Milan’s new 17-year-old starlet M’Baye Niang dedicated his debut goal to the fans and revealed his hero is Inter legend Ronaldo.
The French teenager has so far been better known for his off the field antics than performances on it. He was fined for driving without a licence and banned from international duty with France after skipping out on an Under-21 training camp to go partying in Paris.
“I must first of all thank the fans and I dedicate the goal to them,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport after scoring in a 3-0 Coppa Italia victory over Reggina.
“The supporters encouraged me even before I stepped on to the field. As for my teammates, I was really struck by the mass hug I received. They were happy for me and you could tell.
“Last Saturday President Silvio Berlusconi took me to one side and encouraged me, saying the club really believed in me. It really made an impact.
“Milan have always shown great faith in my potential. I was honoured when Adriano Galliani came to pick me up in France with a private plane. I will repay them with action. I’ve been working to learn as much as possible, though the last four months have felt more like 18.”
Niang turns 18 next Wednesday and has a special request. “I’d love to score a goal against Pescara, assuming I play. In truth I’ll celebrate by going back to Paris for Christmas. My father visits often, but I want to be around my family again.”
Perhaps due to his early development and chaotic off the field lifestyle, Niang has been compared to Mario Balotelli.
“It is pleasing to be compared to Balotelli, as he is a great striker, but we’ve never met. My idol is Ronaldo, as I fell in love with football during the years he was at Inter. He is the ideal forward in terms of technique, power and speed.”