Is Patrick Cutrone really Filippo Inzaghi's heir?
Filippo Inzaghi's retirement in 2012 cleft a colossal vacuum at San Siro; albeit it unknown to AC Milan's blue-clad co-tenants, however. They've missed the veteran striker, now though, there's so much belief in Lombardy that young Patrick Cutrone may just fix their forward issues.
Stats aside, Inzaghi was never a classic no 9. Lanky and brittle, Super Pippo was clueless without the ball. He was better with his head than feet. The Italian was almost useless outside the box, the further he moved away, the worse he got. Skills, techniques, every other beautiful spice to the game were missing from his skillset. All he knew was pop up at the right place (usually about 18 inches from the line) at the right time. That perhaps explains why he was perpetually offside. Sir Alex Ferguson detested him for that.
However, amidst countless problems within his game, Inzaghi used his solitary strength to great effect throughout his career. He had unusual passion, drive and enthusiasm. As a result, the goals flowed uncontrollably. With 313, he is his country's seventh-best finisher in Serie A history. In European cup competitions, only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Raul have fared better. Quite a respectable company.
Succeeding such iconic figure was never going to be an easy task. Otherwise, Eduardo da Silva would have smashed Thierry Henry's fine achievements at Arsenal. Inzaghi's was quite different, though. There was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who eased things at AC Milan immediately. But reality dawned one year after the Swede moved to Paris Saint-Germain. San Siro became a testing ground for marksmen. Giampaolo Pazzini, Fernando Torres, Mario Balotelli, Carlos Bacca among others. All tried and failed.
While the Rossoneri crossed boundaries in their search for quality attackers, their youth ranks bore the brunt. Just a handful got a chance. The few who did weren't afforded enough time to develop. Alessandro Matri, Andrea Paloschi and Andrea Petagna all showed promise. Each attempted to fill Inzaghi's boot. All came up short. Besides the trio, they were countless others who looked even more special then faded away. However, Cutrone seems likeliest to buck that trend.
Having joined the club as an eight-year-old, Cutrone proceeded to impress through the youth ranks before making his senior debut last May. From that point onwards, the youngster has gone from strength-to-strength. With 12 goals in all competitions so far this season, only Kylian Mbappe boast a superior goal-scoring record amongst the under 20s in Europe's major leagues; further typifying his idol.
The similarities are there for all to see; like Inzaghi, Cutrone's greatest strengths are finishing and positional sense. He doesn't stand out for his silky touches or ability to take on defenders with skill. Nor will he deliver anything extra outside the box. But he's almost certain to score every time the ball is sent into the danger zone. He flaunts intangible striker's instinct; headers, snap finishes, tap-ins - something of a throwback to the ex-Italy international.
Yet Cutrone is nowhere near the 44-year-old at the moment, even though he possesses nearly all his traits. But with time, he could mature into the complete archetypal classic no 9 his idol wasn't, improving on weak spots.