What's next for André Silva?
The Italian giants had suffered a drastic decline in the last decade, from winning their 18th Serie A title in 2011 to finishing a measly 10th in 2015. Along the way, the black and red have gone through their fair share of caretakers and “long-term” managers: their current manager, Gennaro Gattuso, being the 7th since Massimiliano Allegri was sacked in early 2014. A multitude of reasons can be attributed to the decline of the club: the club ownership and an aging squad, to name a few.
The past 5 years have been filled with struggle and mediocrity, an antithesis of the usual greatness and dominance associated with the club. Nonetheless, the future looks bright for Milan fans, most notably because of the ambition of their new Chinese owners and the team’s qualification for the Europa League, which will mark the club’s return to European football after a 3-season absence. As former Milan defender Alessandro Nesta put it, the club’s qualification for Europe “has to be seen as a starting point” for this new phase in Milan’s history.
When you think of great Milan attackers, names such as Weah, van Basten, Shevchenko, Inzaghi and Ibrahimovic may come to mind. However, the 18-time Serie A champions have endured a recent dry spell when it comes to quality center forwards, flirting with Carlos Bacca, Luiz Adriano, Fernando Torres, and Jeremy Menez with varying degrees of success.
However, none of the aforementioned players have become household names for the black and red, Bacca being the most prolific but leaving much to be desired. This lack of center forward quality created the perfect circumstance for Andre Silva to step into.
He has received plaudits from his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, along with the likes of former Portuguese player Deco. Whilst enthusiasm for the former Boavista starlet was curbed due to higher expectations (Milan has been linked with Morata and Belotti), Milan fans had plenty to be excited about.
The Baguim do Monte native broke into Porto’s first team under former manager Julen Lopetegui towards the end of 2015, and his success as a starter was evident by the relegation of Vincent Aboubakar to the bench and his eventual departure from the club. His good form extended into the 2016/17 campaign, proving to be Porto’s main goal-scoring threat, while also supplying the third-highest number of chances in the squad (35).
His quality also extended to the European competition, where he scored 4 of Porto’s 9 total goals in the Champions League. His club form has been replicated at the national level, where he produced an astonishing 7 goals in his first 8 senior outings. As Silva said himself in a recent interview, he cannot be likened to any other player: he has previously played as a midfield play-maker, and in a wide role before finding himself as a center forward.
His tendency to tirelessly chase down defenders, combined with his opportunism and awareness, emulate the archetype of the striker best suited to Gennaro Gattuso’s system. His natural instinct and composure add to his repertoire, and he is undoubtedly one of the most well-rounded youngsters in the game. Not just dedicated to scoring goals, Silva is adept in build-up and is fluid in his off-ball movement.
His diverse qualities epitomise the modern striker, not limited by clunkiness on the ball or hindered by a lack of mobility. Perhaps his most impressive quality, given his age, is his tactical maturity and acute intelligence. His ability to occupy the small spaces between defenders always gives his side the edge, and ultimately is one of the overarching factors that sets him apart from other young center forwards.
He failed to capitalise on expectations in his first season at Milan, and left on loan to Sevilla in the summer of 2018. After a fantastic start, he's cooled off in form. He's been a shadow of his earlier self, and now, it looks like the Andalusian club will decline to exercise their purchase option.
It's unlikely that Milan will have him back with both Krzysztof Piatek and Patrick Cutrone ahead in the pecking order, but some team could be getting a diamond in the rough.