While the eyes of all Milan fans are on the Sporting Center of Milanello as the Manduzkic-mania arrived in full strength, there's a little apprehension about the choice of his number, because, well, it was a bold one. As we all know, since Pippo Inzaghi none of the strikers that came after him had any success wearing the famous number 9 shirt. Since 2012, by the time SuperPippo retired, Milan have had a total of 9 players that picked that number, with the likes of Alexandre Pato, Alessandro Matri, Fernando Torres, Mattia Destro, Luiz Adriano, Gianluca Lapadula, André Silva, Gonzalo Higuaín and, more recently, Krzysztof Piatek failing to score more than 8 goals, being Lapadula the owner of this record. Now, with the newcomer Croatian striker accepting this challenge, it's seems apropriate to say: Worry not, because the "curse of the number 9" apparently is not exclusive to the Men's team. I mean, well, we probably should worry a little bit.
As we said before, the Milan Women's team have been around for 3 seasons and, so far, only two players wore the aforementioned number. Our fisrt "9" was Daniela Sabatino and her partner, Valentina Giacinti, wore the #19, keeping their numbers from their Brescia days. They formed our attacking duo in the 4-4-2 formation that Carolina Morace, headcoach of the Rossonere by that time, used. At the end of our first season, in 2018-2019, Sabatino had scored 17 league goals while Giacinti had 21 goals in 21 games under her name in Serie A, plus 3 goals in the Coppa Italia. In the previous season, 2017-2018, for the sake of the argument, Sabatino and Giacinti had scored 10 and 21 league goals each, respectively.
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 season, Sabatino went to Sassuolo, leaving Giacinti free to take the #9 and the captain's armband. That was the moment when the "curse of the number 9" had begun in the Women's team. Without her partner in crime, in a new formation, as coach Ganz switched the team to a 4-3-3, and often playing as a left winger, Vale struggled a lot and in the 15 league games that she played, before the competition halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Giacinti only scored 9 goals and failed to find the back of the net in the Coppa Italia. Furthermore, for those who watched the rossonere's game, our captain was nowhere as cynical and precise in front of the goal as she was in previous seasons, often making the wrong decision, rushing to take the shot when there were better options.
Unfortunatetly, in the current season, that feeling lingers. Giacinti has not peaked yet and half of the Serie A is gone. Sure, she has 8 goals in the league so far and also found the back of the net three times in the Coppa Italia, but if we pay attention, 2 of those league goals came from penalties. Also, she has a 21,11% accuracy in total shots, which means she consistently loses opportunities even when it's 1 on 1 against the goalkeeper, as we saw versus Roma, Fiorentina and last game against Verona. Vale's partner, Natasha Dowie, has 6 league goals so far, none of them from penalties and has a higher accuracy on her shots (27,3%).
For a striker, with #19 on her back, who scored one goal per match at the league, reaching a total of 24 seasonal goals in 26 games on 2018-2019 and after taking the number 9, have scored 20 seasonal goals in 31 games, combining the last and the current season, this "curse of the #9" is, perhaps, getting under her skin as well.
Image credits: acmilan.com