Now, football is certainly not like wine, here, players don’t really get better with age (barring few exceptional talents). It took few years coupled with shortage of funds but finally the Italian premier has come to his senses and has realized the importance of young blood in football.
So finally after two torturous domestic seasons, Mr. Berlusconi who seems to have been highly inspired by his love for youth off field; has decided to implement the same on the field as well. Now before all of you set your tongues wagging and your eye balls rolling let me clarify that we are not talking about his rumored escapades with girls half his age. Here we intend to focus on the preferences given by the Milan management to their Primavera squad over expensive outside players in order to add some young blood to their senior team during this pre season’s transfer window.
For twenty years (1985-2005) the Rossoneri were known as the flamboyant club in the transfer market. But since past few years the very same club under the same management has been acting miserly to say the least. The fact that Allegri, their new manager, has not been given a free hand when it comes to transfer market is a fact known to all. Now, their decision to graduate their players from youth sector was a forced one due to lack of funds but it has certainly been a blessing in disguise after going through the performances of their young colts in the pre-season matches. Although Milan managed to win just one out of the six pre-season matches, the talent displayed by their youth players was promising for the eyes of any Milanista.
Milan Lifting 2010 Coppa Italia Primavera
Rodney Strasser, Nnamdi Oduamadi, Mitja Novinic, Alexander Merkel and Simone Verdi have all been tried by Allegri in the build up to the season and most of them have acted like a breath of fresh air for the ageing Milan squad. Unfortunately, not all of them will make the cut this time around but they have shown it to their management that they certainly possess the pedigree required to challenge their senior team-mates for a place in the main squad in the coming years.
Here, we briefly look at some of these young prodigies who if given a chance could prove to be more than a handful and could most certainly help Il Diavolo to reclaim its lost stature in Italian as well as European football.
Rodney Strasser: Strasser, along with Oduamadi and Zigoni were a part of the Sokratis deal with Genoa. Milan gave away half of the rights of each of these players to Genoa but kept both Strasser and Oduamadi with them for the season. He plays as a midfielder and is one hell of a hard tackler. He often gets himself into really good positions during the game and is tipped by many to be the guy to look out for this season. Likely to start on bench, he is expected to be a back up for Gattuso but taking into consideration the last season’s performance of Rino, don’t be surprised if this youngster makes it to the starting eleven in the first half of the season itself. This African has a range from CM to DMF and has already been compared with the likes of Seedorf and Gattuso. He is a little reckless with his challenges though; so expect a busy referee in the matches when this guy steps on the field.
Strasser (extreame left), will he be the next Gattuso?
Nnamdi Oduamadi: He has been officially named in the senior team by Allegri as a back up for Pato for the season beginning this weekend. The Nigerian striker is co-owned by Milan and I Rossoblu, but would be staying at San Siro for this year. He was very effective in the game against Varese and was the lone shinning star in the defeat to the Serie B club. He plays as a striker but can play on the right wing as well and has the knack of providing fantastic assists while playing on the flanks. This kid seems to have good characteristics and could very well be a promising talent for the Rossoneri in the future. He has good speed and pace on the ball but needs to hone his ball controlling skills.
There and thereabouts
Alexander Merkel: Post South Africa, German youngsters have been the talk of the town and this German teenager although not a part of their national team yet; has certainly not let us down. Probably there is something in the water of Deutschland that make them tick like the way they do. This 18 year old has been highly praised for his performances against Lyon and Arsenal in the recently concluded Emirates Cup. Although he was a little too advanced for a trequartista, he looked like an intelligent player with fabulous ball control with both his feet. His speed has added a new dimension to the weak creative department of the Lombardy club. He needs to work on his physique a bit more but his work ethic has been quite exceptional. Allegri surely has been encouraged by what he saw in this youngster and have asked Ronaldinho to be his mentor as Merkel was seen training with the pony tailed Brazilian in all their practice sessions. He has not been named in the Milan squad for the current season but there are strong chances of him being featured in Coppa Italia or even in the senior team if there are any injury concerns.
Drago from Rocky-IV or Merkel?
Simone Verdi: He is arguably the most talked about and talented striker from Milan’s youth sector in recent times. The fact that he was promoted straight to Primavera from Allievi Nazionali and was made to skip Berretti (Under-20) speaks volumes about the skills he possesses in his repertoire. He too like Merkel was highly impressive during the Emirates Cup and often outplayed his senior teammate Marco Borriello. A knee injury suffered against Lyon kept him out of action for the remaining of the pre-season. There is a cloud over which Milan team he will be playing for in 2010-11 as he has neither been named in the senior squad nor in the Primavera squad. With great ball control, gazelle like speed and precise final touch, Verdi could be the answer to the 2nd striker problem which the red and blacks have been facing for quite some time now.
Still some time left to make the cut
Mitja Novinic: He is one of the most promising midfielders from Slovenia and a part of their under-19 national team. He was brought from Nafta Lendava, a Slovenian first division club in 2007. He has shown some decent creativity at the center of the park but his physique proves to be a big hindrance for him. Novinic was mostly used as a substitute in the friendlies and will be a part of the youth team for the upcoming season.
Marco Ezio Fossati: He is one of the three Inter Milan youth players who has been outrightly purchased by Milan during this transfer window and will be a part of the Primavera setup. He was featured in the UEFA’s list of top 10 youngsters to watch out for after last year’s U-17 world cup. His idol is Andrea Pirlo and if some Inter fans are to be believed he is considered a replica of the legendary dead ball specialist. His sale to Milan has not gone down well at all with their rivals as he is considered Italy’s most prolific young midfielder. He has been a life long Milan fan and was a part of the Rossoneri youth setup till he was 15 and then left for Inter when we were European Champions. And, now after Inter won a treble he signs back with the Rossoneri, he is an enigma already.
With funding issues surrounding the seven time European champions, this year was tipped to be the one when focus will be laid on graduating the Primavera kids with 10 million Euros kept exclusively for them. These kids have certainly lived up to the promise by giving Milan hope and have rejuvenated the squad. At the same time they have brought down the average age of the senior squad. But with all these pros they are bound to bring in loads of inexperience clubbed with a number of mistakes, but then again that is part and parcel of the youth and they are surely expected to improve with time.