Bryan Cristante exit ends talk of Milan youth push
On the whole, the summer transfer window could be deemed a success for Milan, with manager Pippo Inzaghi strengthening the club in key areas. While it remains to be seen whether those new arrivals solve the club's recent problems, one move in particular didn't sit well with the majority of Rossoneri supporters.
The signings of Diego Lopez, Adil Rami, Alex and Pablo Armero undoubtedly add solidity, experience and pace to the defensive line. Meanwhile, Marco van Ginkel, Giacomo Bonaventura, Jeremy Menez and Fernando Torres will hope to be influential in the attacking phase, with Inzaghi having numerous options at his disposal.
Nevertheless, the key deal on deadline day which infuriated many was the decision to sell promising youngster Bryan Cristante to Benfica. The 19-year-old had shown glimpses last season of his talent when promoted to the senior squad, and his characteristics made him fundamental moving forward.
However, that view wasn't shared by the club's management, with CEO Adriano Galliani revealing that Cristante requested to leave in a permanent deal as opposed to a loan move, as he believed his opportunities were limited at San Siro.
Taking each mistake in turn, the first made by Milan was not allowing one of their most promising youngsters room to develop and grow in the first team and thus ending up in this situation. Particularly, with captain Riccardo Montolivo sidelined with injury, Cristante is unique with regards to his passing ability and vision.
The likes of Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien and Andrea Poli offer steel and a habit of the odd goal, but Cristante brought much-needed creativity to the midfield and could have been a vital piece to this team for years to come.
Instead, Milan opted to sell him and bring in Van Ginkel on loan from Chelsea, essentially sacrificing one of their own youth products for a player who will undoubtedly improve this season before returning to his parent club. Where is the logic in that?
Some have argued that Cristante was merely a prospect and never impressed any of his coaches to the extent that he deserved his place in the starting lineup. While that may be true, at 19 years of age he had shown enough to suggest that he will blossom into a fine midfielder, with Benfica now likely to reap the rewards, both from a football perspective and financially.
The decision to sell Cristante could well be a blessing in disguise for both parties, and only time will reveal the answer to that. However, a theory that should finally be dismissed by supporters is the reliance on youth and rebuilding from within.
Owner Silvio Berlusconi, Galliani and former coaches all attempted to sell this vision of starting a new cycle with youth, but they continue to contradict themselves.
Perhaps the moves made this summer aren't a bad strategy, as the new signings promise to drastically improve this squad. However, the key point here is that the club as a whole must stop selling this ideology that they have a grand plan of rebuilding using the youth sector.
Lopez, Alex and Torres all prove that is a myth, but hopefully the likes of Mattia De Sciglio, Riccardo Saponara and Stephan El Shaarawy -- albeit the latter two were bought -- can show it can be a successful path on the odd occasion with results in the first team.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.