To say it’s been a difficult 18 months for Tiemoue Bakayoko would be an understatement.
The 24-year-old’s reputation took a spectacular nose-dive following his ill-fated £40 million move to Chelsea from AS Monaco in the summer of 2017.
Bakayoko was signed by Antonio Conte as a permanent replacement for Nemanja Matic, who was allowed to join rivals Manchester United, following his impressive performances for Monaco during the 2016-17 campaign.
However, the French midfielder endured a disastrous debut campaign at Stamford Bridge and was subsequently farmed out on loan to AC Milan in the summer.
Bakayoko had gone from one of Europe’s most highly-rated young midfielders to a laughing stock within the space of a few months.
A move to the San Siro offered Bakayoko the opportunity to rediscover his form and confidence. He needed to prove that he *was* a top midfielder who deserved to play for one of Europe’s elite clubs.
However, the Frenchman struggled during his first couple of months with the Rossoneri, much to the frustration and disappointment of the Milan fans.
The Italian press were also scathing of Bakayoko’s performances.
“He leaves the impression that the ball is burning when he has it,” wrote one Italian newspaper after a Europa League match against Olympiakos. Another, meanwhile, called him a “disaster”.
Fast-forward a few weeks, though, and things are finally looking up for the much-maligned defensive midfielder.
Milan took on league-leaders Juventus on Sunday evening and, despite the fact his team were beaten 2-0, Bakayoko was praised by his current club’s fans for his performance and general improvement.
He was extremely busy against Juve, winning two tackles, two interceptions and three aerial duels. He also made three take-ons and completed four take-ons.
It was this level of performance that convinced Chelsea to sign him in the first place.
Milan fans are delighted with Bakayoko’s recent improvement…
Some of them are now hoping Milan sign him permanently at the end of his loan spell…
That’s some turnaround. Bakayoko deserves respect for knuckling down, not giving up, and proving his many critics wrong.
He needs to continue producing the goods week-in, week-out, of course, but he appears to be on the right tracks following an extremely difficult period in his career.