STADIO SAN SIRO (Milan) – There was a clear sense of excitement and anticipation amongst the 70,000 AC Milan fans in the stands for Charles De Ketelaere’s first start and, as it eventually turned out, it was for a good reason. That was just one of the reasons for excitement as Milan beat Bologna 2-1.
After joining the Serie A champions in early August at the end of prolonged negotiations, the former Club Brugge starlet had needed time to settle in, despite enthusiastic comments coming from every corner of Europe about the 21-year-old.
Eventually given his first start in the Rossoneri’s third Serie A game of the season, the Belgian took no time to make his presence felt as he had a huge hand in the opener that paved the way for a comfortable win over Bologna, showing why he was already rated so highly at European level.
Charles De Ketelaere’s instant impact at AC Milan
After watching his side fail to score more than one goal against Atalanta despite long periods of dominance, Stefano Pioli likely saw De Ketelaere as the ideal man to improve his team’s offensive efficiency.
The Belgian’s relentless movement across the frontline made it challenging for Bologna’s defenders to track him, as they would inevitably end up opening up dangerous spaces.
In fact, with or without the ball, De Ketelaere’s influence over Milan’s playing style already seemed evident after as little as 20 minutes. His mix of physicality and technique instantly made him a new focal point for Pioli’s system, with almost every single attack passing through his feet.
Shortly after his ball recovery and delivery which teed up Rafael Leao for the hosts’ opener, the Belgian produced a piece of magic by chipping the ball over Bologna’s defensive line into the path of Pierre Kalulu, who couldn’t make the most of it.
In the space of a few minutes, the talented midfielder provided proof of both his work rate and intelligence, two skills that, especially combined, will earn him a lot of playing time under a coach renowned for an intense, high-pressing playing style characterised by quick offensive transitions.
While it is fair to think that De Ketelaere can definitely thrive in this context, it will be the whole Milan side to benefit from this addition, as the Belgian’s movements will help the likes of Rafael Leao, Olivier Giroud and Junior Messias get more and better chances, something that the Rossoneri have been craving since the last season.