Prolific winter arrival Krzysztof Piatek has all that it takes to join the list of legends at AC Milan and “continue this famous story of important strikers”, according to club icon Franco Baresi.
Piatek, 23, has struck four goals in four appearances for the Rossoneri since last month’s €35 million move from Genoa. These exploits – along with Brazil playmaker Lucas Paqueta’s similarly seamless start – have ramped up the feel-good factor at fallen giants determined to win a return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2013/14.
Speaking to Sport360 at GEMS International School Al Khail ahead of this weekend’s AC Milan Academy Dubai Champions Cup, Baresi believed the predatory Poland striker has the potential to follow in the footsteps of legends such as Marco van Basten and fire Milan toward fresh glory.
“I believe a big club should always have great strikers and in the history of our club we have had great strikers like Van Basten, [George] Weah, [Andriy] Shevchenko,” said the 58-year-old one-club man who won 17 major honours with the Rossoneri from 1977-97 and is widely considered one of football’s great defenders.
“Now Piatek has arrived and I think he will bring a lot of satisfaction to the club. This is because he is young, plus he has already demonstrated quality and an eye for goal.
“So, we hope that he can continue this famous story of important strikers at Milan.”
Resurgent Milan sit in the fourth – and final – qualifying spot at present thanks to a run of one loss in their last 11 top-flight run-outs. Gennaro Gattuso’s men, however, face a stern test of their credentials on Saturday at fifth-placed Atalanta.
In the UAE on the same weekend, more than 600 boys and girls, aged between eight and 14-years old, from 17 academies across Dubai will play as 56 teams in the second edition of the AC Milan Academy Dubai Champions Cup.
Milan’s historical captain and brand ambassador, Baresi, attended the launch event at Roberto’s DIFC earlier on Thursday. On Wednesday, he also passed on advice to scores of budding youngsters.
The tournament will be held on Friday and Saturday at the AC Milan Academy Dubai headquarters at GEMS International School Al Khail. The two-day sporting event will involve hundreds of young footballers, along with their families.
AC Milan Academy Dubai was launched in February 2016 and offers training sessions following the AC Milan Method. In addition to technical aspects relating to football, experts train and support the athletes in learning healthy nutrition, which is essential for their well-being, both physically and mentally.
Mario Balotelli has revealed he would like to end his career in Italy, ideally with hometown club Brescia.
The Marseille striker has previously played for both Milan clubs, but struggled to make an impact in Serie A – a league he calls “too tactical and a bit boring”.
Balotelli, who has scored one goal in two games for Marseille since joining from Nice in January, was asked about his future during an interview with Italian TV show Queli che il Calcio.
The 28-year-old, who was recently recalled to the Italy squad, was born in Palermo but grew up in Brescia, and his hometown club are currently leading the Serie B – two points ahead of Palermo – as they push for promotion to Serie A. Balotelli says they are the only Italian club he has considered featuring for.
“I never really thought about going back to [Italy] in these months,” the striker said.
“But I do not deny that I would like to close my career at Brescia.”
Last year saw Roberto Mancini, who managed Balotelli at Inter Milan and Manchester City, become manager of the Italian national team, leading to a recall for the former Liverpool striker after a three-year absence. Balotelli has scored 14 goals in 36 appearances for his country, and would like to add to that tally, especially with Mancini in charge.
“Mancini is the manager that knows me best,” he admitted. “I want return to the Italy national team and score many goals.”
Though Balotelli harbours dreams of starring for and playing in his country again, he criticised Italy for the racism he had deal with there as a player, revealing that he hasn’t experienced anything of the sort in England or France.
“In Italian stadiums there is too much racism,” Balotelli said. “I have been victim of insults only in Italy. It will take time but I am sure that we will win the battle against the racists.”
Roma striker Edin Dzeko could face a lengthy ban after appearing to spit at the referee during Wednesday night’s Coppa Italia thrashing at Fiorentina.
The capital club were humbled 7-1 in their quarter-final clash in Florence, where Dzeko was shown a straight red card in the 72nd minute for dissent.
Videos and still images of the incident appear to show the 32-year-old Bosnian, who was a second-half substitute, spitting at official Gianluca Manganiello.
The referee will confirm his reasons for expelling former Manchester City forward Dzeko in his match report and, as Roma’s cup campaign is now over, the resulting suspension will carry over to Serie A according to Italian football Federation rules. Roma host AC Milan in the league on Sunday evening.
Giallorossi boss Eusebio Di Francesco described the rout in Tuscany as a “shameful performance”, personally apologising to supporters for the result in a statement on the club’s official website.
Copy provided by Press Association Sport