As Andre Silva wheeled away in celebration after completing his debut hat-trick against Rayo Vallecano, many in Portugal, Spain and especially Italy, scratched their heads. The Portuguese forward had started his La Liga campaign by showing that he could fulfil the promise in him, but why could he not do this for the Rossoneri?
Why did a player with such obvious talent fail to make a mark in Serie A? This leads to the question of whether the Milanese moved him on to quickly, or was this union simply never going to work?
When Andre Silva scored three times on his debut for Sevilla, he must have thought he was dreaming. He had already surpassed his two-goal total in Serie A last term and already it looked like the Spanish club had a bargain. On loan from the Rossoneri, the 22-year-old has admittedly not played as well since against Villarreal or Real Betis, but he still is playing with confidence and will be fired up when Portugal host Italy in the Nations League this evening.
Silva arrived in Milan from Porto after netting 20 goals in 38 games over the 2016-17 season (in the league and Champions League) and was tipped as one of Europe’s bright young things. This was his first season and it was no surprise that Milan snapped him up. In contrast, when he left Milan for Spain in the summer, he looked back on a paltry two league goals in 24 games, but had a better Europe League record, netting six times in eight starts.
Silva is still very young, but as Milan spent huge amounts of money and tried to integrate a whole new team, he was still expected to lead the line. That’s a big ask for such a young man and the entire situation seemed to swallow him up.
Under Vincenzo Montella he was in and out of the team as the Milan mister struggled to find his best line up and that surely gave him no chance of consistent game time. This continued under Gennaro Gattuso, who also had him on and off the bench, and just seven starts in 17 league games tells the story. It was simply too much, too soon and he did not have time to adjust. Even so, that did not shield him from criticism from his new Coach.
After the Europa League defeat to Croatian minnows Rijeka, Gattuso fumed that the Milan shirt wasn’t given respect and singled out Silva. “We all know his value. For Portugal he always scores, but when he plays for Milan he must do more. He fought yes, but he looked like a foreign body. When you wear your Milan shirt, you have to respect it.” Perhaps Rino was seeing a lack of effort overall or a poor attitude but it did seem like a contradiction, as he admitted that Silva both fought and scored for his country, so what was wrong?
Silva certainly has all the ability to be one of Europe’s top strikers, but this doesn’t mean he can adapt to Serie A. Relationships on and off the field, pressure, style of play, better defenders and more technical and tactical opposition have put paid to many who come to ply their trade in Italy. Let’s be clear, the defending isn’t as good as when Dennis Bergkamp failed at Inter, but for a young boy in his second full season to be asked to lead Milan’s rebirth, you can see why this ended as it did.
Milan didn’t have the luxury of giving him time, as they needed to reach the Champions League and Nikola Kalinic’s failure perhaps scuppered Milan’s plan of taking some pressure off him. It looked bad when at one point in the season even Benevento’s goalkeeper had netted more than him (and against Milan).
There is still time for the young striker to be a success in Serie A. If he can have a good season in Spain, it will give him the confidence that he can cut it at the elite level and if he returns to Milan, Gonzalo Higuain will be potentially still shouldering the burden. There is little argument about whether he is good enough, it is more to do with how he is integrated and of course, perhaps a bit of luck wouldn’t go a miss. The Rossoneri have come on great strides again so far this summer and just maybe the Milan he comes back to will feel more like home.