Asked to Replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Giampaolo Pazzini Shines for AC Milan

Tim Fontenault@Tim_FontenaultCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2012

Pazzini was brilliant for Milan on Saturday, picking up his first three goals in a 3-1 win over Bologna.
Pazzini was brilliant for Milan on Saturday, picking up his first three goals in a 3-1 win over Bologna.Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images

When Giampaolo Pazzini moved from Inter Milan to AC Milan on Aug. 22 in exchange for €7 million and Antonio Cassano, the reaction by Milan critics and fans alike was one of skepticism.

Pazzini was the only true striker brought in this summer, a summer which saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic sold by Milan to Paris Saint-Germain. Milan fans were angry as they were promised a champion to replace their star. The only trophy Pazzini has ever won was Coppa Italia in 2011 with Inter, after joining the club only that winter.

The 28-year-old struggled at Inter, finding it hard to find consistency when playing as the second target because of the presence of Diego Milito. Pazzini had 19 goals in 59 career matches for Inter in a year and a half with the club. Eight of those goals came in 2011-12. Of those eight, five were in Serie A.

It has been a bumpy road for Pazzini, but on Saturday, he made it clear that he is looking to make the most of his newest opportunity with Milan.

With Pato and Robinho both injured, the responsibility of scoring goals has fallen heavily on Pazzini. Milan failed to score in a 1-0 opening-round loss to Sampdoria last Sunday, but they turned things around on Saturday by beating Bologna 3-1, thanks to a hat trick from Pazzini.

After getting pulled down in the box, the Italian converted from the penalty spot in the 16th minute to give Milan the lead. Bologna's Alessandro Diamanti leveled the match from the spot just before halftime, but Milan would get two in the second half thanks to Pazzini being in the right place at the right time.

In the 77th minute, after Federico Agliardi dropped an easy ball in the box, Pazzini, who was right next to Agliardi, tapped the ball in to give Milan the lead and its first open play goal of the season. Eight minutes later, Pazzini brilliantly redirected an Antonio Nocerino strike back towards goal and past the diving Agliardi to give Milan a 3-1 lead.

Pazzini may have had a bit of luck, but he still performed very well in his second match for the Rossoneri. He's no Ibrahimovic, but let's face it, nobody is Ibrahimovic. Milan needed money, which is why they sold Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, and we knew they couldn't replace them with players of their caliber.

Pazzini, at 28, still has a few strong years in him during which we can see some excellent football. I'm not saying he will ever score 28 goals in a Serie A season, but he will be a difference maker for AC Milan.