Christian Pulisic and Tijjani Reijnders have been picked out for special praise after AC Milan’s first win of the season against Bologna.
This morning’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) speaks of Pulisic and Reijnders as ‘the new devils’ with one being ‘the artist’ and the other being ‘the architect’.
The winger paints goals and plays that are unreadable for the opponents, while the midfield designs passing lines with a precision never seen before for a first-timer in the league.
To those who wondered where the revolution that resulted in the departures of Paolo Maldini, Ricky Massara and Sandro Tonali would lead, the first game of the season suggested the path could be the right one.
Pulisic and Reijnders are two 24-year-olds with different roles and professional backgrounds. The American is a playmaker who blossomed as a youngster in Dortmund, at the age of 20 he was already captain of the USA and was bought for a high fee by Chelsea, only to then slip onto the bench.
The Dutchman is a midfielder who made his way in his homeland without going to Ajax as many do, and wearing the national team shirt. His apprenticeship with AZ Alkmaar didn’t stop him from getting noticed by Milan, who wanted him strongly.
They are different but united by shirt they now wear. Both rejected other offers (Lyon for Pulisic, Barcelona for Reijnders) and landed in Milanello almost at the same time, just before the departure for the USA tour in mid-July.
A chat with Stefano Pioli, who had well-defined plans for them for some time, was decisive for both. In preseason the coach was able to assimilate the principles of his game and the duo were able to get to know their new teammates.
It looks at the moment that the installation was successful within a month and Milan found themselves with two stars in their engine.
Reijnders has raised the level on the centre-left, where the triangle with Leao and Theo promises sparks, while Pulisic smoothed out Milan’s right flank with dribbling, crosses and above all goals.
The right-footed strike at the Dall’Ara’s to make it 2-0 made Pulisic the first American to score in the Bundesliga, Premier League and Serie A, as well as the fifth to score in Italy’s top flight after Lalas, Bradley, McKennie and Busio. None of them, however, had succeeded in their debut.
What’s more, the goal in Bologna put the former Chelsea player in the company of Van Basten, Weah and Shevchenko as players who scored on their debut for the Rossoneri.
Reijnders’ assist for Giroud was one of 27 attempted and successful by the 25-year-old during the match. From 2004 to today, it had never happened that a Rossoneri midfielder played an entire Serie A match without misplacing a single pass.
In addition, he covered 12.8km of which 1.6km were in sprints, more than all the other Serie A players in the first round. With him – the first of the three midfielders to press forward, unlike in the pre-season in which the task fell to Loftus-Cheek – Milan gained in verticality.
The compliments came from Leao for Reijnders: ‘Crack’. Giroud also spoke about them: ‘Pulisic and I had a good feeling at Chelsea. We are very happy with Tijjani and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, they all integrated very well’.
A good start, but one which must be continued starting with the match against Torino on Saturday night.