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Which of Milan's Youngsters Can Break Through This Season?

Having impressed during pre-season, can any of Milan's young players make an impact in the first team this season?

18 year old Manuel Locatelli made his debut at the end of last season
18 year old Manuel Locatelli made his debut at the end of last season
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Milan's lack of activity in the transfer market this summer has caused unrest amongst the club's fanbase. Despite Silvio Berlusconi agreeing a deal to sell the club to a group of Chinese investors, Milanisti will have to wait for the deal to be finalised later this year before any of that money is invested in the team itself. Whilst this means that the Rossoneri go into this season with an underwhelming squad of players at their disposal, it does allow for the introduction of some new players via a different route.

As well as producing the likes of Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Demetrio Albertini, some of the greatest players ever to wear the Milan shirt, the last few years have seen an abundance of fresh talent come through Milan's reputable youth system. Last season proved to be a breakthrough year for both 19 year old right back Davide Calabria, as well as 17 year old goalkeeping sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma and this season could present similar opportunities for some of Milan's other promising youngsters.

Two players who impressed during pre-season were 18 year old central midfielder Niccolo Zanellato and 18 year old Regista Manuel Locatelli. Zanellato featured heavily during pre-season, making a particular impact in Milan's first summer friendly against Bourdeaux. The nimble youngster showcased a dynamism and determination in his play, as well as an impressive long shot. Zanellato is certainly capable of offering the kind of creative spark that more functional midfielders such as Juraj Kucka or Andrea Poli can't. The injury to Andrea Bertolacci at the weekend may well open up some opportunities for him  in the near future.

Long regarded the jewel of Milan's academy, Locatelli has struggled more in his early first team appearances. The young playmaker made his debut at the end if last season in a 3-1 loss and unsurprisingly struggled to make an impact. His pre-season form has been more encouraging however. The Lecco native has fantastic technique with the ball at his feet as well as an excellent range of passing that allows him to dictate play from deep. He was the creative fulcrum of Milan's primavera side last year and whilst it will take him time to adapt to the rigours of senior level football, he looks set for a starring role in the not too distant future.

Prolific forward Patrick Cutrone, skillful attacking midfielder Mattia El Hilali and strong central defender Ivan De Santis are all primed to make the step up to the senior team in the near future. With all the holes in the first team squad at the minute, Vincenzo Montella could do a lot worse than give some of the players a go in the near future. There's certainly no excuse if the alternatives are flops like Riccardo Montolivo and Andrea Poli.