Following a summer of frenzied activity, all eyes were on AC Milan this weekend to see whether or not Vincenzo Montella’s new-look side are the real deal or still a work in progress.
A comfortable 3-0 victory over relegation candidates Crotone was precisely the sort of start that Montella would have wished for, particularly as seven new signings started the game, including Leonardo Bonucci, Ricardo Rodriguez and Hakan Calhanoglu.
But while a number of the new recruits impressed on their first league outing for the club – Bonucci completed more passes (95) than any player in Serie A’s opening weekend – it was a teenage academy graduate who stole the show.
Patrick Cutrone, a 19-year-old striker from Como, led the line for Milan after impressing in their Europa League qualifying games and had a hand in all three of his side’s goals before making way for €38m man Andre Silva.
Patrick Cutrone's first half by numbers vs. Crotone:
88% pass accuracy
2 chances created
Decisive impact. pic.twitter.com/uYC963gEVp
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 20, 2017
Cutrone, whose Milan debut came at the end of last season in a 3-0 win over Bologna, made his presence felt in just the second minute of the game as he latched onto a ball played behind the Crotone defence only to be hauled to the ground as he was about to shoot by covering defender Federico Ceccherini.
The Crotone stopper was dismissed with Franck Kessie dispatching the spot-kick. Then on 18 minutes, Cutrone got himself on the scoresheet as he made a darting run to the near post to get his head on a Suso cross from the byline to beat Alex Cordax at his near post. It was instinctive movement and intuitive finishing that bore a striking resemblance to a former Milan great, Pippo Inzaghi.
And then five minutes later, Cutrone turned provider as he split Crotone’s high defensive line with clever movement before swiveling and picking out Suso to return the favour with the Spanish winger firing in Milan’s third.
Montella delighted with “results” of Cutrone call
Despite the impending arrival of Nikola Kalinic, Cutrone – who spent over 10 years in Milan’s youth system – appears to have done enough to earn the trust of his manager and teammates alike and he could play an important role in Milan’s rebuilding job this season and beyond.
After the game against Crotone, Montella praised the youngster, saying: “We have decided to keep him with us. Last year he improved a lot playing with me, and this summer he has impressed me and now we are seeing the results.”
While Montella has been given around €65m to bolster his attack with the signings of Silva and Kalinic, Cutrone’s sudden emergence in recent months is certainly an added bonus with Milan competing on three fronts this season.
Cutrone had already made an impact in European competition, scoring in Milan’s Europa League qualifying second-leg victory over Romanian side CSU Craiova having made his full debut in the reverse fixture. This was Crutone’s first professional goal for Milan and rounded off a 3-0 aggregate win.
Where does Cutrone fit into the Milan XI?
The Italian youth international, who was part of group that finished runners-up at the 2016 European Under-19 Championship, represents a slightly distinct option in attack to the new signings. Kalinic will give Milan the option to go direct due to his aerial prowess while Silva is an excellent link forward who likes to involve himself in the build-up.
Cutrone, though, looks to have the tools to become a complete centre-forward as he can finish with either foot as well as his head, has the awareness to pick out teammates in space and, crucially, possesses the pace and movement to stretch opposition defences.
With Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal and Manuel Locatelli anchoring the midfield, Montella’s new-look Milan looks destined to be an exciting ensemble of expensive recruits and homegrown talents.
Following some uncharacteristically barren years, the future suddenly looks extremely bright for the Rossoneri and Cutrone might play an important role as they enter an exciting new era.