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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Whenever a superstar footballer is involved in a transfer, the deal is usually a costly one. As football has developed, the market has too, meaning the more money in the game, the higher the value of a player.

Every summer, it seems to keep increasing, and ‘value’ is relative. Perspective is the most important factor when judging a big money move, because while it can appear a club has paid over the odds, with the pace in which the game moves, there is a fear of being left behind if they don’t act.

It is easy to fall into the trap of taking a player’s ability for granted and assuming they will succeed wherever they go, but they are human beings and nobody is perfect. Factors can take effect and sometimes the hype just isn’t matched on the pitch. Here are ten examples of players failing to justify their high-end fees.

1. Gianluigi Lentini – Torino to AC Milan for £13million, 1992.

At the height of their powers in the late 1980s and early 90s, Milan could do no wrong under Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Cappello. At the forefront of Italian football, the Rossoneri were defensively strong with frightening talent up front, and Lentini was fully expected to compliment the likes of Marco van Basten, while adding a wide option, aided by his phenomenal dribbling skills.

While he remained at the San Siro for four years and winning three Serie A titles and the Champions League under, Lentini never quite reached the heights promised by what at the time was a world record transfer fee. A car crash in 1993 overshadowed his career, and he couldn’t fully recover having fractured his skull and damaged his eye socket aged just 24.

2. Mario Gotze – Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich for £32million, 2013.

There are a lot of achievements in his career that Mario Gotze can rightfully be proud of. In 2014, at the age of 22, he scored the winner for Germany in the World Cup final against Argentina. It was a moment that, had it come a few years later, would probably have defined his career.

But people always expect more, and it is easy to forget Gotze’s age. Having shot to fame at Borussia Dortmund, he appeared to sever all ties with them when he joined Bayern, but three tough years, in which he struggled for regular action under Pep Guardiola, stifled his development.

Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival in place of Manchester City-bound Guardiola didn’t stop the prodigal son returning to the Signal Iduna Park with his tail firmly between his legs earlier this summer.

3. Andriy Shevchenko – AC Milan to Chelsea for £30million, 2006.

Still in it’s infancy, Roman Abramovich’s power and success driven reign at Chelsea reached new heights when the Blues lured perhaps the world’s best striker to Stamford Bridge in 2006, reportedly against the wishes of then boss Jose Mourinho.

Just three years earlier, the Ukrainian hitman had scored the winning penalty in the Champions League final for Milan against Juventus, before missing a similarly huge one at the same stage against Liverpool two years after that.

Overall, he netted 127 goals in 208 Serie A games during seven years at the San Siro, but could score just nine in 48 in two Premier League seasons before returning to the Rossoneri for a failed loan spell.

4. Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea for £50million, 2011.

In a similar story to Shevchenko, Chelsea swooped for Fernando Torres on deadline day in January 2011, after the Spaniard had lit up Anfield in three and a half years at Liverpool.

His record of 20 league goals in 110 games is not deserving of a £50million player, and he never really hit the form of his days as a Red, but Torres did have some great moments with Chelsea.

En route to winning the Champions League in his first full season, he scored the clinching goal in the semi final against Barcelona.

He’ll be fondly remembered in West London despite his struggles, but fans will be disappointed they never saw the best of him.

5. Radamel Falcao – Atletico Madrid to Monaco for £50million, 2013.

Nicknamed ‘El Tigre’ and probably the man who took Torres’ mantle as the hottest striker on the planet while with Atletico Madrid, Radamel Falcao had his pick of the world’s elite when he departed, having won back to back Europa League titles, first with FC Porto and then Los Rojiblancos, in 2011 and 2012.

But that summer, he surprised the world by choosing to sign for newly-rich Monaco. While his early goal record in the Principality was as prolific as ever, following a record of 52 goals in 68 La Liga games for Atleti, but a serious knee injury a few months later has haunted him since.

Loan moves to Manchester United and Chelsea promised much, but he was never the same player. Now 30, he is back at Monaco looking for anything close to his best form.

6. Denilson – Sao Paulo to Real Betis for £21.5million, 1998.

To break the world transfer record at the age of 18, talent must be unquestionable, and that was the case with former Brazil midfielder Denilson when he joined Real Betis in 1998.

What did raise doubts, however, were his temperament and desire to fulfil his otherworldly potential. Although he earned 60 caps for his country and stayed at Betis for seven years, a move to one of Europe’s truly elite clubs never came, and he ended his career in 2010 having jumped aimlessly from continent to continent.

7. Gaizka Mendieta – Valencia to Lazio for £30million, 2001.

Two successive Champions League final defeats at the beginning of the century had not taken anything away from Gaizka Mendieta, who was the most sought after player around in the summer of 2001.

At the time, Lazio were a huge draw, having won Serie A a year earlier, and they struck a deal to bring Mendieta to Rome. But after making 230 league appearances at the Mestalla, he only racked up 20 in three years at the Stadio Olympico, while also taking loan spells at Barcelona and Middlesbrough at that time.

8. Robinho – Real Madrid to Manchester City for £32.5million, 2008.

Throughout the summer of 2008, Robinho was a target for Chelsea and so desperately wanted to leave the Santiago Bernabeu and Real Madrid.

As is becoming more and more typical, the saga rolled on all summer but the Blues couldn’t clinch a deal. On the final day of the summer transfer window, Manchester City were taken over by Sheikh Mansour, and with money to burn stole in to sign the 24-year-old.

But Robinho himself didn’t know who he had signed for when asked for his thoughts on international duty, claiming he thought he’d joined Chelsea after all.

That really set the tone. Brilliant in places but only netting twice away from home in his debut season, he was shipped on loan to Santos after 18 months before being sold to AC Milan.

9. Juan Sebastian Veron – Lazio to Manchester United for £28million, 2001.

While the Red Devils have entered the market for established superstars more since Sir Alex Ferguson, the capture of Veron was arguably the last true showing of their financial muscle in comparison to others.

Another of the most wanted in the world, Veron arrived with a huge reputation as an Argentina international. Technique and composure on the ball were no problem but the pace and physicality of the English game was too much for him. He was sold to Chelsea in the early Abramovich days for £15million.

10. Kaka – AC Milan to Real Madrid for £58million, 2009.

Some players earn the right to break the world transfer record, and Kaka was certainly one of them. Still riding the wave from his Ballon d’Or win in 2007, having inspired Milan to the Champions League that year, he became a new Galactico in Madrid president Florentino Perez’s second spell at the helm.

He promised much, obviously, but injuries and a lack of the big personality desired to succeed in the Spanish capital, and he eventually returned to Milan before joining Orlando City in MLS via a loan spell at Sao Paulo.

About the author – Harry De Cosemo

Harry is a European football writer specialising in English, Spanish and Italian football. He has worked for a number of top publications including MARCA in English, uMAXit football, FourFourTwo, Squawka and the Press Association.

twitter: @harrydecosemo


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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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This weekend Zlatan Ibrahimović scored four goals to help PSG seal the Ligue 1 title after a 9-0 demolition of Troyes. It’s the Parisians 4th league title in a row and it looks like that run will continue into the foreseeable future. It was also Zlatan’s 13th title in the past 15 seasons. This is a remarkable achievement and this success has come at 6 different clubs. In terms of domestic competition, simply put, there has been no more successful player than Zlatan since the term of the millennium.

Although he failed to win the Allsvenskan in his teenage years with Malmö, his first league title came at the age of 20 when Ajax won the 2001-02 Eredivisie. Another Eredivisie title followed in 2003-04 before he joined Juventus after the Euros. He went on to win two consecutive Serie A titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06 but the Italians were later stripped of these due to their involvement in the match-fixing scandal. Juventus were relegated to Serie B due to their involvement and Zlatan transferred to Inter.

Developing youth players in Soccer Manager Multiplayer (Worlds) is key

Inter emerged as the new powerhouse of Italian football after the match-fixing scandal and Zlatan went on to win three consecutive titles prior to transferring to Spanish giants Barcelona in 2009. The Swede only stayed in Catalonia for one season before returning to Italy on loan in 2010. However, in his one season in La Liga he won yet another title.

In his first season back in Italy he helped Milan secure their first Serie A title in 7 years. This was Zlatan’s eight domestic title in a row. He then joined the club on a permanent transfer but 2011-12 ended with no league medal for the first time in 9 years. Zlatan than joined PSG and helped them to end their 19 year drought as the Parisians won the 2012-13 Ligue 1 title. PSG followed up this success with two further titles in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and have just wrapped up their fourth consecutive title with 8 games to spare.

The Swede is out of contract this Summer and said jokingly that he would only stay if the club replace the Eiffel Tower with a statue of him. This isn’t likely to happen and it looks like the serial title winner has made his mind up and will leave the French capital in the coming months.


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“An embrace from the best goalkeeper in the world,” Milan custodian Gianluigi Donnarumma wrote on Facebook after he swapped shirts with opposite number Gianluigi Buffon at the end of his side’s 1-0 defeat to Juventus in Serie A on Saturday evening. “What an emotion.”

It must have been a rather surreal moment for both men. Just a few short years ago, Donnarumma would have been watching Buffon’s performances on television, hoping that one day he may meet his hero, even if only as a fan. Since then, of course, the kid from the Bay of Naples has become a professional goalkeeper himself, handed his first-team debut by Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic at the tender age of 16 in last month’s encounter with Sassuolo at San Siro.

For Buffon, too, it must have been strange to face a keeper less than half his age. The Juventus man made his debut for Parma in November 1995, three-and-a-quarter years before Donnarumma was even born.

It was Buffon who came out on top at Juventus Stadium, the Bianconeri edging out Milan to climb up to sixth in the table and keep their title hopes alive. Donnarumma, though, turned in another impressive performance that was full of confidence and maturity: his handling was excellent and he never looked flustered with the ball at his feet, while he also proved adept at coming off his line and snuffing out danger when the situation called for it.

Crosses were claimed and corners punched clear, his 6ft 5in frame allowing the teenager to dominate his penalty area and relieve pressure on a backline that has looked extremely nervy at times this term; indeed, after 13 matches only Carpi, Frosinone, Verona, Sampdoria, Torino, Empoli and Lazio have conceded more goals than the Rossoneri, with Milan possessing the second-worst defensive record before Donnarumma’s introduction to the starting line-up last month.

Although some claimed he should have done better to prevent Paulo Dybala’s winner, the fierce effort from only seven yards out would have been difficult for even the most seasoned shot-stopper to keep out.

The display was merely a continuation of Donnarumma’s positive start to his senior career. He has kept two clean sheets and conceded only three goals in five games, demonstrating a confidence and assuredness that belies his tender years.

“He is a polite and serious kid, but he has no fear,” Milan youth coach and former midfielder Christian Brocchi said earlier this month. “He has always been a huge Milan fan; he dreams of being Milan goalkeeper for the next 15 years. This dream is very likely to come true.”

It was a major call for Mihajlovic to bring Donnarumma into the team to replace Diego Lopez – who was restricting Iker Casillas to a place on the substitutes’ bench at Real Madrid not too long ago – but, for now, it looks to be paying off. There is still room for improvement for the 16-year-old, but there is hope in Italy that the country has finally found the much-searched-for ‘heir to Buffon’.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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3-to-watch-Serie-A-BlogDomenico Berardi, Sassuolo

Italy may have been knocked out of this summer’s European Under-21 Championship in Czech Republic at the group stage, but that did not prevent many onlookers from labelling Berardi as one of the players of the tournament.

Previously co-owned by Sassuolo and Juventus, Berardi surprised many people by opting to remain with the Neroverdi – the only club he has played for professionally – rather than move to Turin this summer. It is probably a sensible move: with Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata and Simone Zaza all competing for starting spots at Juve, Berardi will enjoy regular action with Sassuolo and could still move to Juventus in 2016 if the Italian champions activate a clause in his contract.

Quick, agile and in possession of a wand of a left foot, the inventive Berardi is capable of conjuring pieces of magic from nowhere. The 21-year-old has been fielded as a winger, support striker and out-and-out frontman in his fledgling career to date, with such versatility making him even more valuable to Eusebio Di Francesco’s side.

15 Serie A goals last term and 16 in 2013-14 are terrific returns for a young player belonging to a relegation-threatened team; Berardi will be looking to take that next step by breaking the 20-goal mark this time around.

Alessio Romagnoli, Milan

Eyebrows were raised when Milan agreed to pay Roma £17.5m for a player who only has one full season of senior first-team football under his belt, but it is easy to see why the Rossoneri felt such a deal was good value for money: Romagnoli has already shown signs that he could develop into a top-class central defender and, at just 20, he potentially has a decade-and-a-half in the game still left in him.

Romagnoli was generally excellent on loan at Sampdoria last season, his performances at the heart of one of Serie A’s sturdiest defences leading to comparisons with his hero Alessandro Nesta. Though Romagnoli is nowhere near the level of the world-class former Lazio, Milan and Italy centre-half just yet, there are certainly stylistic comparisons to be made between the pair: like Nesta, Romagnoli is a fine reader of the game and an elegant passer of the ball.

Milan have endured disastrous back-to-back campaigns, the 18-time Italian champions slumping to eight and 10th-place finishes in the previous two years. Having conceded 99 goals in those 76 league games, new boss Sinisa Mihajlovic – who managed Romagnoli at Samp last year – will be hoping that the former Roma man can help bolster the club’s backline.

Franco Vazquez, Palermo

The aforementioned Dybala was one of the best players in Serie A for Palermo last time out, with the Argentine rightly earning a move to Juventus after some superb showings throughout the 2014-15 campaign. While not quite as eye-catching, Vazquez was also fantastic for Beppe Iachini’s outfit and is perhaps a little unfortunate not to have secured a switch to a Champions League side as well.

The attacking midfielder is a highly intelligent player with tremendous movement and awareness and a functioning footballing brain. Vazquez is highly adept at linking the play and knitting his team’s midfield and attack together, with his brilliant left foot allowing him to both shoot accurately from distance and deliver pinpoint passes to his colleagues. Indeed, his vision is arguably his biggest attribute, with 10 assists last season evidence of his creativity capabilities.

It will be interesting to see how Palermo cope without Dybala – who netted 13 goals in 2014-15 – but fans of the Sicilians can at least be grateful that Vazquez remains at the Stadio Renzo Barbera for now.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.
Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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