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Mattia De Sciglio: Heart of a Lion


The fairy tale for this little girl was one of many knights of valor, winning trophy after trophy. But knights get old, and they have to move on. Sometimes, all at once. It was hard to imagine that anyone could fill the shoes of our Senatori, in talent or class. But one brave knight has captured my heart and filled me with hope that the knights of old will live on in him. Of course, I speak of Mattia De Sciglio. At just 20 years old, he displays the talent of a champion, the wisdom of a leader, and the heart of a lion.

A Knight in Shining Armor
So much has been written about such a young player, it’s hard to say something that hasn’t already been said. But if you didn’t know, he grew up playing his football at the recreation center of a parish in Milano, like so many young players have done (and some very famous ones, too.) He did play for a local amateur team called Cimiano for a year. But he was offered a place in Milan’s youth system at the age of ten, and spent the next nine years wearing the red and black jersey representing the Milan youth teams.

Being Milano born and bred, then growing up in Milan’s youth teams, it would seem only fitting that he would go straight to the first team. But no other player had done this without first going out on loan for a spell since… Paolo Maldini. Whether that speaks more of De Sciglio or less of Milan’s youth system in those years in between, it is hard to say. But one thing is for certain, while many make the early and presumptuous comparison to the legendary Maldini, I don’t know anyone who doubts that De Sciglio belongs in the first team.

Worth all of the hype

De Sciglio’s ability to play on either the right or the left, or even at center back or midfield in a pinch gives him a big advantage. But unlike other players who possess such abilities, he seems to improve no matter where he plays. This week, Galliani said, “"De Sciglio is a player that can use both feet, just like Paolo Maldini. In my opinion, he plays better on the left." Of course, in the same interview, Galliani reminded me of shades of Allegri and Pato by saying “If De Sciglio manages to bulk up a bit and get some muscles, then he will be like Paolo Maldini." I say let’s let the kid grow and stop making him be someone else, because he’s plenty of awesome the way he is. The funny thing is that De Sciglio reportedly had a trial at Inter when he was ten, and they rejected him because he was too scrawny. Just like the more talented Baresi brother before him. It’s clear Inter have a way of thinking that size matters, but that’s okay, more talent for us.

Former Milan player Alberigo Evani is a former coach of De Sciglio, and he had some very glowing things to say about the youngster last year, not the least of which was “He is already mature and has a great ability to learn and work very hard. I predict a great future for him.” And already, his future seems pretty great. I try not to get too excited about promising young players because many are stars that shine brightly and fade too soon. But if I could predict De Sciglio’s future, I would bet on it being a long and bright one.

Kakà acts as if he's seen a ghost, but it's not the past, it's the present

He made his debut with the first team in a Champions League match as a sub just before his 19th birthday. By that time, he had also been part of the U20 team that won the Coppa Italia Primavera, only the 2nd time Milan’s youth had won this title. And now he was playing alongside Nesta and Silva. In the Champions League. Even if for only a few minutes. And the rest is history. Only a year later, he was a starter, wearing the no. 2 jersey that, as he noted, important players such as Tassotti and Cafu have worn before him. He is a player that Allegri has been able to rely on, and one of the most exciting players to watch on this refurbished Milan team, too.

It wasn’t only Milan’s first team, though. He made appearances for Italy’s national teams at the U-19, U-20, and U-21 levels. He was also called up to Italy’s senior side last August, even if he wasn’t capped. However, he has been called up again for this International break, and with his current form and Italy’s shortage of talented fullbacks, he could debut for the National Team as early as this week.

From U21 to the senior team, all by 19 years old

After Maldini and Nesta left, I feared I might never use the word “elegant” to describe a Milan defender again. Yet here I am, finding no other word to better describe the young fullback’s fluid style and graceful tackles. He is incredibly strong, surprisingly so, if you base it on appearance, and amazingly cool and calm under pressure. His crosses are exquisite to watch, and he seems to be able to adapt to whomever he is playing with, which is good, considering so many lineup changes this season.

But the thing that amazes me the most is the poise and maturity he possesses both on and off the pitch. After a big win, he is the first to remind everyone to stay grounded and focus on the next task at hand. Whether he is facing another young, inexperienced player, or a great, experienced champion, it makes no difference. He takes everything in stride, always works hard, and always has a smile. Appears on La Domenica Sportiva with Galliani? No big deal. Meeting with fans at a Milan store? No big deal.

Asamoah thought De Sciglio was some punk kid, but he got schooled hard

Recently Costacurta, who played with Maldini, suggested that De Sciglio might even be better than the Legend. All of this speculation and comparison is just talk. But De Sciglio is the real deal. Like a knight in shining armor, he is valiant and true, and always ready for battle. And for rescuing this damsel in distress from some of our previous, less worthy fullback options, I am grateful for his heroics. I can’t say what his future will hold, but he is pretty darned awesome now. And best of all, he has the heart of a lion.



This post inspired by the music of Miles Davis, including “When I Fall in Love” and “Someday My Prince Will Come"