AC Milan is experiencing a revival under new manager Gennaro Gattuso, and 20-year-old Patrick Cutrone's place in the attack has been at the center of the rejuvenation.
AC Milan are witnessing a revival under new manager Gennaro Gattuso. The Rossoneri are unbeaten in 2018 across all competitions and have won five of their last six matches.
Milan struggled at the start of the season under then-manager Vincenzo Montella. A huge criticism of Montella was his inability to stick to any formation and that he seemed insistent on chopping and changing his starting lineup.
Gattuso changed that and results have quickly improved. Opting for a steady 4-3-3 Gattuso seems to have found a system that works and a best eleven to go with it.
His lone-striker during this green patch of form has been 20-year-old Patrick Cutrone. A local boy from Milan's academy, Cutrone has repaid the faith Gattuso has in him with some quality performances and goals.
Cutrone has been described in Italy as the next Filippo Inzaghi and it seems apt. The young Italian is showing similar sparks of striking-promise which he have already witnessed in England.
Patrick Cutrone is a Lombardy local. Born in Como, he joined Milan's academy at the age of eight. Rising through the ranks of Milan's youth setup, Cutrone was promoted to the first team in January 2017. But it was in the current season that the young striker would really break into the first team.
It was Gattuso's predecessor Vinzenco Montella who really started giving Cutrone game time. It is notable that even after a summer where the club spent €200m on new players, Cutrone still managed to establish himself as a main option for Milan in attack.
Cutrone has been described as a 'true No. 9' and has shown qualities to suggest he may be a complete forward. His positioning is sharp, preferring to play off the shoulder of the last defender. His finishing and link-up play has also been credited in recent performances. At 6-feet-tall he also commands a physical presence and strong aerial ability.
As the former head coach of Milan's Primavera side, Gattuso has watched Cutrone grow. From scoring 43 goals in 67 appearances for Milan Primavera, Cutrone has 13 goals in his first full season with the Milan first team.
As his former youth coach, Gattuso could be the ideal man to get the best out of this flourishing young striker. In his last five matches, Cutrone has scored four goals.
Former Milan defender Luca Antonini has been one of many commentators the sing the praises of Cutrone in recent weeks: "Milan heavily invested on players like Kalinic and Andre Silva but it's Cutrone who is in top shape. He only needs one ball and he scores.
"He is so young so it's not the moment to compare him to other past players but he reminds a lot of Pippo Inzaghi."
Cutrone's playing style and his prolific goal scoring form is also comparable to Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane. The England striker has been central to all the success Spurs have had in recent seasons, helping them to emerge from the shadow of their North London rivals Arsenal and propelled them to European respectability.
Like Cutrone, Kane was the product of Tottenham's academy and really announced himself in the Premier League from an early age. Despite club record signing Roberto Soldado still on the books, like Cutrone, Kane emerged as the main striking option for Spurs. They even display similarities in their styles, with Kane being a strong physical and aerial presence as well as an excellent finisher.
With Kane leading the line, this Spurs squad is likely the strongest the club has had since the days of Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne. If Milan can build a team around strong youth players Cutrone, they could hope to return to the days of domestic and European dominance they enjoyed in the mid 2000s and early 1990s.
The next step for Cutrone is surely an Italy call-up. Following their failure the qualify for the 2018 World Cup, there seems to be signs of changing and rebuild for the Italy national team. Veterans like Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, and Daniele De Rossi have announced their retirement from international football. Head coach Gian Piero Ventura has been dismissed and the president of Italian Football Federation Carlo Tavecchio has resigned.
This seems to be the ideal time to bring in Italy's next generation of young stars. Cutrone has scored four goals in five appearances for the Italy under-21s and looks ready to make the leap to full international football.
The future looks bright for Milan and Patrick Cutrone. While it may be unfair to make comparisons to other great players at such a young age, Cutrone is showing all the signs that he could become one of Europe's top strikers. As he continues his breakout season for Milan, it will not be long until we see him on the international stage.