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Aditya Bajaj takes a look at all the potential stars that could join the first team from Primavera...

Milan finished last season as second best to a much revamped and totally deserving Juventus side, and were knocked out at the quarter finals stage of the Champions League by Catalan giants Barcelona. It was a not-so-good season for the proud red and black of the city, often considered as the worldly wise travellers of Italian football having won more international trophies than any other club in the world.

Now that they have left for the French capital...

The seven time European Champions, however, have been going through some sort of a transitional period - the toughest in their long history - having lost veterans such as Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Mark Van Bommel, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta and the just retired Pippo Inzaghi. As if the departure of these legends, often referred to as ‘The Senators’ by the Rossoneri faithful, was not a big blow already, earlier this month, the decision makers decided to sell off their best two assets in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG in a deal that made them richer by a reported €65m, signally tough times for a club, swallowed by the global financial crisis and crippled by the soon to be implemented Financial Fair Play (FFP) rule, that directs every club to cut down their losses to a bare minimum or else face a ban from all European competitions in the future.

But there’s still hope, as Milan can turn to their famed youth academy amidst a financial crisis as big as this, to maybe build the next generation of Rossoneri stars who would carry the red and black flag with pride for years to come.

The youth team, known as AC Milan Primavera, has had a history of producing legends like Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Demetrio Albertini to name a few, all of whom have represented them at the highest level bringing in a cabinet of trophies for the club.

Below we look at some of the youngsters who can hope to make it to the senior squad this season to emulate their heroes and help bring back Milan to the pinnacle of their game once again:

Tottenham
Mattia De Sciglio
Name: Mattia De Sciglio

D.o.B.: 20 October 1992

Nationality: Italian

Position: Defender (LB)

Joined:  2002/2003

Having joined the Primavera squad in the 2002/2003 at the age of 10, Mattia De Sciglio is today considered as one of the brightest prospects in Italian football having represented the national team at the U-19, U-20 and the U-21 levels. Having already made his debut for the senior squad last season, De Sciglio has represented the Rossoneri thrice at the highest level and is expected to step in and take up a major role this campaign.

Strengths:

A classic left back, the young lad has immense pace and a good reading of the game with the ability to play with both feet, making him equally capable of playing on the right as well. He possesses the uncanny ability of passing the ball long and has shown flashes of brilliance in the handful of opportunities he received last season.


Weaknesses:

Although gifted with the gift of good positioning, De Sciglio often gets beaten at times quite easily, as seen in the inconsequential Champions League match against Viktoia Plzen last season, which comes down to his inexperience as he is yet to gain full time experience at the highest level. His sloppiness needs to be worked upon and some first team experience will certainly help him improve as has been the case with young defenders in the past.

Recent performances:

He was given a handful of opportunities last season, having seen game time in as many as five matches with the most recent one being the away game against Chievo back in April. He looked raw at times, but not out of his depth by any means. Occasionally lacked calm on the ball when he could have spotted a team-mate rather than play it into the channel, but it was one of the few negatives. He was also given a start in the match against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League last season.

Where he will fit into the squad:

With Milan facing some sort of a crisis at the back, especially on the left side ever since the departure of Paolo Maldini in 2009, De Sciglio fits in perfectly into the squad. With options such as Luca Antonini, Didac Vila and Djamel Mesbah to compete with, the position is very much up for grabs, and still only 19, he needs to be nurtured carefully by Allegri as he is a complete package, and a homegrown one at that. There have been reports suggesting that Milan are already preparing to offer him an improved contract, as they deem him unsellable and an important part of the team.

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Bryan Cristante
Name: Bryan Cristante

D.o.B.: 3 March 1995

Nationality: Italian

Position: Midfielder

Joined:  2009

Cristante joined the Milan youth squad back in 2009 at a ripe age of 14, and has gone from strength to strength turning into one of the most indispensable squad members of the Primavera. A midfielder, by position, he has represented Italy at the U-16 and U-17 levels and made his debut with the senior squad at Milan last year in the Champions League encounter against Viktoria Plzen coming on as a substitute.

Strengths:

One of the pillars in midfield for the youth squad in Milan, Cristante already possesses a great physique at this age, and is a midfielder who is comfortable both in front of defence as deep lying midfielder or further upfront in the field combining his strength with technical abilities.

Weaknesses:

Still raw as he is only 17, and is yet to make any significant appearance for the senior squad as he saw only 10 minutes of game time after coming on for Robinho at Plzen last December. Already in possession of a great body, Cristante really needs to work on further improving his technical abilities if he has any dreams of representing Milan at the highest level.

Recent performances:

The midfielder replaced Robinho, in the last group stage match of the Champions League against Viktoria Plzen in December last year, becoming the Rossoneri’s youngest ever player to play in Europe’s elite club competition at the age of 16. Played the last 10 minutes of the match where he saw his team give away a two goal lead to settle for a draw against the Czechs, though the two goals conceded had nothing to with him.

Where he will fit into the squad:

Cristante is comfortable in both phases of the game where he combines his physical strength and his technical abilities in the best possible way. He has, in the past, been utilised in front of the defence to build up an attack but is at his best in either channel. Very much like Alberto Aquilani in terms of characteristics, but with a better physique than the former Rossoneri man, he will fit in perfectly well in the three man midfield, Allegri is so fond of.

Tottenham
Simone Andrea Ganz
Name: Simone Andrea Ganz

D.o.B.: 21 September 1993

Nationality: Italian

Position: Center Forward

Joined:  2010

Son of former Inter and AC Milan striker Maurizio Ganz, Simone made his debut for the youth team in September of 2010, and his senior debut in November 2011, coming on for Robinho for the last seven minutes in a Champions League encounter against Belarusian team Bate Borisov. He has also represented Italy at the U-19 level having earned five caps since August 2011.

Strengths:

Announcing his arrival in the youth team with a superb hat-trick against the Udinese Primavera, Ganz is an out and out striker, very much in line with strikers like Milan legend Pippo Inzaghi, who thrives on his ability to be a fox in the box. He scored another hat-trick against Triestina Berretti in the Primavera last season to further enhance his reputation, coming into notice of club manager Massimiliano Allegri who rightfully handed him his senior debut last season in the Champions League of all competitions.

Weaknesses:

Only 18, Ganz needs to work a lot on his positioning if he wants to get anywhere close to the poacher he wants to be for Milan. Definitely needs to work on his reading of the game in order to be at the right place at the right time like a classic poacher so badly needed by the senior squad.

Recent performances:

Apart from regular first team appearances with the Primavera, Ganz made his senior debut with AC Milan on 1st November, 2011 replacing Robinho for the last seven minutes in the stalemate against Bate Borisov in the Champions League last season. Allegri had included him the Champions League squad for the knock out stages over Pippo Inzaghi, where despite getting no match time, he shared the bench with senior players during Milan’s 3-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates stadium back in March this year, an experience considered to be priceless by his father as it would help him adjust to the atmosphere of first team football in the company of those players.

Where he will fit into the squad:

During the time of financial crisis, where Milan have sold off their best striker in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and have seen another one retire in Filippo Inzaghi, Simone Ganz would do well to slot in into the first team this season if given a chance. Obviously at 18, he is just a raw talent but is very much fit to make substitute appearances before mantling on a bigger role for the side in the future. He would definitely thrive well in using the service of creative forwards like Cassano, Robinho and Boateng and don’t be surprised to find his name on the score sheet regularly, provided his development is handled carefully and he is not pushed out of the picture like many a young strikers in the past.

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