Until recently, Milan had cultivated a reputation for selling off their finest young players. Stephan El Shaarawy, Bryan Cristante, Matteo Darmian, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Riccardo Saponara to name but a few departed the San Siro and fans argued that this was short-sighted planning.

However, under the tutelage of Sinisa Mihajlovic the outlook changed. Not only were the young talents staying at the club but they were also actively involved in the first team. Last season 17-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma quickly became Milan’s first-choice goalkeeper and is now seen as the heir to Gigi Buffon. 19-year-old defender Davide Calabria was also given a run in the team and this season looks set to become Milan’s first choice right-back.

New manager Vincenzo Montella feels optimistic about the club’s long term future. This is no surprise because in the last 18 months Milan have either signed or brought back to the club several young talents such as M’Baye Niang, Suso and Alessio Romagnoli. Throw in Mattia De Sciglio who is hardly a veteran at 23-years-old (and who was also developed in-house) and along with Donnarumma and Calabria, Milan have one of the youngest starting XIs in Serie A this season.

18-year-old Manuel Locatelli looks set to be the latest name to join Milan’s every growing contingent of youngsters. The Lecco native was officially promoted to Milan’s first team in February, following Antonio Nocerino’s transfer to Orlando City. He made his debut on 21 April replacing Andrea Poli after 87 minutes at the San Siro during a 0-0 draw against Capri. On 14 May he made his full debut as a starter against Roma in Milan’s last game of the season.

The highly talented midfielder joined Milan at the age of 12 in 2009 and he has steadily moved through the Rossoneri’s youth system. Locatelli is renowned for his passing and he is an astute, creative midfielder who closely resembles Ricardo Montolivo with his style of play.

He prefers to operate from a deep midfield role where he can utilise his range of passing and dictate the game. This explains why he has also been compared to former Milan great Andrea Pirlo. Mauro Bianchessi, the club’s head  scout said “He’s a bit Pirlo and a bit Montolivo.”

Therefore it was quite apt that he replaced Montolivo at the weekend to make his fourth substitute appearance of the season. He marked the appearance with an unstoppable half volley into the top corner to draw Milan level with Sassuolo. His goal and performance will add further strength to the argument that he deserves more playing time this season.

After the game Locatelli broke down in tears as the emotion got the better of him but it showed just how much it meant to him. There is no doubt that the talented youngster can become an influential part of the Milan team and replace the player (Montolivo) that he has been compared to.


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The France under-19s managed to go one better than their senior counterparts last week, by winning the European Championships.

Ludovic Batelli’s youngsters trounced Italy 4-0 in the final, claiming a third European title at this level for France. In doing so, they demonstrated that there is plenty more young talent coming through for Les Bleus, in addition to the likes of Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman and Ousmane Dembélé, who have all made their mark in senior football recently.

But France were not the only ones showcasing some outstanding prospects during the tournament in Germany. There were plenty of young players thriving under the spotlight, and marking themselves out as ones to watch for the future. Here are five of the best players from the under-19 Euros who you should be keeping a close eye on in the near future:

Jean-Kévin Augustin (France)

The 19-year-old Paris Saint Germain striker was in phenomenal form throughout the tournament, and finished as the competition’s highest scorer, with a record-equalling tally of six goals from five games.

And it was Jean-Kévin Augustin who got the ball rolling in the final by netting a spectacular and decisive opening goal against Italy. The Italians had started the game well, and were looking to assert their dominance, only for Augustin to pick the ball up 30 yards from goal, burst through the centre of the opponents’ defence and finish coolly.

The teenager made 13 Ligue 1 appearances for PSG last season, and he could be set to add to that number under new manager Unai Emery in the upcoming campaign.

Kylian Mbappé (France)

Kylian Mbappé formed a deadly strike partnership with Augustin in the French attack, as the two men between them netted all of their side’s eight goals in the group stage.

The Monaco striker’s best performance came during the semi-final against Portugal, where he assisted the first goal for Ludovic Blas and scored the next two himself, to seal a 3-1 victory. The speedy striker also demonstrated his incredible technique with one of the most outrageous pieces of skill in the final: picking the ball up on the right touchline, Mpabbé flicked the ball over the head of his marker with the outside of his right foot, before swinging in a dangerous cross that eventually led to France’s fourth goal.

Despite being only 17 years old, Mbappé already has 11 Ligue 1 appearances under his belt, and his name will undoubtedly have been marked down in the notebooks of scouts from across the Continent.

Manuel Locatelli (Italy)

AC Milan midfielder Manuel Locatelli was the heartbeat of the Italy midfield, orchestrating his side’s attacks and conducting the tempo of the action, as the Italians made it all the way to the final before eventually being outclassed by France.

The highlight of Locatelli’s campaign was the stunning free-kick he scored against Austria in the group stage.

The 18-year-old made his Serie A debut for Milan in April, and made his first senior start against Roma on the final day of last season.

Philipp Ochs (Germany)

Hoffenheim winger Philipp Ochs produced a dazzling display when bagging a hat-trick against Portugal in the group stage, although it wasn’t enough to prevent Germany from losing 4-3.

The 18-year-old possesses great speed, superb technique and outstanding dribbling skills.

Having made five Bundesliga appearances to date, Ochs is knocking on the door of a regular place in Die Kraichgauer’s first-team. And Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann will surely appreciate the benefit of giving opportunities to young players, as the 29-year-old is the youngest manager in Bundesliga history.

Dominic Solanke (England)

Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke formed a great understanding with strike partner Isaiah Brown at the tournament, as he helped himself to group stage goals against France and the Netherlands.

Solanke was a key player for the Three Lions as they became the only team to record a victory over France on their run to the semi-final, before losing 2-1 to Italy.

Solanke spent last season on loan with Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie. The 18-year-old scored seven goals in the Dutch top division, and will be hoping to make the breakthrough at Stamford Bridge next season under new manager Antonio Conte.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB


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