A.C. Milan: A byword for footballing superiority. Everything about the club oozes unrivalled class, from the awe-inspiring stadium, to the iconic black and red striped kit. Throughout its history, Milan have always been a powerhouse of European football, represented by a star-studded eleven and the trophy room to match.
But in recent years, Italy’s most successful club has been resigned to something which resembles mediocrity. Ever since the squad overhaul in 2012, which saw players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Alexandre Pato leave the club, as well as club legends Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf, the club’s league finishes have plummeted.
The club turned to youth during a period which saw them finish 8th, 10th, 7th and then 6th successively. The board envisioned re-building the club, in order to establish a young team that would go on to put Milan back amongst the European elite – which has been something of a fruitful approach to date.
The current AC squad features a wealth of young talent, a number of which have progressed through the academy. Gianluigi Donnarumma is the most well-known (and perhaps the most talented) of those players, an immensely skilled goalkeeper who at the age of just 19 years old, has made the best part of 150 appearances for Il Rossoneri. There is also Davide Calabria, a very gifted two-way full back, and 21-year-old Patrick Cutrone, perhaps Italy’s most talented striker of his age group. Combine those homegrown prodigies with the purchases of Alessio Romagnoli, Samu Castillejo and Brazilian U23 sensation Lucas Paqueta, and it is clear to see why AC Milan are finally starting to find their feet in Serie A once again.
Lead by the magisterial Gennaro Gattuso, Milan currently sit 3rd in Serie A, three spots above where they ended the last campaign. A sixth placed finish to 2017/18 sealed another disappointing season at the San Siro, but at least it was easily explained – AC simply didn’t score enough goals. They found the net just 56 times last term, which was 33 less than Lazio, who finished just one place above them, and identical to Sampdoria, who ended up 10th.
However, this season, goals haven’t been an issue for AC Milan, nor have they been for Serie A’s latest striking sensation, Krzysztof Piatek. The Polish number nine arrived on Italy’s premiere stage at Genoa, after his move from Cracovia last Summer, for just €4M. To tell the truth, not many were even aware of who he was at first, but he soon made sure they found out.
It took just 18 minutes of debut Italian football for Piatek to score his first hat-trick, which came in a cup tie against Leece. On his first league bout, he found the net after just six minutes. A week later, he scored two more. After becoming the first player to score five goals in his first four Serie A matches since the great Andriy Shevchenko, he went on to further that feat, by netting in every one of his first seven appearances – something only matched by Gabriel ‘Batigol’ Batistuta.
13 goals in 19 appearances later, and Krzysztof found himself becoming Genoa’s all-time record sale after just half a season at the club, when he completed a very profitable €35M move. But to whom did he grant his services?
Yep, you’ve guessed it. AC Milan.
His red-hot form didn’t end there, either. In his home debut, a Coppa Italia quarter-final against Napoli, he scored both goals in a 2-0 victory. Just four days later, he found the net at the Stadio Olimpico, in a league clash against Roma. After scoring three goals in the following two games, Piatek became the fastest player to score six goals for the club, which when you consider the legendary forwards to have played for Milan, is quite the achievement.
That then brings us to the modern day. AC Milan, once again, are a real threat. Lead by their new Polish predator (and his now-iconic goal celebration), it looks like it could only be a short while before Il Rossoneri rightfully resume their assault on the knockout stages of the Champions League. As a sleeping giant, they spent years in the doldrums of top-tier Italian football, but the beast is now well and truly awake. And he is hungry.
A strong transfer window is needed before that can happen however, but AC are only 2-3 world-class talents away from becoming one of, if not the, best clubs that Italy has to offer. Gattuso has installed the tenacity and desire in his squad that previous sides have lacked in humiliating quantities, which has brought about pride and confidence. And it’s working.
It seems it is only a matter of time before, at long last, one of the greatest clubs in football history begin their hunt for domestic and continental success once again.
AC Milan are back, and with all guns blazing.