All it needed was some tough love to get the best out of Tiemoue Bakayoko.
And who better to strike the fear of God into a player than Gennaro Gattuso.
Using the iconic words of the man himself, Bakayoko’s performances this season have been “sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe sh*t.”
Luckily for the zen enthusiast’s vocal chords, the Frenchman has come on leaps and bounds for AC Milan in recent months.
Bakayoko was perilously close to ending up on the football scrapheap before he got his career back on track with a little help from Gattuso.
The former Monaco man was criticised at the start of the season for his lack of basic ability but is now being compared to former Milan star Marcel Desailly.
“The start of the season was not easy because of the language,” confessed the Chelsea loanee.
“But today it is much better both on the field and (in my) private life and I am very happy with what I am experiencing.”
After a relative kick up the a*se Bakayoko has rediscovered the form that helped him become one of Europe’s most coveted midfielders while at Monaco.
We all remember him going toe-to-toe with Fernandinho as Man City were humiliated in the Champions League by Leonardo Jardim’s youthful side.
The Frenchman orchestrated the coupon-busting victory with his direct style proving too much for even Pep Guardiola’s Brazilian anchorman to handle.
He had been so impressive with Monaco that Chelsea decided to replace two-time Premier League winner and midfield linchpin Nemanja Matic with the younger model.
Ultimately it was a terrible decision by the Blues and one heavily protested by Antonio Conte, as Bakayoko failed to reach anywhere near to the standards of his predecessor.
Deemed surplus to requirements by Maurizio Sarri the leggy midfielder was sent on loan to Milan where, after the aforementioned poor start, he’s looking like the Bakayoko we saw at Monaco.
The return of his maverick playing style has, according to Gattuso, been the catalyst in his upturn in fortunes at the San Siro.
“I think he’s an atypical deep-lying midfielder in modern football.
“He can turn the moves from defensive to attacking, he takes men on and always gets past them.”
Bakayoko’s love/hate relationship with Gattuso has been one of the subplots of the Serie A season.
Ultimately It’s come full circle with the Frenchman now full of praise for the treatment he’s received from his temporary manager.
“Gattuso is like a father figure, our relationship is excellent. We talk about everything and he helped pass on his warrior spirit.”
Bakayoko has revealed his desire to stay with Milan beyond the end of the season and hopes to fight his way back into the French national team having missed out on the World Cup.
His stark improvement comes as his parent club find themselves embroiled in a midfield crisis with his replacement Jorginho in particular being singled out for criticism.
Bakayoko might not be Sarri’s cup of tea/cigarette equivalent, but you can’t deny that his dynamism would be useful to Chelsea right now.
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