Who could have predicted Vincenzo Montella’s decision to reverse sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli’s intentions to loan Patrick Cutrone to Crotone may go down as the single most important action this season for Milan? Few, if any at all.
The current Sevilla Coach, who was sacked as Milan manager after winning just six of 14 league matches, was heavily criticised for his inability to solidify a winning identity and earn the necessary results to qualify for a UEFA Champions League spot. But, for all the wrong he did while boasting a €200m valued squad, Montella deserves some credit for making Cutrone part of his plans for the 2017-18 Serie A season, where the striker is proving to be the worth the hype.
The 20-year-old Italian entered the season as third choice behind Nikola Kalinic and Andre Silva, two strikers the club splashed nearly €70m on last summer. However, throughout the Europa League play-offs and the first set of Serie A fixtures, Cutrone showed something truly special that often leads to goals, but sometimes cannot be quantified: the urge and will to leave his mark.
As Kalinic and Silva both show tremendous peaks and valleys in form, Cutrone has largely remained Milan’s most consistent and effective forward – under both Montella and now Gennaro Gattuso.
To date, the Como-born attacker leads the club in scoring throughout all competitions with 13 goals in 31 appearances.
But beyond his goal-scoring form, Cutrone has shown an uncharacteristic level of maturity and motivation to be a key man at San Siro in just his first full season. We can hone in on black and white statistics all we want with the U-21 talent, but the fact remains Milan are a completely different team in all facets of the game when Cutrone is on the pitch.
Look towards his match-winning efforts against Inter in the stunning Coppa-Italia derby victory, or the ability shown to instantly strike versus Lazio to swing momentum. When you combine his hunger for goal, contagious footballing personality and full embracing of the red and black shirt resting on his young shoulders, it’s easy to see why he is such an adored figure around Italian football.
Cutrone has the “it-factor” about him you just do not see very often in a 20-year old playing a major role in an important season for his boyhood club.
Entering this weekend, Milan prepare for a difficult test away at the Stadio Olimpico against Roma. Currently, the Champions League hopefuls are flying high under their fearless leader Gattuso, riding an 11-match unbeaten streak in all competitions. During this period, Cutrone has taken over sole possession of the starting role and has added five goals and an assist.
After a crucial win last weekend against Sampdoria, the Rossoneri get ready for arguably their most important stretch with Roma and Inter in the league, along with Lazio and Arsenal in the Coppa Italia and Europa League.
Based on current form, there is no denying Gattuso will keep his men grounded, yet determined to chase victories in each of these ties. If Milan are to get through this string of battles feeling good about their standing in the table to qualify for a top four finish, they will need their star striker Cutrone to do some heavy lifting and prove what most believe to be true already: that he is in fact the real deal.