When Milan won the 2007 UEFA Champions League in Athens, they were one of the oldest teams to swing aloft the famous “Big-Eared” trophy, recording an average age of 31. Ten years on, though, and the Rossoneri have finally embraced the winds of change. Featuring as the youngest team in Serie A last term, Vincenzo Montella not only put his trust in youth, but several academy products, and this year he has unleashed yet another exciting prodigy in the shape of Patrick Cutrone – a striker who lives to put the ball into the back of the net. Rossella Marrai-Ricco takes a look at his pre-season form…
It should be Andre Silva creating the headlines; instead, it’s a Primavera graduate who is yet to play 90 minutes of a top-flight fixture in Europe. Don’t know him? Well, you soon will!
The Portuguese’s arrival to Milanello was met with much enthusiasm. Courted by most of Europe’s top clubs, the 21-year-old was swooped up by Marco Fassone and Massmiliano Mirabelli as the Rossoneri’s fourth arrival of the summer. It was an unexpected move that surprised all, but one, which left the club’s fans, overjoyed.
Silva had scored 22 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions for Porto – the combined total Carlos Bacca and Gianluca Lapadula notched up for the Rossoneri last term – while he has also bagged eight goals for his country in just 13 outings.
In the last two years, Andre Silva has proven himself a dynamic and pacey striker with a natural eye for goal, leaving little room to question why he has been dubbed Cristiano Ronaldo’s heir to the Selecção. Yet, his arrival has been somewhat overshadowed by an equally incredible and younger prospect, Cutrone...
With the Portuguese star having reported to pre-season camp later than most due to his country’s participation in the FIFA Confederations Cup, and with Bacca’s future still up in the air, Cutrone saw an opportunity to impress Vincenzo Montella, and he grabbed it with both hands.
Selected in Milan’s starting XI in the Diavoli’s first pre-season friendly ahead of the 2017/18 Serie A campaign, Cutrone wasted no time in putting his name on the scoresheet. With only 98 seconds on the clock, Cutrone latched onto a defence-splitting through-ball to casually slice the ball into the back of the net from eight yards out.
His goal was the start of a four-goal onslaught by Montella’s men, but what was crucial to note is how he played a major role in creating the goalscoring opportunity. As the Rossoneri pushed forward, the teenager combined well with Andrea Bertolacci and Franck Kessie to pull off fluid and swift moving triangular play, before then poking the ball over the line.
It was his first goal of the “campaign”, and he hasn’t stopped there. Against Dortmund, Cutrone showed equal hunger in front of goal, and he came agonizingly close to pulling one back for Milan…
Despite missing the one-on-one opportunity inside the box, Cutrone put out promising displays in China that caught the attention of onlookers. He showed relentless desire to win and chase down balls, drifted deeper into the midfield to carry the ball further up the park, combined well with Kessie once again, and showed aerial strength in challenges.
The latter element of his game proved crucial when he netted in the opening goal against Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup, before then going to add a second strike to his name with toe-poking effort from a cross off the left flank. Once again, the teen was the one who had initiated the play on his goal, by passing the ball from the edge of the D to M’baye Niang, who then played it wide to Giacomo Bonaventura. The midfielder chased down the ball before crossing it into the box for Cutrone to poke home, making it three goals in three friendly matches for Milan.
Speaking after the game, he said: “It's a day I'll never forget, on the first goal I didn't even think I'd scored, while the second was a great team move.”
While it may be early days still, Cutrone has displayed classic goal poaching qualities worthy of Pippo Inzaghi’s approval, while he has proven himself equally dynamic, packed with pace, physically strong, hungry for goals, and can hold the ball up well. All necessary qualities to become a top striker, but he is no stranger to scoring…
Under the guidance of Stefano Nava, the centre-forward discovered some of his best form, and in 22 appearances with the Primavera side last term, he found the back of the net on 19 occasions, bagging three assists in the process. Those figures followed a campaign with the Primavera B side, where he scored 22 goals in 31 outings to make the most prolific goal-scorer to come out Rossoneri academy.
If that isn’t an impressive enough return, Cutrone has also bagged a remarkable 33 goals for the six various youth national teams for Italy, turning out for his country a total of 57 times.
“We all played a great game [against Bayern Munich], from the first minute to the last. Compared to Borussia [Dortmund] something changed,” he added after the 4-0 win over the Bavarians. “It's a win which increases our confidence ahead of Craiova, and now we have to think only about that game because it's crucial for our season.”
So promising Cutrone’s form has been, he is likely to start for the San Siro outfit against the Romanian club in the first leg of the Europa League clash later this week, and it has even been reported that Bacca is likely to make way in order for him to remain at Milanello.
Donning the number 63 on his back to honour his father, Cutrone is so passionate about the game that he often requires alone time to reflect on the odd occasion things don’t go his way in front of goal. And while he may have a mature head on his shoulders, the striker is still young, has to learn to compete against other quality strikers at Milan, and has plenty to prove – a challenge he won’t shy away from.