Patrick Cutrone, AC Milan's NxGn hitman in the midst of a whirlwind rise

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The 20-year-old managed to make a name for himself during the Rossoneri's struggles last season and even earned a call-up to the Italy national team

AC Milan's wild spending spree during the summer of 2017 didn't bring the results for which those in power at the San Siro had hoped.

Around €180m was spent on 11 new players as the Rossoneri's Chinese owners took a major financial risk to get the club back into the Champions League.

Their lavish spending failed to catapult the seven-time European Cup winners back among the continent's elite, however, with club legend Gennaro Gattuso eventually steering Milan to a Europa League place after Vincenzo Montella was relieved of his duties in November.

Some new recruits gave a good account of themselves - Hakan Çalhanoglu, Ricardo Rodriguez and Franck Kessie all enjoyed encouraging seasons - but the two men charged with firing Milan back to Europe's premier club competition, Andre Silva and Nikola Kalinic, have already been moved on.

The pair's lack of productivity was a source of frustration for many, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise for Patrick Cutrone.

Afforded a few opportunities in the Europa League by Montella, the young forward was given an extended run in the senior Milan side by Gattuso, who gradually made his compatriot his first-choice striker.

Patrick Cutrone Milan Inter

Cutrone repaid the faith with 11 goals and four assists in all competitions under Gattuso - the highlights being his late, late winner against Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia and his wondrous backheel against Roma. His ruthless nature in front of goal evidenced by the meagre amount of chances he had to gobble up; the 20-year-old had just 1.6 shots per game in Serie A

Cutrone's work off the ball and his penetrative runs gave Milan the spearhead they had been crying out for, though his tendency to flitter in and out of matches and his inability to make a real impact when summoned from the substitutes' bench showed that he was still acclimatising to the rigours of first-team football - entirely understandable considering the 2017-18 season was his first as an established member of the senior squad.

Despite the minor growing pains and the turbulent nature of Milan's ultimately respectable season, Crutone did enough to earn a call-up to the Italian national side for their friendlies against Argentina and England in March, a feat he scarcely thought possible at the start of the campaign.

Samsung Patrick Cutrone

"I didn't expect a season like this," Cutrone said a few months ago. "Last year I was in the Milan youth team and I honestly didn't think I'd get to this point, [but] I showed what I could do and I trained hard."

New Italy boss Roberto Mancini was reluctant to call him up to the Azzurri for their upcoming fixtures against Poland and Portugal, insisting that he could not "take him away" from the Under-21 squad, while his place at the spearhead of Milan's attack has been usurped for the time being by Gonzalo Higuain, who joined on a season-long loan from Juventus.

Higuain's presence may inhibit the amount of game-time Cutrone sees this season, but Milan's No.63 has already shown enough to suggest that he won't be playing second-fiddle to anyone before long. 

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