Milan’s young boys stake claim

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty ImagesBryan Cristante's performance in Milan's Saturday friendly win over Young Boys could very well be the tipping point that puts the youngster in Massimiliano Allegri's senior team rotation.

With the majority of the first team away on international duty this week, Milan's fringe players were handed the chance to impress during the friendly against Swiss side Young Boys on Saturday. And it just so happens that a pair of the Rossoneri's youngsters made the most of their opportunity in the 3-1 victory.

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La Gazzetta dello Sport insisted that the win was "finally a reason to smile", and the comeback will undoubtedly be seen as a positive ahead of the return to domestic action, especially considering the disaster that was the last outing against Caen.

With a goal apiece, both Riccardo Saponara and Bryan Cristante are beginning to find their stride and threaten to become a more permanent fixture of the first team.

While the former now appears to have overcome his injury issues and performed well in the trequartista role, Cristante has been on the radar for some time.

The talented midfielder has featured regularly in the UEFA Youth League thus far, and also scored a superb goal against Barcelona a fortnight ago.

Furthermore, with captain Riccardo Montolivo set to serve his suspension after receiving a red card against Chievo, it would be reassuring if Massimiliano Allegri turned to youth to fill the gap and finally gave Cristante significant competitive playing time to impress.

Granted the 18-year-old is still raw and has much to improve in his all-round play, particularly his defensive skills, as his lapses in concentration in distributing the ball have often led to counter-attacks or picking up cautions for necessary fouls.

Nevertheless, given his attributes and ability to fill in as an almost like-for-like replacement for Montolivo, he would undoubtedly bring much needed creativity to the midfield and allow Milan to control the tempo.

Cristante has the vision and passing range to flourish in the regista role, but the fact that the Rossoneri are currently struggling for results may play a part in Allegri opting for experience.

Moving further up-field, Saponara's movement and finishing during the win on Saturday will have been a significant positive. Supporters have waited a long time for the 21-year-old to return to full fitness, and the goal will have been a major boost for his confidence.

Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms of Allegri has been the move away from the youth project, although injuries have evidently played their part. However, with Stephen El Shaarawy, Saponara and Mattia De Sciglio seemingly all nearing availability at the same time, the Italian core of the squad looks promising moving forward.

In addition, the friendly outing also gave Adil Rami an opportunity to familiarise himself with his new team-mates and gain much needed match-fitness.

The French centre-half will be available for selection in January after being identified as the player to bring much needed solidity to the back-line, and his performance will have done little harm to his chances of being drafted straight into the starting line-up.

While Ignazio Abate and the Milan contingent celebrated a draw against Germany on Friday night, Allegri will have been buoyed by the result on Saturday and will arguably have more confidence in the options at his disposal.

Is the core of Italian youngsters at Milan capable of being successful in the long-term? Should they be built around moving forward?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty


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