Suso and Patrick Cutrone stealing the limelight after AC Milan's busy summer
Amid all the excitement surrounding AC Milan's busy summer transfer window, two key figures have continued to remind us that they're going to be a fundamental part of the club's success moving forward.
Suso's form is expected to earn him a new and improved contract, and ultimately it's a well-deserved reward. Some still lazily refer to him as the ex-Liverpool player who failed to make an impression at Anfield. In truth, while that was a disappointing spell in his career, he's a completely different player two years on.
After struggling in his first two seasons with Milan, a loan spell with Genoa in 2015 proved to be a catalyst for success. The opportunity to play regularly and have a prominent role allowed Suso to show his class, which in turn paved the way for Vincenzo Montella to make Suso a focal point of his plans.
Suso ended last season with seven goals and 10 assists in 37 appearances. An injury in March slowed him down as he spent this past summer recovering and getting back to peak condition.
That hard work has certainly paid dividends as he's already bagged two goals and two assists this season, including that magical free kick to secure all three points against Cagliari prior to the international break.
Montella has made him a creative hub in this side, and while the addition of Hakan Calhanoglu along with Giacomo Bonaventura's quality will lessen the burden and pressure on Suso's shoulders, he looks ready to step up and deliver.
Consistency remains the key factor. Making a decisive impact -- such as his winner against Cagliari when Milan were struggling -- will only serve to further drum home his importance to this team.
Nevertheless, his fine form has already seemingly secured a new contract with an official announcement said to be imminent. Now the challenge will be to continue to prove that he deserves the faith of his coach and club moving forward.
In truth, many would have expected this from Suso, and the belief is that he'll only improve and mature further. While Suso's performance wasn't much of a surprise, the form of youngster Patrick Cutrone certainly has been and a welcome one at that.
The 19-year-old was spotted very early by Milan and proved his quality on a consistent basis through the various levels of the youth sector. Although he made his brief Serie A debut last season, this has naturally been the first time many supporters have been able to have a real look at him.
Cutrone wasted no time in impressing Montella, as he was one of the standout players in preseason. Nevertheless, the real test was whether or not he could deliver in competitive action. Five goals and one assist in six appearances have answered that question emphatically.
So much so that summer signing Andre Silva has been forced to watch from the bench, as Montella has rightly catered to Cutrone following his unexpected emergence and is giving him an opportunity to prove he deserves to stay there.
Perhaps in time Silva will get the script back on track, but for now Cutrone continues to impress and it isn't just his goalscoring exploits that have caught the eye.
Although it's expected of a player of his age as he tries to impress, Cutrone's energy, work-rate and pressing are still impressive. In addition, his link-up play is decent as his first touch often allows him to displace defenders and find his teammates.
However, it's his movement and shrewdness off the ball in finding pockets of space behind the lines or in the box that stand out. His cleverness belies his years as he's in the process of mastering qualities that take others years to perfect.
It's a staggering rise to prominence for the young forward even if his performances at youth level shouldn't make this a complete surprise. Provided he remains level-headed and continues to grow in confidence, then there's no reason to suggest he can't be a crucial player for many more years and develop alongside several other young players in this squad.
Suso and Cutrone have been integral in Milan's positive start to the Serie A campaign thus far. For all the talk of new signings and a big-spending summer, credit goes to this duo for focusing on their own game and ensuring Montella can call upon them.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.