AC Milan: The Trial of Andre Silva
When a man sees his end he wants to know there was some purpose to his life, but while he breathes and roves the surface of the earth in the glory of his youth, entertaining tens of thousands amid fanfare and boisterous applause, he is convinced that the gods are with him; Lo, he is equipped to conquer at home and abroad.
In August 2018, Andre Silva touched down at the San Pablo airport in the Province of Seville, to undergo medical examinations and complete his loan move from AC Milan to Sevilla Fútbol Club, whose acquisition of the rising star was their seventh signing of the summer.
A few days later, on his La Liga debut, Silva was thrust straight into first-team duties and would notch a memorable hat-trick in a 4-1 rout over Rayo Vallecano. Couple of weeks later, the young man from Baguim do Monte made the headlines again, scoring the winner in Portugal's UEFA Nations League clash vs Italy; It was Silva's 13th goal in 28 caps for Selecao Portuguesa, yet another big game performance fuelling talk of his ability to lead the lines in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet, for every goal he scores; every moment he wheels away in celebration; there's always a finger pointing to his disappointing stint with Milan - a footballing mecca where the supporters had hoped that alongside fellow marquee signing Nikola Kalinic, Silva's services would help usher in a new dawn.
Haven just unshackled themselves from a mid-season slump, Il Rossonero were in fine form -six wins in seven- and the trip to Stadio Luigi Ferrari, if successful, would be their seventh win in eight; the previous two being morale-boosting wins vs. Sampdoria and AS Roma.
Lo, the spirit and tactical organization of Davide Ballardini's Genoa proved an insurmountable challenge, keeping the scoreline goalless in a frustrating 90 minutes for Milanisti; alas, it was not enough, the home side blinked, and Andre Silva headed home a last-gasp winner for his first Serie A Goal.
Seven days later, upon the hallowed turfs of Stadio San Siro, Chievo Verona would drive Milan to insanity in their own living room; Mariusz Stepinski and Roberto Inglese scoring inside two minutes to turn the game on its head after Hakan Calhanoglu had given Gattuso's men an early lead
As the hour mark approached, and Gennaro Gattuso's face went from pale to red and back to pale in record time, Primavera protege Patrick Cutrone rose to the occasion to save Milan's blushes, doing justice to a rebound to restore parity for Il Diavolo.
AC Milan 2-2 Chievo Verona; Gattuso could breathe easy now, but with Milan's hopes of European football requiring more wins than draws, the home supporters looked up to the heavens for a sign, an omen, anything, but it never came; because the miracle they sought was amongst them.
Eight minutes from regular time. The sense of excitement was palpable, sending chills down the spine of jubilant San Siro ultras. Andre Silva had scored the winner for Milan again; Franck Kessie missed a penalty moments later, but it mattered little - Silva's strike had put the game beyond Chievo, and that for Gennaro Gattuso, was all that mattered.
"I've spent a lot of time on the bench, but I am young, I have to work to try and score for the team, My thought has always been to stay here and do my work at Milan," Silva said following his match-winning contribution against Chievo.
At the Estadio do Dragao, Andre Silva remains a divinity, and his switch to Milan was one accompanied with optimism; the predominant perception being that with his clinical abilities, Il Rossonero would rise from the cesspool of inconsistency; Yet, in his mixed spell at the club, the player struggled tirelessly to separate himself from the very word he had been recruited to extinguish.
Before his dismissal in late 2017, Vicenzo Montella's endless rotation policy meant Silva played more in the Europa League -six goals in eight starts, he always delivered in Europe- but the lack of minutes continued under Gennaro Gattuso.
With Patrick Cutrone exceeding expectations, and Andre Silva's place in the starting line-up as uncertain as the Stock markets in Timbuktu, Serie A proved overwhelming for the foreigner.
Rather than adapt and settle, Silva was expected to lead the lines in just his second full season as a professional. He bagged 24 goals and 11 assists in over 50 appearances for FC Porto in 2016/17, but the expectations of Milanisti, unfavorable rotation policies and the tactical rugged on the Peninsula proved too much for the youngster.
Without keeping him on the first team long enough, without patient integration, Milan were definitely mistaken to expect a ton of goals from an established Liga NOS forward yet to familiarize himself with the unforgiving laws of Catenaccio.
The Portugal forward was never really afforded a solid string of games to settle domestically, and the narrative that Andre Silva arrived San Siro as a messiah, was it simply a media concoction? Rossonero had been chasing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang/Andrea Belotti all summer and only recruited Silva as an alternative.
Also, Vincenzo Montella and Gennaro Gattuso weren't patient enough to maximize the player's predatory instincts; their faith in Patrick Cutrone was rewarded and maybe the emphasis on results afforded them little time for patience
If Silva's hat-trick on his Sevilla debut is anything to go by, it begs the question, are the Andalusians using the player differently? Or is it merely a case of regular football, team chemistry and quality service from all corners of the pitch?
The likelihood that AC Milan has reached the point where they don't get the best out of their players seems a more logical conclusion. Gennaro Gattuso has done a remarkable job, but the difference between success and failure often comes down to the man giving orders.
The crop of players with whom Alex Ferguson won the Premier League in 2013 struggled to finish seventh under Moyes; When Antonio Conte took over at Juventus they had finished 7th the previous campaign; yet, with a few tweaks to the squad they lifted the Scudetto unbeaten; the likes of Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella wrecking havoc in the final third.
When the Azzurri coach replaced Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, it was pretty much same story, pretty much a triumphant outcome.
Does it have more to do with the manager's ability to raise the bar, set the tempo and maximize the tools at his disposal? Or is it just down to a player's inability to cope with the demands of a foreign league? Are certain deals just not meant to have a happy ending?
Should Andre Silva flourish at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla can take advantage of the unilateral option on the table -pay €35million and keep the player- but if Gonzalo Higuain clicks under Gattuso, it could be a win-win for Milan.
If not, then perhaps, the AC Milan Andre Silva returns to will be better equipped to maximize his massive goalscoring potential.