Rossoneri face rosy future with Piatek
Background photo: Nobbiwan, CC BY 2.0
Football critics saw AC Milan as a team on the low for the 2018 portion of this campaign. Their tune changed after the New Year. The Rossoneri surge into the Champions League places originated with one winter window deal. Milan paid Genoa €35 million for striker Krzysztof Piątek.
The 23-year-old wasn't able to settle with the Rossoblu. Not due to poor form, mind. He lit up the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, scoring 13 goals for Cesare Prandelli. Rather, his stay lasted less than six months. The Polish wunderkind moved from Cracovia Krakow in July for a meagre € 4.5 million. He represents a tidy profit on a quick turnover for Genoa. For Milan, his arrival meant so much more.
In part, Gennaro Gattuso can thank Mauricio Sarri and Chelsea for being so willing to take Gonzalo Higuain off their hands. His loan from Juventus wasn't working but his salary left no room for another player on the books. It never ceases to amaze when a single change turns a club's fortunes around so quickly.
Piatek represented a calculated risk. His production with the Rossoblu came in two chunks, the larger to begin the season. A dry spell in the middle began to resemble the one Higuain struggled through at San Siro. Then four goals in as many weeks before Christmas suggested improved surroundings might deliver more consistency. Since arriving in Milan, Piatek added another half-dozen goals to his season's account. With their new talisman in full song, Milan moved into third place in the Serie A table.
Rossoneri fans pined for the old days over the past few seasons with the club changing ownership like most Italian clubs change managers. That revolving door remained in service at the club as well. Finally, Chinese investors committed to backing the club took charge. Money wasn't sufficient, though. Their 'feed on Juve scraps' transfer policy was flawed. Before Higuain failed, Leonardo Bonucci's move from Turin was a bust.
In that light, acquiring Higuain while returning Bonucci to the Old Lady's welcoming arms was beneficial only because young defender Mattia Caldara arrived with the Argentine. Gattuso demands commitment and energy from his squad. Youth serves those requirements better than ageing legs.
The manager's tactics remain questionable as a revitalised backroom staff assembles young starlets filled with technical ability. The former midfield destroyer was never one to go around anyone when he could go through them. His strategies are often too direct and one-dimensional for those who don't appreciate his man-management and commitment to the club.
With Ivan Gazidis arrival, Gattuso's days could be numbered. The erstwhile Arsenal CEO worked on a budget in London but still did most of his shopping in the attacking aisle. The South African of Greek descent might seek a manager with similar skills and experience to Unai Emery, whom he brought in to replace Arsene Wenger at the Emirates.
If he does and Milan continue to build a more enterprising squad, that will only bring more opportunities for the already prolific young Pole. On the other hand, if Gazidis keeps faith in Gattuso, Krzysztof Piatek has proven that he too can produce despite economic restraints.