circumstances, I’d want to be able to share all those experiences with friends, family and team mates.

Are there other athletes or people from other industries you look at and think, “they’re doing something right, I want to take my life in that direction…”

Yeah, someone like Michael Jordan. I watched the documentary during lockdown. Growing up in England, there’s not too much NBA on the TV so growing up I didn’t know of his ability and just how good he was. I knew he was good but I didn’t realise it was those levels. I think looking at his mentality and his competitiveness, that was something that really hit me. Obviously he’s a businessman as well and done a lot outside of basketball. He’s proved that he’s the best on the basketball court but also shown that he wants to be the best in other things he does. He showed that it wasn’t just basketball where he could be the best as well. That is someone that is right up there for me.

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Where do you sit on the scale of Rodman to Pippen with Jordan in the middle - is there a bit of each of them in your character too?

I think I take bits from each of them. Obviously I have a very privileged job in the sense that I can do what I love and get paid for it. I think that if you don’t enjoy it then it’s not the best thing for you. I think enjoying it is the most important part of it all. I’m not as extreme as Dennis Rodman but I still have times when I want to explore new things. Obviously Scottie Pippen was the more chilled out one so I can take things from both. Probably more so from Scottie Pippen than Dennis Rodman [laughs].

All great athletes, those guys either way...How do you measure success? Not everyone’s milestones look the same. What are yours?

For me, just to look back on my career and to be able to say I gave my best. Even though it is cliche, not having the regrets or the feelings of “I probably should or could have done more there”. Having that satisfaction or being content knowing that I’ve given everything and done everything I wanted to do. Obviously winning trophies, having medals and getting this or that award is a level of success but setting myself up for after football as well is something I would count as successful. Making a certain amount of money is great of course but being able to enjoy it after as well would be a success. [00:26:30]

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Life after football is a way off but are you actively pursuing business interests and that kind of thing?

That side of life has always interested me. Where I’m going to take it, I don’t know but I think just being aware of what is going on is a big thing for me. Being able to adapt to different things and being flexible in different ways is important. I don’t want to have just one thing that I’m good at and then stop and not have that anymore. I think for me, it’s more it’s about having more in the locker.

How would you describe your ambitions for the future. What do you want to conquer?

Everything. I want to win every single trophy there is. I want to win the Premier League, the Champions League, FA Cups, World Cups and Euros. You name it, hopefully I can do that. I just want to be able to look back at my career and say I’ve done everything I could there and I achieved what I wanted to achieve. Who knows what that will look like in the future but getting as close as possible to those goals is what I want to have done.

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Photography by Elliott Wilcox
Styling by Jake Hunte