By Simone Gambino
AC Milan dropped two late points in their final Group H encounter against Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday night, but there was one reason for optimism to come from the final 10 minutes of their 2-2 Champions League draw in Prague.
Bryan Cristante's 81st-minute introduction in place of Robinho was the latest step on the footballing ladder for a 16-year-old who has made great strides already through the Rossoneri's youth system. In making a late appearance on Tuesday he became one of the youngest players ever to play in the Uefa Champions League.
Cristante was born in San Vito al Tagliamento but raised in San Giovanni di Casarsa, a province of Pordenone, and took his first real steps in Casarsa. He moved on to Liventina Gorghense, a club in the province of Treviso which forms part of Milan’s vast youth structure that has also helped to develop Kingsley Boateng. Cristante was the first player from an amateur club to be called up for the national under-15 youth team.
MIDFIELDER | AC MILAN
In 2009 came the call from the Rossoneri, and in his first year at Milan he won the Scudetto with the Giovanissimi Nazionali, scoring eight goals. The following season he made the step up to the Allievi Nazionali, with whom he won another league championship. Earlier this year, the club’s Primavera coach, Aldo Dolcetti, called him into the highest level of youth team football, where he quickly became one of the pillars in the midfield. Cristante is also currently a member of the Italy U-17 setup.
He is a midfielder who already has great physique for his age (at 186 cm tall and 78 kg in weight), and is excellent in both phases of the game, combining strength and technical qualities. He has also been used just in front of the defence before, but is at his best in either channel. In that respect he is similar to Alberto Aquilani, but he seems to have better physical endurance than the Milan first-teamer.Cristante must obviously become tougher to withstand the impact of the first team arena, but he has impressed Massimiliano Allegri with his technical skills and personality, meaning that the first-team coach is willing to give him the chance to play despite his young age. Off the field, though, he is a very introverted boy, who does not yet seem to be too attracted to the bright lights of the media spotlight.