This summer, AC Milan spent over €200 million on a whole scale squad revamp, effectively buying an entirely new starting XI in the process as they look to return to competing for major honours. Big names have arrived and big fees have been spent; despite this, it is one of their own academy graduates who has been grabbing the headlines since the new Serie A season kicked off.
With four goals from six games already this term, Patrick Cutrone has been the name on everybody in Milan’s lips. His early season form, if sustainable, will make him hard for Vincenzo Montella to overlook as his primary striker after the international break and as the season progresses.
Andre Silva was one of the early summer arrivals at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, signing from Porto for €38 million. Nikola Kalinic arrived later from Fiorentina, while big-name forwards were also sought after. Alvaro Morata was pursued, Andrea Belotti was targeted, even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Diego Costa were considered, and all the while Cutrone was nearing a loan move to Crotone.
While Cutrone at Crotone would have made for some pleasing headlines and memorable moments of commentary, that he has stayed at the San Siro could turn out to be the best scenario for both the player and his club.
The rise of the 19-year-old has come as a massive surprise for those on the outside, but the way he has taken Serie A by storm so far is nothing more than was expected by his Rossoneri teammates.
“Cutrone is a surprise for you buy from my first day I’ve seen the movements and hunger of a great striker,” said Leonardo Bonucci after the forward’s latest goal in a 2-1 win over Cagliari.
“To me, Cutrone seems a very similar player to Belotti in the movements he makes and how he is able to read the game.
“He is a good guy and he listens to the advice of the older players. I think we are seeing the beginning of a potentially great bomber.”
While, after only a handful of first team appearances, the comparisons with Il Gallo might be premature, but Cutrone has certainly shown similar attributes.
His movement off the ball is that of a seasoned poacher, and he is drawn to space like a shark to blood. With Cutrone around, defenders cannot rest; they always have to keep an eye on his whereabouts.
Working under Montella at Milan will no doubt be a help for the developing talent, with L’Aeroplanino himself a prolific Serie A striker in his playing days, and Cutrone is aware of role his coach can play.
“Montella has taught me a lot,” he said while on international duty with Italy’s Under-21s. “He gives me a lot of tips about how to move as a striker and he tells me how to position myself in the box.”
The Como native, when questioned about Italy’s U-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio comparing him with Belotti, shyly displayed his humility but, perhaps more interestingly, revealed that he tries to style himself as a different kind of forward to the Torino marksman.
“For me it is an honour [to be compared with Belotti],” report La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Il Gallo is one of Italy’s strongest strikers. He is a complete forward and he plays for the team and he does have characteristics that I see in myself.
“I have always been inspired by [Alvaro] Morata. He is a player who I always followed closely when he was at Juve and is one of the best strikers in Europe.”
While the 19-year-old has some way to go before commanding the €100 million release clause set on the head of Belotti or attracting an offer of €65m from the Premier League champions as Morata did, but it is still early and he has started well.
With Morata as the blueprint and Belotti as well, Cutrone’s future looks to be bright. He wears 63 on his back now, but it won’t be long before those two digits combine and AC Milan may not need to splash out on another No.9 for some time.