AC Milan youth players start new era
AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi delivered a clear message to his team on Tuesday, insisting that the Rossoneri "must get back to winning" in the upcoming season.
As expected, investment in the squad hasn't been substantial this summer, and while there is still a core of experienced players, coach Pippo Inzaghi may well be considering some familiar faces from the Primavera.
With the squad flying out for their US pre-season tour, a number of summer signings have been included, as well as several youth-team players who will hope to use the opportunity to break into the first-team squad this year.
Essentially, it will be interesting to see whether Inzaghi gives them significant playing time, but on the basis of the two pre-season friendlies thus far, it is clear that Milan supporters will see more evidence of the stylistic change under the Italian tactician as well as which youngsters he envisages will have important roles this season.
Against both Renate and Monza, it was apparent that Inzaghi is implementing a quicker tempo from his players as predominantly their play involved one or two touches before passing and moving.
Naturally, given the relaxed environment so early in the summer, it is difficult to tell whether that will continue, but it is undoubtedly more pleasing on the eye, while the players look comfortable and know their exact roles in the system.
Michael Agazzi, Michelangelo Albertazzi, Alex, Adil Rami and Jeremy Menez will all feature in the International Champions Cup, but it is the likes of Alessandro Mastalli, Andrej Modic, Davide Di Molfetta and Hachim Mastour that will arguably be the more intriguing individuals to look out for.
However, it is important to assess such a tournament with caution, as ultimately Milan have played youth-team players during pre-season previously and many of those have gone on to be either sold or loaned out, namely Davide Pacifico, who arguably looked a real talent this time last year.
As a result, by impressing in the U.S., none of these players will be guaranteed further opportunities to break through to the first team, but it will not harm their chances, particularly with Inzaghi at the helm as he appears ready to reward their endeavour.
Games against Olympiacos, Manchester City and Liverpool will also act as opportunities for Bryan Cristante and Riccardo Saponara to establish themselves in midfield, while Mario Balotelli will return to the fray as the focus rightly continues to be on Stephan El Shaarawy.
Nevertheless, Inzaghi is progressing well since being appointed Clarence Seedorf's successor, as in the early stages of his tenure he has brought a calmness to the club as well as optimism that he can take them forward.
Given that he held a meeting with Adriano Galliani, Barbara Berlusconi and her father over the weekend dedicated to discussing the transfer strategy, there is likely to be further movement before the deadline. However, for now, there is an air of excitement over what Inzaghi is capable of achieving with this young group of players.
Who are you looking forward to watching in particular during Milan's pre-season tour?
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Twitter: @SP_Calcio.