Piatek’s prowess gives AC Milan fresh impetus

As Inter Milan fall out with their world-class goal scorer Mauro Icardi, potentially making their push for a Champions League spot stickier than it should have been, their neighbours may have finally discovered one of their own to take them back to the Promised Land.

A contractual wrangle with the Argentine has seen Icardi, Inter’s leading Serie A scorer in the last four seasons, stripped of the captaincy with the player effectively downing tools.

The striker has scored 122 goals 210 games for the Nerazzurri, been the top scorer in Serie A on two occasions and is the jewel in the club’s crown.

The dispute is probably not going to derail their hopes of finishing in the top four, but it may well cause them to sweat on it a little more than expected.

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Indeed, in terms of just simple local bragging rights, they may have cause for worry that their neighbours, flying currently on the momentum generated by the arrival of Krzysztof Piatek in the January window, could overtake them in the Serie A table, something few would have countenanced earlier in the season.

The Rossonerri’s 3-0 win over Empoli on Friday evening and Inter’s dramatic 3-3 draw in Florence on Sunday see just two points now separating the sides, who occupy third and fourth spots in the league.

Seven games ago, the gap was eight. Piatek has only played in five of those intervening fixtures, but he’s bagged five Serie A goals and electrified Milan in the process.

Suddenly, the Rossonerri appear to have what they’ve lacked for such a long time – a convincing goal getter, a player that colleagues and fans alike can pin their hopes on.

Of course, it’s not just the goals he’s scored since his arrival at the end of the January window that fuel this belief.

His seven goals in six competitive fixtures (he scored two in the Coppa Italia on his home debut) has certainly suggested that the famous black and red jersey isn’t weighing too heavily on his shoulders.

But it’s the fact that he’s just continued the form that marked him out as potentially something special at Genoa that’s most eye-catching.

For those who don’t know, the 23-year-old Pole has had a stellar year.

Having finished as the third top scorer in the Polish Ekstraklasa last season with 21 goals (he was the top Polish scorer in their top flight), Genoa, one of many Italian clubs trawling central and eastern Europe for talent, took a punt on what they’d seen.

They signed him for the princely sum of €4 million from mid-table Cracovia in the summer, got 21 games and 19 league and cup goals from him in six months at the club before selling him for €35 million to Milan in January.

Running the rule over the hitman at the weekend, it wasn’t difficult to see why some commentators are comparing him to his international colleague – the legendary Robert Lewandowski.

He has a similar build and patrols many of the same areas. Not blessed with electrifying pace, he reads the game brilliantly, is beautifully elusive and intuitive in his movement and has hair-trigger reflexes.

And like his compatriot, he’s deadly in the air.

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His goal against struggling Empoli was that of a pure striker. Milan had been poor in the first half, paying with little intensity and giving the Pole precious little in the way of service.

But doubtless some choice words from manager Genaro Gattuso over the half time espressos hit home, as Milan emerged with a much more energetic approach in the second 45.

And before the crowd or the home side could get edgy, Piatek struck on 49 minutes to pave the way to another crucial victory.

Hakan Calhanoglu combined well with fullback Conti down Milan’s right before crossing low to the penalty spot for the Pole to sweep home unerringly.

It was his first and only chance of the night – and it was clinically dispatched. Gattuso withdrew his star man 15 minutes later with Milan then leading by three.

Doubtless, he wanted to wrap his star man in cotton wool ahead of next Tuesday’s Coppa Italia semi-final first leg at Lazio.

With Milan not having won a major trophy in eight years, the decision was understandable, even if the Pole looked less than happy at not being allowed to add to his tally.

But on the evidence of the season so far, he need not worry too much on that score.

The Author

Paul Little

Freelance football columnist. European Football with the Irish Daily Star. Hold the Back Page podcast regular. Family and Renaissance Man. Dublin born, Wicklow resident.

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