Genoa loan spell has breathed life back into M’Baye Niang’s career

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In 38 matches for AC Milan, M’Baye Niang’s stat line was simple – one Coppa Italia goal and two assists in all competitions.

A one-time transfer target for Arsenal and Chelsea, the French-born striker was signed by Milan in 2012 at the tender age of 17. In 22 games for the Italian giants that season, Niang produced very little, playing only 953 minutes – an average of less than 45 minutes per match that he featured in.

However, Niang’s fortunes changed when he was loaned to France’s Montpellier in January 2014. The former French Under-21 scored four goals and tallied two assists in 18 games and Niang’s excellent form for La Paillade helped the club stave off relegation.

The 20-year-old returned to Milan last summer, but after seeing a mere 87 minutes of first team football he joined Genoa on loan in January of this year. Signed to help fill the hole left by the exits of leading goal scorer Alessandro Matri and back-up Mauricio Pinilla, Niang has flourished in the port city.

In 14 games, the striker has notched five goals and two assists, including a strike against his parent club in Genoa’s 3-1 win at San Siro in late April.

Last week against Torino, Niang turned in another stellar performance, combining well with his attack partners Marco Borriello, Iago Falque and Andrea Bertolacci. The Grifone ran riot over Torino as the team moved with a point of Europa League qualification thanks to a 5-1 win.

Niang is not the first player to arrive at Genoa in desperate need of rejuvenation. Genoa have been a haven of rebirth for many players under coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

This season alone, Genoa have had several players in the team to have been “given up on” by former clubs. Falque is only 25, but is now playing for his eighth club. Having spent time as a youth player with Real Madrid and Barcelona before being transferred to Juventus and Tottenham, few expected the Spaniard to become Genoa’s leading goal scorer (11) this season.

Meanwhile, Marco Borriello returned this year for his third spell with the Grifone. The Stadio Luigi Ferraris has long been the sight of Borriello’s best football during his career. Despite not scoring since his return, the Italian has tallied two assists.

Argentine Diego Perotti is another example of a player reborn this term with Genoa. Signed from Sevilla on a four-year deal, Perotti is one of the more highly sought after creative players in Serie A.

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