Krzysztof Piatek has been handed the No.9 shirt at AC Milan for the upcoming season.
The Polish striker could’ve had it in January when he arrived from Genoa as it was already available – but the club’s management felt he needed to earn the prestigious number first.
It’s safe to say then – after six months and 11 goals in all competitions for the Rossoneri – that’s he’s earned it.
But it hasn’t just been his goals that have impressed Milan and their expectant fan base.
It’s been the whole aura around him; his passion and pride for the shirt, his early affinity with the supporters, and the feeling that the team is really starting to build something around him.
Milan have a good squad ahead of the new campaign, with manager Marco Giampaolo – who’s replaced Gennaro Gattuso after his decision to resign at the end of last season – highly rated in Italy and keen to see success.
With some new additions on the way and no Europa League to distract them, Milan should be fighting for a top four finish by the end of 2019/20.
Piatek will undoubtedly be the one to spearhead their new era (no pressure, lad), so handing him the No.9 makes perfect sense.
But the number carries a lot of responsibility, and many fans believe it holds a ‘curse’; much like the No.7 does at Man United.
Since Filippo Inzaghi’s retirement in 2012, eight players have worn the number on their back – among them Alexandre Pato, Mattia Destro, Fernando Torres and Gonzalo Higuain – racking up 143 games between the eight of them but scoring just 25 goals, at a ratio of 0.17 goals per game.
That’s not what exactly the sort of return you’d expect from a host of leading strikers at one of Europe’s major powerhouses, is it?
Last season after joining from Genoa, Piatek became an almost overnight success, netting twice on his debut in a Coppa Italia clash with Napoli and giving Kalidou Koulibaly – widely considered one of the best defenders on the planet right now – a night to forget.
He followed that up with goals against Roma, Cagliari, Empoli and a brilliant brace at Atalanta, and finished the Serie A campaign as the third top-scorer in the league, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Duvan Zapata.
He even finished up as top scorer for both Genoa and Milan.
Many big names have worn Milan’s No.9 before Inzaghi, including Patrick Kluivert and Roberto Baggio, and it’s typically reserved for a special type of player, such as legends like George Weah and Marco van Basten.
As a result, the magnitude of the number and the absence of someone worthy to wear it has been the subject of some concern for fans in recent years.
But Piatek really does look to be one to break the mould, and the curse.
- Jose Mourinho probably won’t be the next Newcastle manager – but you’d love to see it, wouldn’t you?
- 12 months ago Yerry Mina was the most coveted defender around – now Everton want to cut their losses
- Prepare yourself for the insufferable Aaron Wan-Bissaka vs Trent Alexander-Arnold debate
WATCH THE BEST DREAM TEAM COACH TV RANTS OF THE SEASON