Tiemoue Bakayoko’s form and reputation could not have sunk much lower during the opening months of the campaign.
The French midfielder had been unceremoniously dumped by Chelsea after just one season, following his ill-fated £40 million move from AS Monaco, and was struggling to make an impact at AC Milan.
Milan signed Bakayoko on a season-long loan for a fee of €5 million, with an option to make the move permanent for €35 million. However, there appeared to be very little chance of the Rossoneri making the deal permanent back in October, following a hugely disappointing start to his loan spell.
Bakayoko looked out of his depth at the San Siro and was even branded a “disaster” by Gazzetta dello Sport after a Europa League match against Olympiakos.
Cast aside by Chelsea and struggling badly at Milan, Bakayoko must have wondered what on earth was happening to his once-promising career.
However, to his immense credit, the France international has knuckled down since then and has shown everybody exactly why Chelsea - and then Milan - signed him in the first place.
Per WhoScored.com, Bakayoko was Milan’s star performer in five of his previous 11 appearances prior to Tuesday night’s Coppa Italia clash against Napoli.
And he continued his excellent run of form against the Partenopei with a stunning individual display from the heart of the Rossoneri midfield.
Milan’s new signing Krzysztof Piatek took the headlines after scoring a first-half brace on his debut, but Bakayoko was the game’s standout performer.
A video of the 24-year-old’s individual highlights from the match and it sums up his remarkable recent improvement.
Watch it here…
Tackling, inceptions, winning free-kicks, successful passes, driving runs - what a performance,
This was a complete midfield performance. The only thing missing was a goal or an assist.
Milan fans on social media were calling him ‘world class’ after his latest performance and the vast majority of them now hope a permanent deal will go through in the summer.
Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso was also very complimentary about the Frenchman in his post-match press conference, describing him as a ‘very important player for us’.
“I think he's an atypical deep-lying midfielder in modern football,” Gattuso told Rai Sport, per the Daily Mail.
“He can turn the moves from defensive to attacking, he takes men on and always gets past them.
“He has learned so much about transitions, as at the start he got it wrong most of the time, but today he can do diagonal runs and close off the passing channels.”