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Why 2015/16 Is the Season M'Baye Niang Will Break out at AC Milan

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 13 Aug 2015

MBaye Niang signed for AC Milan as a highly rated 17-year-old back in the summer of 2012, however it is only now that the Frenchman looks ready to establish himself with the club. After three largely underwhelming and uneventful years, two loan spells and a lack of goals, Niang could finally break out in the 2015-16 season.The youngster first broke through at Caen in France, where he joined the youth academy at 13 and made his first-team debut at 16. In his first few months of football with the senior team, he scored three goals in seven appearances. His rise to prominence had been fast and it was only natural that bigger clubs asserted their interest.After his first full season with Caen, Niang was linked with a move to English Premier League giants Arsenal, as well as others, per Enis Koylu of Goal, but eventually opted to join Milan.At the time seen as one of the top young players in Europe, big things were expected of Niang when he arrived in Italy, but his first season was a tough introduction to life in Serie A. Failing to score in 20 league games, of which he started nine, according to Transfermarkt, Niangs career lost momentum.He was sent on loan to Montpellier the next season, but didnt aid his own cause by crashing his car while under a suspension from driving. His behaviour landed him with an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a 700 fine, while Montpellier president Louis Nicollin had some serious words for the young Frenchman, telling reporters, per Goal: "I have told him that if he continues like that at 19 years old, he will not always find someone (to fall back on)."By this time last year, Niangs Milan career was in serious danger of petering out, though in fairness, the circumstances in which he was attempting to develop were hardly ideal. Milan were a club in decline following an unsuccessful end to Massimiliano Allegris coaching tenure.Allegri was replaced by a succession of former Milan players with little to no managerial track recordfirst Clarence Seedorf, then Filippo Inzaghiwhile the club sold off their finest young talent, such as Bryan Cristante. In such an environment, the prospects for someone like Niang appeared bleak.That all changed in the second half of last season, when Niang was sent out on loan once again, this time to Genoa.Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini has earned plaudits as a protagonist of fluid, adventurous and attacking football, and Niang settled well into the coachs way of playing. Settling predominantly on the left wing of the front three in Gasperinis favoured 3-4-3 formation, Niang began to recapture his best form.He won a man-of-the-match award for his performance in Genoas 5-2 rout of Verona in February, where he bagged two goals. All in all, he scored five times and assisted twice in 14 appearances for Genoa, while obtaining his best-ever performance rating, according to WhoScored.This positive form earned Niang a second chance with Milan, something his agent hinted at when speaking to MilanNews.it (via Forza Italian Football), saying:Milan wants to return to the top and... everyone at the Rossoneri thinks that Niang could be part of this project. ... MBaye is ready and knows that Milan have confidence in him.In early July, Niangs reinvigoration was all but confirmed as he agreed to a contract extension that tied him to the club until 2019. Later that month, Milan rejected several offers for the player according to his agent, who told MilanNews via Football Italia:There were offers from England, and also from France and Italy. They were rejected by Milan, and Niang is still here.Sinisa Mihajlovic, Milans newly appointed coach, has also shown his faith in Niang by utilising him frequently throughout pre-season. Niang has so far repaid that faith with some promising displays, the most exciting of which came against Real Madrid during the Rossoneris tour of China.Niang played on the left of a front two in Mihajlovics preferred 4-3-1-2 system and his darting runs, pace and trickery at times bewitched the Madrid defence, particularly Pepe.Unfortunately, Niang was injured in Milans defeat to Bayern Munich in the Audi Cup, meaning he is likely to miss the start of the season. However, his friendly performances have shown enough to suggest that he has a long-term future with the club.Milan have significantly enhanced their striking options of late with the arrivals of Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano from Sevilla and Shakhtar Donetsk respectively, but Niang is younger than both of them and seems a perfect fit for his managers tactics.Mihajlovic likes his two strikers in the 4-3-1-2 to pull wide, create space and run at defenders. This is perhaps the role best suited to Niang, a player who had previously in his Milan career rotated between orthodox central and wide roles without much success.With a coach whose tactics suit him, as well as a positive loan spell in Serie A and a strong pre-season behind him, Niang is well set to be Milans breakout star in the 2015/16 season.
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