The only respite for AC Milan supporters throughout this tumultuous period is Stephan El Shaarawy becoming a star and the undeniable potential of Mattia De Sciglio.
Will De Sciglio be as great as club legend Paolo Maldini? Or is the 20-year-old an early bloomer like Davide Santon was for Inter Milan? Will he fall way short of the hype that surrounds him, too?
This article will tell you why the Rossoneri are so upbeat about Mattia.
Felipe Mattioni and Taye Taiwo were unworthy holders of the No. 2 shirt, the number Mauro Tassotti wore with distinction during an era when AC Milan reigned supreme.
When Cafu arrived at the club, he was good enough to don the No. 2 shirt, considering he was a crucial part of the legendary Telê Santana-led São Paulo side. Cafu was a squad member of the 1994 FIFA World Cup winning team. Eight years later, he captained Brazil's victorious 2002 World Cup campaign. Not to mention, he had built up a reputation as II Pendolino in Italy, having won Serie A with Roma.
Taiwo's No. 2 shirt was rightly assigned to the promising Mattia De Sciglio, who has exceeded expectations this season.
Tassotti, who is currently the assistant manager at Milan, sees himself in De Sciglio (via Meytar Zeevi at Rossoneri Blog): "Obviously, I keep an extra eye on Mattia De Sciglio as he plays the same role as I used to play. He has a bit of my characteristics: a mix of athleticism and technique—and also the same stamina."
Mauro, whose name is interlinked with Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini, also made this stunning admission (via Paolo Menicucci at UEFA.com): "He [De Sciglio] is stronger than I was at his age. He has amazed us since his first training sessions with the first team."
Alberigo Evani, Milan's 1989 Intercontinental Cup hero, spoke highly of De Sciglio's football intellect and versatility (TuttoMercatoWeb via MilanNews.it).
Ignazio Abate, who could permanently lose his starting role to Mattia, told Milan Channel (via Football Italia): "Mattia is doing well and is definitely a player going places. He is growing both defensively and offensively."
Italian national manager Cesare Prandelli highlighted De Sciglio as one of the many up-and-coming Azzurri youngsters (via Football Italia).
In one of the rare moments that Silvio Berlusconi wasn't fibbing, he talked about the Rossoneri going cheap and young over more experienced yet costly players (via La Gazzetta dello Sport):
All our scouts have diverted their attentions from the so-called top players and are focusing on finding top young players. We're currently keeping about one hundred 18-20 year-old players under close observation, and we've already spotted some we hope to be able to bring to AC Milan. But, for now, let’s enjoy the ones we already have here. El Shaarawy is a world beater and De Sciglio is exceptional.
Doesn't this hype around De Sciglio remind you of another young Italian defender?
A certain Davide Santon, formerly of Inter Milan, who was earmarked as the next Maldini.
The turning point of Davide Santon's career may have been in a game that, in José Mourinho's mind, was a routine tune-up appearance.
With the Nerazzurri coasting 4-0 against Walter Zenga's Palermo side, Mourinho subbed on Santon, who didn't make a single tackle in 50 minutes of playing time.
James Horncastle at FourFourTwo recalled the game: "It was then that he [Santon] received a lesson, as the marauding Palermo full-back Mattia Cassani proceeded to run rings around him. By the 67th minute the score was 4-3 and Mourinho was furious."
Paolo Bandini at the Score pointed out an observation from Gazzetta dello Sport:
Mourinho’s dressing room deconstruction of the full-back’s performance had been scathing. “These were tears of rage,” they [Gazzetta] noted. “Not sadness.” There were those who accused Mourinho of being too harsh on the player, and it was certainly true the manager had reacted furiously when he caught wind of Santon’s suggestion early in the campaign that he might have to go out on loan in January in order to sustain his hopes of making the World Cup. But it was also clear that the player’s form had slipped.
The indictment against Santon was that Inter swapped him for Cesena's Yuto Nagatomo—a foreigner was replacing the next Maldini. That spoke volumes about how far Davide had dropped in the estimations of Inter Milan management.
Let's statistically compare Santon's 2009-10 season under Mourinho, his 2010-11 season on loan at Cesena and his two seasons at Newcastle United to Mattia De Sciglio's 2012-13 season for AC Milan.
|De Sciglio (12-13)||3.6||2.5||1.3||1.4||84.8||27.8|
TPG = tackles per game
TPF = tackles per foul
IPG = interceptions per game
SCPG = shots created per game
P% = passing percentage
C% = crossing percentage
If you use the eye-test, Mattia is clearly a more resolute defender than Santon, but it's also proven by the stats.
In De Sciglio's first season, his tackles-per-game number is in the territory of elite ball-winners, whereas it's taken Santon four seasons to finally crack the 2.0 tackles-per-game zone.
From an offensive perspective, there's no comparison. Mattia's crossing is world-class.
In fact, his crossing percentage in the UEFA Champions League is 37.5, which is so good that it's unsustainable.
Generally speaking, 20-25 percent is the acceptable rate for crossing. Anything below that strays into inefficiency, which is something Santon has struggled with in his last three seasons.
Six years after AC Milan returned to the top flight, they won the 1989 European title and proceeded to defend their title.
Milan have two youngsters destined to be world-class players in Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio.
How many more gems do the club have? Maybe Hachim Mastour will be to Milan what Mario Götze is to Borussia Dortmund.
Louis van Gaal's youthful UEFA Champions League-winning Ajax side, who happened to beat AC Milan in the 1995 final, should be the blueprint for the Rossoneri's rise back to relevance.
In order for De Sciglio to rival Paolo Maldini's legacy, the 20-year-old needs to play with winners, and this current crop of Milan players aren't winners.
Most of them won't even be at the club in the coming seasons, since there will be a massive overhaul just like the rejuvenation Juventus underwent.
Comment below with what you think of De Sciglio.
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Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com