Mario Balotelli’s debut for AC Milan this weekend could hardly have gone any better.
The controversial Italian marked his first match for his boyhood club with two goals as they triumphed over Udinese.
The assist for his first goal came from talented youngster Stephan El Shaarawy and the third part of Milan’s attacking trio, M’baye Niang was very impressive.
The three linked up well together and last weekend’s match could have been the start of a special era for the Rossoneri.
Balotelli’s introduction to this Milan team clearly had a major impact on the team’s performance and work rate. There was a noticeable change in performance from both the team and the crowd. The San Siro was rocking at his every touch but his arrival is perhaps more important than people realise.
His link-up play and mobility is far superior to that of the man he replaced in the starting line-up, Giampaolo Pazzini and his creative spark will certainly reduce the weight of expectation placed on El Shaarawy.
The young Italian, so often the creative hub for Milan this season, will be pleased to see his role reduced a little whilst being allowed to keep his favoured left wing position.
The hype surrounding his progress this season has been immense and whilst he has largely lived up to his promise there is still a long way to go in his Milan career.
Niang has enjoyed a similar spell - a huge amount of expectation with a decent season so far. In fact, the Udinese match was one of the Frenchmen’s more impressive performances this season and both seemed to revel playing alongside Balotelli.
Having lost talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato in recent times, AC Milan were short on firepower up front. Antonio Cassano and the aforementioned Pazzini were involved in a swap deal with arch rivals Inter and Robinho is being constantly linked with a move away from the club. Is it now time for these three talented youngsters to take charge of Milan’s future?
All three seem to work well together in an attacking trio and their youth, combined with the experience in the rest of the Milan line-up, presents a potentially lethal combination.
Losing Ibrahimovic to big spending PSG was seen by many as a potential catalyst for Milan to decline and spiral out of control. The influential Swede was the key component of the Rossoneri side throughout his stay in Italy, and his departure sparked mass outburst amongst the Milan faithful. Milan chiefs have already expressed on more than one occasion that the days of high wages and the old guard are over.
This is a new period of transition for Milan of youth and energy and players like El Shaarawy and Niang are at the forefront of this. So, it would seem, is Balotelli.
It's easy to forget that the striker is only 22-years-old, and yet he is still the oldest of this highly talented trio that Milan now possess.
The average age of these three is just 20 and they all have the best years of their careers ahead of them. It is frightening to think how good these players could be in five or six years time.
Perhaps they can bring back the glory days, and maybe they'll be at the forefront of an all-conquering Milan, the likes of which have not been seen in Europe for some time.
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