Developing Young Players


After surviving Galliani’s Retirement Club™, Milan fans have cried for talented young players at Milan. When De Sciglio was named in the first team in 2011-12, it was the first time a Milan youth player had come to the senior team straight from the youth sector since Paolo Maldini in 1985, a full 26 years in between. What a complete and utter failing of our youth sector. Although many efforts have been made since then to develop young players at Milan, they have largely failed. It could be said that Milan just really doesn’t understand the concept of developing young players.

Third generation Milan... will his development be supported?

During the era of trophies, Galliani completely lost sight of the youth sector, with any young talent that was there being loaned out or sold for profit. And most of those were loans. One of the biggest oversights on his part was when he sold Aubameyang to St. Etienne for less than €2 million, when the player was worth more than double that at the time. St. Etienne then turned around and sold him a little over a year later to Dortmund for €14 million. Galliani just had no vision when it came to young talent, and he refused to rely on those at the club who did.

Another notable miss when it came to youth players was Galliani rushing to buy Mastour, the fruit juggling and freestyle specialist, at the age of 14. Despite being promoted to Milan’s first team by Seedorf in 2014, he never made an appearance for Milan, and now features for Serie C side Reggiana. It wasn’t just that Galliani lost sight, actually, he was simply incompetent when it came to youth development, and pushed out as many people from the club who were competent until he was in charge of everything. Not surprising that Maldini reminded him in 2007 that the team had not renewed, or that Maldini was the one to point out the autocracy Galliani had created for himself at Milan. Even just freezing Maldini out of the club for so many years was an error that cost the club his unique vision and competency. Milan and any kind of youth project were all downhill from there.

De Sciglio winning best left back for a right back was Galliani's biggest youth victory

When De Sciglio was promoted, there was excitement amongst Milan fans. However, even amongst young players who were purchased, the development just wasn’t there. Pato became notorious for injuries after Milan's manager told him to bulk up, which he did by doing double training sessions. Sometimes injuries are caused by such extreme muscle mass changes in such little time, particularly for young players. Being aware of all areas of the player’s development is part of properly developing young players, and Milan should have never allowed this to happen.

There were also promising Milan talents who came through, like Merkel, Strasser, Albertazzi, Rodrigo Ely, and even a second generation Milan player, Simone Andrea Ganz. They were maybe never going to make it in the first team, but without proper youth development, how would anyone know? Then there were fan favorites, such as Petagna, Paloschi, Cristante, Saponara, Locatelli, and Cutrone, whose careers seemed to be interrupted or stunted by their time in the first team, perhaps they may still come good at their respective clubs? Maybe. Cristante, for example, chose to leave in search of first team action, someone should have set him straight. After bouncing around from Portugal and clubs like Palermo, he is now at Roma and holding his own. Imagine if he would have been able to stay at Milan and develop at one team. Where would his career be now? How lucky could Milan be to have such a player?

Cristante, Mastour, and Benedicic... who?

Purchases of talented young players who have come through Milan included Niang from Caen, José Mauri from Parma, Caldara from Juventus, Andre Silva from Porto, and Piatek from Genoa. All showed so much promise, yet with the ownership and managerial changes at Milan, it seemed like they got booted out almost before being given a proper chance. Paquetá is still in our squad, but for how long? He is a player who needs consistency and guidance, there is so much raw talent there. Even a talent like Leao could suffer the same fate.

Other Milan youth talents who seem to be paying off include Gigio Donnaruma, Calabria, and even the on-loan keeper Plizzari. Then there is Conti, purchased from Atalanta. Yet one cannot stop and think how much their development has been hindered by the many ownership and managerial changes at Milan. Perhaps they will succeed in spite of all odds, or maybe, especially in the cases of Calabria and Conti, Milan will just give up on them and loan or sell them off. Will someone like Daniel Maldini, third generation Milan player, will be burned because of the changes at the club alone?

Locatelli Fake Quote: "I know they're just going to sell me to a midtable club"

The trouble with developing young players is that consistency is the single most important factor. This is key for their growing and developing mentality. If their mentality is stunted in any way, it can break their career. As they are developing they need the best in physical training and medical care to oversee their still growing bodies. They need a manager who is clear and understands the importance of properly developing young players. They need older, more experienced players to be an example and give them advice, maybe sometimes even life advice. As much as young players work for a team, they desperately need a team that works for them.

Consistency had been Milan’s biggest problem for so long. Despite the fact that some of the managers and even management who have come in were better at player development, their careers at Milan were cut short by changes in ownership, and whatever project Milan had toward youth was restarted by the next person. For example, now, Milan have brought in some exciting young talent. But, despite doing well with young players at Sampdoria, Giampaolo almost singlehandedly finished destroying the mentality of the entire squad. This after the offensive mentality had taken a serious beating from Montella and Gattuso. Just a parade of failures for young players.

Destroy their mentality, then send them packing

It’s no wonder that a player like Piatek, who literally could not stop scoring when he came in in January 2019, just stopped scoring at Milan. And he hasn’t been able to start it back up at Hertha Berlin, either. That mentality he had may have been beaten out of him by defensive or confusing tactics alone. Being at Milan and having gone through those changes at that time in his development could have single-handedly influenced his entire career.

With young players, there is always a risk. Someone who wowed as a youth player may grow into their body and just not be able to do the same things at a senior level. We saw in Italy, around 2011, two exciting young players in Destro and Borini, marked to be the next great scoring duo for the National Team, just never became what people saw in them as younger players. Whether that was down to poor player development or switching teams, or just that they didn’t have “it,” it is always difficult to know. But Milan fans later saw firsthand what they did not become, as they both did stints at the club, how ironic.

Ganz was 2nd generation Milan, El Shaarawy should have been given more time

Now the focus is on possibly bringing in Ralf Rangnick, a specialist in scouting and development of young players in Germany, where there has been consistency and support at the clubs he has worked. The idea of throwing out Milan’s current system that has the balance of experience and youth that is finally beginning to work is crazy enough. Especially if it costs a club legend who knew what Milan needed as a player and has done everything right, save Giampaolo of course, and ends two years of the most consistency these players have had. Yes, even with coaching changes.

So you start another Year Zero, saying that Milan is committed to this project, with a project manager who is completely untested in Serie A. Then Elliott sell the club, rendering that project fruitless, too. Because youth development takes time and commitment. Neither of those things are things that Milan has been able to offer. Until Elliott sells the club to someone who is serious about long-term ownership and development, any project looks to be disrupted by the constant changes at the club.

Developing youth is so much more than riding a bike. It's time Milan stuck with what is working.

If Milan want to be taken seriously about developing young players, they need to stop the merry-go-round at the top first. Why bother starting all over again when you know that change is on the horizon? Maybe, just maybe, they should stick with what is already working, salvage the plan that is in place, and try to build some consistency from within. Then, when Elliott drop the hammer and whatever big changes come to the club, these young players have a fighting chance at continuing to develop properly.


This post inspired by the music of Nitzer Ebb’s “Murderous”

Developing Young Players Developing Young Players Reviewed by Elaine on 5:19 AM Rating: 5
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