After unveiling Krzysztof Piatek as a Milan player in January, then sporting director Leonardo revealed the early ambition that our new signing possessed.
“Piatek asked for the No.9 shirt, but we decided to give him the No.19 shirt because the No.9 has to be earned on the pitch,” the Brazilian told reporters at that first press conference just under six months ago.
21 games and 11 goals later, and the 24-year-old now has his wish as it was confirmed this week that our prolific forward will wear the No.9 shirt next season, as seen in the video below.
It’s a shirt number that has been worn by some all-time greats and club icons, namely the likes of Nils Liedholm, Gunnar Nordahl, Marco van Basten and Pippo Inzaghi to name just a few, and so that in itself tell its own story about the prestige, importance and responsibility that comes with wearing it.
Confirmed 9️⃣🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/IujQ55JfIm
— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) July 9, 2019
With that in mind, the first thing that has to be said is that the Polish international deserves a huge amount of credit for showing the ambition and determination to accept such a huge challenge of trying to live up to those names and follow in their footsteps.
It’s not been an easy road for many to follow in recent years, as since Inzaghi’s retirement in 2012, it has been considered somewhat of a cursed shirt number, as reflected in the numbers below for all those who have worn it on their back over the last seven years.
- Pato: 7 games, 2 goals
- Matri: 18 games, 1 goal
- Torres: 10 games, 1 goal
- Destro: 15 games, 3 goals
- Luiz Adriano: 36 games, 6 goals
- Lapadula: 29 games, 8 goals
- Andre Silva: 40 games, 10 goals
- Higuain: 22 games, 8 goals
Make what you will of the figures and the individuals in question, but a trend has undoubtedly emerged through that group as ultimately they all struggled to meet the expectations that come with leading the line for Milan as our No.9.
Naturally, it’s hoped that Piatek is the man to lift that ‘curse’ and not be weighed down by the responsibility that comes with it, and ultimately given his clinical finishing last season coupled with a potential switch to a 4-3-1-2 system this coming season, the signs are positive that he will deliver.
At times last season, the former Genoa striker was isolated and cut a frustrated figure as he simply didn’t have the quality service necessary at this level, and it could be argued that those named above certainly struggled with the same issues during their respective spells as our No.9.
However, it’s hoped that won’t be an issue next season as with a 4-3-1-2 system offering him support up top coupled with bringing creative players like Lucas Paqueta and Hakan Calhanoglu closer to him, it should result in Piatek getting plenty to feed off.
It’s encouraging to see him wanting to embrace this new challenge from the outset and he should be commended for it.
Some may argue that it’s merely just a number, but having already firmly established himself as a fans’ favourite at San Siro, the Polish ace now has the chance to write his name into club folklore with what he does on the pitch in the coming years and many will be convinced that is exactly what he’ll do, as he’ll do what he does best and that’s finding the back of the net.