Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana opened up to DAZN, talking topics from goalkeeping mistakes and the dangers of fear to why he argued with Edin Dzeko in the win over Porto.
The 26-year-old Cameroonian shot stopper has replaced Samir Handanovic as the new number one at the Nerazzurri, starting all but two league matches after breaking into the squad in early October. Onana showed his qualities in goal during his time with Ajax, which was disrupted by a nine-month ban following a positive test for Furosemide, a banned substance. He signed for Inter on a free transfer last summer.
Speaking to DAZN, Onana first discussed the mistakes made by Alisson and Thibaut Courtois in Real Madrid’s recent Champions League with over Liverpool.
“To improve you have to make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn, when you win you don’t learn anything. Because winning covers up everything. We can play badly, but if we win nobody talks about mistakes, about defeats.
“As a goalkeeper you have to learn to live with mistakes. I don’t think about not making mistakes, I just know that it will happen. But if it happens on Sunday, it shouldn’t be the problem, it’s a calculated risk. That’s part of the apprenticeship, of studying the position.
“You have to be mentally strong, because if you think about not making mistakes, you make mistakes. Those two mistakes for me should not even be talked about because they are very strong goalkeepers who take risks. If you take risks, you make mistakes.
“If you don’t take risks of course you don’t make them, but you don’t help the team. Not taking risks for me means throwing the ball away. At that moment I am in my own world, I have been lucky enough to play in big stadiums, I have my music in my head.
“In those games I am so concentrated that I isolate myself from reality. I don’t want to think about all the people who are watching me, I don’t want to be crushed by the weight of pressure. I do my job and go home. André go, do yours and go home.”
The Inter goalkeeper was asked if he ever played in a cup final whilst afraid.
“Yes, and I played with fear, a lot of fear. And after that game I told myself ‘I’ll never play with this fear on me again’. If with Inter we play against Real and Barcelona I’m not afraid. If it’s 22 against 11 I’m not afraid. I don’t have to be afraid on the pitch, of anyone.
“I lost the Europa League final because of fear, we lost that game before we even played it. We had to play against Manchester United, we arrived in Stockholm, where the 2017 final was being played. In training I called Van der Sar and told him ‘I wasn’t well, I’m not playing this final’.
“He answered me by saying ‘I am old and I don’t have gloves, you go and play this game’. I was 19 years old. We woke up on the morning of the game with seven sick players. We were young.
“We were in the tunnel, I saw De Gea just behind me, six months earlier I was playing PlayStation using him. And now I’m playing against him. I had recently been promoted to the first team at Ajax.
“Also in the tunnel Amin Younes, one of the most important players we had, came up to me and said: ‘Did you see Valencia’s arm? Phew, I can’t play against him!’”
He revealed what Handanovic told him the first time they met.
“We greeted each other quietly, he said ‘welcome’. I already knew him, I don’t know if he knew me. He’s helping me a lot. But when we met for the first time, I remember his face, serious.
“He and I are different in this respect because I am cheerful, I like singing, chatting. He, on the other hand, is very calm.”
The 26-year-old reflected on his on-pitch spat with Dzeko during the Nerazzurri’s recent Champions League win over Porto.
“These things happen in football. I told him, if we have to do this to win, then let’s do it all the time. If I have to shout like that at Dzeko to win, I’ll do it. I’m the one who decides certain things. When I have the ball, everyone wants it, there’s Lautaro, Calhanoglu, there’s Brozovic, everyone.
“But I am the one who decides and what I decide everyone has to respect. I can make mistakes, but you have to accept that. In the end I liked what he told me. He wants the ball, next time I’ll play it to him.
“I have to help the team and if that means arguing with Dzeko or Lautaro, I have to have the personality to do it. Because from my position I can see the whole pitch.
“Sometimes Skriniar and Acerbi tell me ‘André, on the left’ because if I’m focused on the pass, I can’t see anywhere else. They see the pitch better than I do and I have to trust them.”
Finally, Onana gave his thoughts on Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who recently returned from a serious calf injury.
“Yes, a few years ago in 2017, I said that black goalkeepers had to work twice as hard as others. At that time, I was the only one who was playing at a high level. That was the truth. Now I am so happy to see Mendy, to see Maignan, to see the others.
“I know Mike well, we have played against each other many times. We know each other, we are friends but not close. And he is a great goalkeeper, I like to play against him. We have played against each other four times. Who is the best? I can’t tell you, but in my head, I know who is the best!”