They say that hope springs eternal, and never was the opposite more true than at Milan in recent years. It’s like a black hole for hope, a vortex of pain in which our dreams go in, never to be seen again. But there are still tiny glimmers of hope that have yet to be dashed, and they are the young players who have come through our youth sector. Until they are sold or fail to get playing time, they are about the only hope we have, our fountain of youth.
|So much promise, they can't even fit into one picture|
Mattia De Sciglio was promoted from Milan’s Youth Sector to the first team in 2011, the first player to come to the first team directly from the youth teams since Paolo Maldini in 1985. If you’re counting, that is 26 years without bringing talent through… almost the entire time one Silvio Berlusconi has owned the club. Yeah, you know the guy who now suddenly wants a young Italian team? Whatever. But now that the door has been opened, we are starting to see some amazing talent coming through.
|One in a million... or maybe more|
The most obvious is Gianluigi “Gigio” Donnarumma. Mihajlovic was bold enough to start him ahead of seasoned veteran Diego Lopez before his injury stopped him from playing this season. Donnarumma caught people’s attention in the preseason, when he came on vs. Real Madrid and saved a penalty from Toni Kroos. But despite staying calm and collected during that penalty shoot out, I don’t know if many people ever dreamed he would take the first spot from Lopez or Abbiati at the tender age of 16. But he did. And he offered some of the greatest Milan highlights this season with his heroics, too. To look at his stats would be misleading, as he did concede 29 goals in his 32 appearances in all competitions. However if you consider the state of the team and look at previous years’ goals conceded, then you’ll know your eyes did not deceive you, the kid made some incredible saves that kept Milan competitive again and again. Thankfully, Donnarumma also signed a contract extension in March, hopefully keeping him at the club until 2019.
|A poised and speedy right back to watch out for|
Next up would be Davide Calabria. The now 19 year-old actually made his senior debut last season with a substitution by Inzaghi at the end of the year. This year, he appeared in six league matches, half of those substitutions. But perhaps his most memorable performance was his start vs. Juventus in the Coppa Italia final, where he was seen racing up and down the flank so fast it made Pogba dizzy. In his handful of performances, he showed his age a bit at times. But he also showed a lot of heart and some definite skills in addition to that dizzying speed. With his recently signed contract extension through 2019, it is hoped that we will see a lot more of him in the very near future, as well as for some time to come.
Manuel Locatelli is the 18 year-old with the distinction have having been the victim of a Montolivo sub snub in the home game against Juventus, Mihajlovic’ last match in charge. He would eventually get his debut under Brocchi vs. Carpi for a few minutes, then start vs. Roma in the final game of the season. However Mihajlovic, Brocchi, and his youth coaches have all spoken very highly of him. He, Donnarumma, and Cutrone all signed their first professional contracts in March of 2015, which should keep him at the club through 2018. Though we saw very little of him this season, it is hopeful that when the dust settles after this summer of uncertainty, Locatelli will be an integral part of Milan’s midfield going forward.
|Not even Montolivo could stop him from eventually making his debut|
It is truly such a shame that these young players are facing such turbulent times right when they need to be mentored very carefully and given the chance to grow to their full potential. But I like to believe that having come through Milan’s youth sector, they will have the strength and the character to be able to withstand the meltdown from management, focus on their game, and rise from the ashes of this club to be Milan’s next champions. Who knows? Maybe someday they will be known as “Senatori,” and look back on this whole experience with wisdom gained… and hopefully a lot of trophies. Certainly, as nearly the only hope fans have right now, they can be our fountain of youth.
This post inspired by the music of Sonic Youth