Based on his early performances this season, it looked as though Tiemoue Bakayoko’s spell at AC Milan was going to be a disaster for all concerned.
Looking back on his cameo appearance against Napoli and his displays in the Europa League having been given a starting berth by Gennaro Gattuso, the 24-year-old looked as though he was merely picking up from where he left off at Chelsea last season.
Sloppy with his passing, hesitant in possession and seemingly a yard off the pace in his defensive work, he continued to look a shadow of the player that impressed so many during his time at Monaco not so long ago.
That in turn led to real question marks over whether or not Milan would turn his season-long loan spell into a permanent deal, with the Rossoneri having to splash out €35m if they wish to do so, as noted by Goal.com.
Further, from being jeered by his own supporters to being criticised by pundits and fans alike, it was a lot to deal with for a player looking to bounce back after a frustrating season at Stamford Bridge while also trying to adjust in a new league, environment and culture.
With all that in mind, it makes his turnaround all the more impressive.
That’s not to say that Bakayoko doesn’t still have room for improvement, as his passing and overall influence in midfield can get better.
However, with the current injury crisis helping him to secure a more prominent role, to play regularly and consistently to get to optimal fitness levels and feel settled as an important part of the line-up, he has gone from strength to strength and looks a completely different player to the one seen earlier in the campaign.
Impressively, he looked equally as comfortable and composed in a midfield three on Sunday against Parma as he did in a two-man midfield alongside Franck Kessie, sweeping up in front of the defence while playing simple yet effective passes to the more creative players in the XI.
Further, his work-rate and coverage of the pitch also helps Milan gain a foothold in midfield, while his tenacity and athleticism to move forward with the ball after winning back possession has made him a key figure in the line-up in recent weeks.
Tiémoué Bakayoko most recent performance for AC Milan, he looks a much improved player from when we last saw him in a Chelsea shirt.
With performances like this, Marina may regret putting a £35 million buy out clause on Bakayoko’s loan contract…pic.twitter.com/4NywqX81wx
— . (@OfficialCheIs) November 21, 2018
It feels as though Bakayoko still has more potential and development to explore and tap in to, and he has to continue this run of form to prove that it isn’t just a purple patch before his previous problems reappear.
Nevertheless, to silence the detractors and to construct a genuine case of making the Milan hierarchy now consider his long-term future at the San Siro all through his own hard work and improvement deserves a serious amount of credit.
Bakayoko is moving in the right direction and is proving to be a valuable asset for Milan this season. Long may that continue as it ultimately suits all parties, perhaps even beyond this year.
Tiemoue Bakayoko vs Parma:
Aerials won: 4/6
— Milan Talk (@MilanTalk1) December 3, 2018