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For many years Milan struggled to identify a viable project worthy of sticking to and productive enough to ensure they were on track to return to their former glory. However, a risky show of faith from the former Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has seen the rise of many youngsters come through the Rossoneri academy.
The Serbian tactician spent just eight months on the Diavolli bench, but by the time he was replaced by Cristian Brocchi, a steady foundation for Ital-Milan had already been paved.
Gianluigi Donnarumma has swiftly become one of the most popular figures in the Italian peninsula of late, as his rise to prominence has seen him smash records with nearly every parry of the ball. At just 17, he has shown maturity and skills most teens his age would kill for, while he has repeatedly been dubbed the heir to Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian national team.
Many thought the Serbian had lost his marbles when he decided to hand the goalkeeper his debut at the age of 16, but with the gamble paying off, it has opened the door for many emerging youngsters, while there was no hesitancy from Vincenzo Montella when it came to putting his trust in Manuel Locatelli.
The deep-lying midfielder has already shown more form and promise compared to what Riccardo Montolivo did before his injury, while Davide Calabria (who made his Serie A debut under Pippo Inzaghi) is another product from the academy. The 19-year-old full-back has already been tipped to take over from Ignazio Abate when he fully recovers from his injury.
Eight weeks into the 2016/17 campaign, Milan’s project was evident. The 3-1 win over Chievo on 16 October may have brought around three points, but what was more noteworthy was how they lined up. With eight Italians in the starting XI and five of those being under the age of 23, Ital-Milan was officially launched, and it is a project that many have closely followed and admired.
Since then, Milan claimed their first victory over Juventus since 2012, and, unsurprisingly, the result was decided by a teenager in Locatelli.
Speaking after the game, he told an Italian television channel: "Another dream has come true for me tonight...When I see my family and friends, I might shed a tear."
The San Siro outfit's excellent run of form has seen them sit among the top four slots on the log for several weeks, leaving them in the highly sought-after position of qualifying for Europe for the first time since the 2013/14 campaign.
All this has been achieved despite being the youngest squad on average in Serie A.
It’s no easy task managing the development of teenagers in the top-flight, especially after years where the club was considered “too big” to waste time producing talent when they could just buy them. But Montella has handled the situation brilliantly, and Milan’s Head of Youth, Filippo Galli, is adamant that there is no secret when it comes to the production of talent.
“We are very happy [with what we have done], but we do not have any secrets,” reveals the club legend. “There is only great organization, and we try to work hard to give the best to our players.
“The players are talented, but what we have to do is to educate them. In Latin, educare means, “to take out”. So, we have to take out their talent. We have to set up the right environment, and then it is up to the players…
“What I want to say is that Donnarumma, Calabria and Locatelli, all have good parents. Their parents stay close to their sons, but they do not push them and they do not create problems for their children.”
After years of trying to find a method that would help revive the club, it seems the Diavoli’s dependence in their youth, coupled with the arrival of players who are seasoned campaigners in Italian football, are the perfect ingredients for a winning formula.
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