Milan has always been a footballing institution, but in recent times they’ve quietly developed a knack as the breeding ground for some of the game’s great young talents.
In the wake of their post-2000s decline and the seemingly endless banter era that came with it, the Rossoneri had to turn away from spending big and trying to sign big names.
What came towards the late 2010s was a reliance on younger talent, desperate to prove themselves at a fallen giant.
And so began the redemption arc that has given football hipsters life for the next five years.
Not only has Stefano Pioli done a tremendous job of nurturing the likes of Rafael Leao, Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer, he’s also made a conscious effort to bring through Milan’s younger, in-house talent.
Francesco Camada made headlines in late 2023 for his debut aged 15, but in doing so, the world has completely overlooked a winger who could quietly prove Pioli’s secret weapon and key to redemption in the latter half of the season.
Chaka Traore became the first player born in 2004 to play in Serie A with Parma in April 2021, incidentally losing against the club that would snap him up as Parma crumbled.
In the time since, the Ivorian winger has had to start from the bottom again, proving himself once more in Milan’s youth system before finally earning his debut in the Champions League earlier in the season.
Pioli finally trusted him with a full debut from the start against Cagliari in the Coppa Italia, and his performance makes you wonder what on earth’s take him so long.
The 19-year-old strutted his stuff in a 4-1 thrashing, gliding around the San Siro like the ex-pro on your Sunday morning team, claiming ankles and taking names with his slippers on.
A performance that oozed confidence was sealed with the crowning moment – a debut goal. An extremely well-taken one at that, which is the true showing of Traore’s credentials amid the hype.
What a moment as Chaka Traorè scores on his full Milan debut! 👏
The 19-year-old's emotions tell the story of just how much it means to him 🔴⚫ pic.twitter.com/MXZuyhbivB
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) January 2, 2024
Kid has got it. Hardest part of the game is already locked down and he’s only one start in. Frightening news for Italian football, who now have to deal with the heir to Rafael Leao’s throne when he isn’t available.
It’s not just Traore’s rise to the top on the pitch that shows just how promising he is. There’s a case to suggest he’s already one of the most resilient players in the game.
In 2015, he took a small boat from the north of Africa to Italy in a desperate bid to make good on his talent, overcoming odds that most folk are privileged to not even be aware of in order to make it at the top.
“I’ve wanted to score this goal for a long time,” Traore admitted to reporters after the victory: “I’m happy with the victory and the performance. The coach gave us confidence.
“It’s an incredible emotion, I don’t know what to say.”
This is just the beginning of what promises to be a fruitful career for the winger with a wand of a right foot and hips that would dizzy a dancer.
What we do know for sure is that whether it’s Leao or Traore, Milan’s left-hand side continues to be a recipe for disaster for defenders facing it.
By Mitch Wilks