Tiémoué Bakayoko’s rise to the top of Serie A as their most outstanding and in-form midfielder continued apace last night, with yet another excellent performance as resolute Milan shocked Napoli 2-0 in the Coppa Italia quarterfinals.
Both of Milan’s goals were scored by new signing and Higuain-replacement, Krzysztof Piatek, who joined for €35m after a half season of making it rain goals at Genoa. Whether Piatek is any more than a one-season wonder remains to be seen, but he’s undoubtedly off to a great start in his new surroundings.
The same couldn’t have been said of Bakayoko, who began his loan spell in horrendous fashion, drawing ridicule from observers and public criticism from his manager. After last night, that same manager heaped lavish praise on the 24-year-old, which has become a regular occurrence over the past couple months.
“I think he’s an atypical deep-lying midfielder in modern football. He can turn the moves from defensive to attacking, he takes men on and always gets past them.
“He has learned so much about transitions, as at the start he got it wrong most of the time, but today he can do diagonal runs and close off the passing channels. He is a very important player for us.”
-Gennaro Gattuso; Source: Football Italia
Gattuso would certainly know a thing or two about defensive midfield excellence, but he’s not the only one who has seen the massive improvement in Bakayoko, who’s been named the official “MVP” (i.e. Man of the Match) in nearly half their games since the end of November.
Elegido MVP en 5 de los últimos 10 partidos con el Milan. Desde que Gattuso cambió el módulo al 4-4-2, Bakayoko ha sido una pieza CLAVE para nuestro mediocampo. ¡Grande Tiémoué! Tienes que quedarte acá. @TimoeB08 ⚫️ pic.twitter.com/3FbBXA1qfo— AC Milan (@ACMEspanol) January 22, 2019
Once so bereft of confidence that he was given a mental break by Conte back at Chelsea, Bakayoko has improved with just about every game this season. The €40m Chelsea spent on him in 2017 certainly doesn’t seem as laughable as it did twelve months ago.
Bakayoko absolutely world class today. He’s somehow getting better in each match— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) January 29, 2019
Just look at Bakayoko there.— Complaxes (@Complaxes) January 29, 2019
He has everything.
Donnarumma and Bakayoko playing with swagger pic.twitter.com/pGfneGXq0M— Para (@Paracelsus) January 29, 2019
If Bakayoko continues this form until the end of the season, there is no doubt that Milan will (try to) trigger their €35m purchase option — assuming they can sort of the club’s finances before then.
Maybe it’s the pace of the Serie A, maybe it’s belief shown by Gattuso or maybe it’s being paired up with Franck Kessie, whatever the case may be, Bakayoko is once again showing the quality that was promised when he left Monaco.
Long may it continue.
Abbiamo analizzato l'evoluzione del rendimento di Bakayoko, il vostro MVP di #LazioMilan e #MilanParma! ➡ https://t.co/UkyUgpca96— AC Milan (@acmilan) December 8, 2018
This week we analyzed the growing impact of your MVP from our last two Serie A matches, @TimoeB08 ➡ https://t.co/kJweuRpFbl #MilanTorino pic.twitter.com/rWEFSx7aMw