When it comes to developing a youth academy, Milan is considered one of the best in European football.
In recent years, we’ve seen only a few of their premier talents rise through the ranks and make an impact at the senior level. Talents like Mattia De Sciglio and most recently Gianluigi Donnarumma are two that come to mind but while fans become infatuated with Donnarumma and even Hachim Mastour, there are still many youngsters that do not get the notoriety or recognition they rightfully deserve despite being just as promising.
We often find ourselves perusing through the youth academies of clubs, finding the names that play in more advanced roles or who are pure attacking threats. However, in the current situation with the rossoneri, our attention should be directed towards the middle of park; the midfield.
So far, we have covered two of the club’s best talents in this department: Andrej Modic and Manuel Locatelli. In the fourth of a series of youth profiles, the player of focus is Alessandro Mastalli, the Italian maestro of the Milan Primavera.
Alessandro Mastalli, a 20-year old Bologna-born midfielder, is one of the prospects that supporters of the club have known for quite some time, yet have seen very little of. He was purchased from the Bologna youth academy years ago before recently establishing himself in Italy within the successful red and black system. This academy has produced some of the club’s greatest players; Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta who are at the top in club appearances. The program has massive appeal for youngsters and it’s considered quite an accomplishment if you can rise through and make it into the senior side.
Mastalli, standing in at an estimated 5’9″ (1.75 m) and 160 pounds, has been in the Milan organization for some time now and has steadily made the climb through the ranks, from the Allievi Nazionali to becoming the captain of Cristian Brocchi’s successful primavera side.
To attain captaincy for any team let alone Milan, you must hold certain qualities; Mastalli has them all. Starting with his mentality, the captain of the Primavera has an exceptional approach towards the game. He takes the pitch with determination, character and is a fantastic example for those youngsters training with sides like Milan Giovanissimi U-15 who are eyeing the captain role in the future. As a natural leader, he’s able to influence the match both individually and for his teammates. These qualities are especially key for a centrocampista who is often referred to as the engine of the side.
From a skills perspective, Mastalli offers quite a bit. Of course, he’s typically deployed primarily in the central midfield, but is fully capable of rotating between roles across the midfield that require him to be the creative cog. The promising young Italian has quality control and composure on the ball enabling him to dictate play in whichever role he is placed in. While he is as dynamic as they come when examining Milan youth, it’s worth mentioning his capability to impact the side when matches are of greater significance. His performances for Pippo Inzaghi’s 2014 Primavera side helped them hoist the trophy at the Viareggio Cup.
Mastalli is an agile and shifty midfielder who fancies plunging into the attack to have a go for goal. His offensive traits were demonstrated when he collected 8 goals in twenty-seven appearances during the 14-15 season, via transfermarkt. If you thought he was confined to being a prototypical midfielder, this should alter your judgement a tad.
His strengths are well documented, but of course with most youngsters there are small blemishes. For Mastalli, he doesn’t have much to work on. He will need to adapt to more competitive football should he start playing frequently for the senior side. That space to operate, or those passes that seem to find a hole now may not be there once he breaks the threshold of youth calcio. At any rate, character is so vital to development, and he has the perfect attitude to make any adjustments.
For country, Mastalli has gotten his feet wet quite a bit. He had recently been called up to the under-21 azzurrini, but featured mostly for the under-19 side in a few friendlies back in 2014. In his debut for the u-18 squad, he scored a howler against Switzerland.
Outlook on Alessandro Mastalli
The situation for Mastalli has become interesting. After being sent away on loan this past summer to Swiss club FC Lugano to gain some seasoning, Mastalli featured in just 9 matches. At the age of 20, he needed quality minutes and in Switzerland, that simply wasn’t what he was given. Now that he’s returned back to the Primavera, there’s hope that he can finish the season strong and make the next leap in his career. This summer, the prime move for Mastalli and his career would be to stay in Italy and evolve with a Serie B side, contingent on Milan finding a suitor who can guarantee him the crucial minutes.
Mastalli was called up a total of thirteen times last season under Inzaghi, but made his Milan debut last May against Torino, relieving Andrea Poli late in the 3-0 victory. After the 15 minute cameo, he couldn’t have been more thrilled with his first cap.
Mastalli on his debut last May, via Rossoneri Blog:
“My debut? It’s a unique feeling, I still do not know how to describe it, to come on in a stadium like this is an incredible feeling. It’s still fresh and it will stay with me for the rest of my life. It’s obvious that when you start to train with the first team, you often think about the debut, I was hoping for it and today it arrived! I am really happy. I have to thank the club, the coach and everybody else.”
Examining his career for the azzurri, it’s difficult to say where he stands. The Italian sides have a plethora of gifted players, from keeper to forward. It will be difficult for him to secure a role for country, but this will not stop him from going after a spot. Mastalli has everything it takes to shine. He has a good head on his shoulders and the proper mindset.
After signing an extension in 2014, Mastalli made it clear what his long-term goal was, via acmilan.com:
“My dream is to play in the Champions League with Milan. It’s hard, but I believe and I hope with all my heart.”
Will Alessandro Mastalli fulfill his dream and feature for Milan in the European tournament? With hard work, consistency and determination, there is no reason why he can’t.