- Patrick Cutrone joined Wolves from AC Milan for £16million in the summer
- The Italian came through the ranks at Milan but was told he was not wanted
- He has scored two goals in 17 appearances in all competitions for his new club
PUBLISHED: 22:31 GMT, 5 November 2019 | UPDATED: 22:56 GMT, 5 November 2019
Patrick Cutrone had an unusual way of honing the skills that made him a first-team regular for AC Milan by the age of 19.
His family home was in the village of Parè, close to Lake Como and 25 miles from Milan. There, the five-year-old Patrick — nicknamed ‘Pokemon‘ by his older brother Christopher because he enjoyed the card games of the Japanese cartoon series — would deploy one of his grandmothers, Mafalda and Giuseppina, as a goalkeeper in the living room as they waited for his parents to return from work.
‘I was always at home with my grandmothers when I was little and they liked to play football,’ smiles Cutrone, in his first major interview since his £16million move from Milan to Wolves.
‘I would take shots and they would save them. My parents would get angry with me because I would break the odd vase during these games — but my grandmothers were good goalkeepers!’
Speaking at Wolves’ training base, Cutrone is reflecting on the summer that turned his life upside down.
The 21-year-old had joined Milan, the team he supported, at seven, and progressed rapidly to make his competitive debut when he was 18. Premier League clubs showed interest when he was 16 but there was no reason to accept it. Cutrone was young and his career path appeared clear.
Suddenly, he was told he was not wanted. Milan had an offer from Wolves and to give them a more competitive transfer budget they accepted.
‘At a certain point they put me in a position where I said, “OK, I have to leave”,’ he explained. ‘Now I don’t know how to explain what happened, but after I’d spoken to the club I took this decision.
‘I was aware of Wolves’ interest and I chose them straight away. In life, you have to make decisions. I was in that situation, which was disappointing because I had a great connection with my team-mates at Milan and the fans really loved me. It was nice to receive messages from supporters, team-mates, as it meant I had left something positive behind. I knew a bit about Wolves and I’d always had a little dream about playing in England.
‘It’s my first experience away from home. Before now, I’d always been close to home, close to the training ground, so there was a period of adaptation, which is normal. I was always attracted by the idea of playing abroad and I was excited to try something new. I’m happy.
‘But I’ve left the place I grew up in, far from my parents, my friends, my brother, my grandparents, my girlfriend, so there is a bit of disappointment. They’re still close to me, even though I’m in another country. We have a wonderful connection and find time to see each other at weekends or during international breaks.’
Until that summer meeting with the Milan hierarchy, his life had been all Milan — training sessions after school, idolising the stars of the past.
‘I had posters of former Italy strikers Filippo Inzaghi and Marco Borriello. I watched YouTube videos of Marco van Basten and George Weah. I remember the 2007 Champions League final win over Liverpool, but not so much Istanbul 2005 — thankfully. I’ll always be a Milanista.
‘Since coming to Wolves, I’ve seen videos of Steve Bull, of what he did at Wolves and Italia 90. It would be great to meet him.’
Living in an area containing many Milan fans, Cutrone was a local hero. A cafe even renamed his favourite ice-cream flavour — cream and nutella — the ‘Cutrone ice-cream’. At 19, he scored the winner against Inter Milan, a 1-0 victory in the Italian Cup in December 2017. ‘I didn’t sleep for days after that,’ he remembers.
For all the positive words — and Cutrone is nothing but enthusiastic about his new club — it is important to remember the upheaval in his life. The forward is so close to his parents, that until the summer he was still living under the same roof as them.
His affection is represented by a tattoo on each arm, one showing his immediate family on the shores of Lake Como, the other depicting his grandparents. The family have attended some games — his father saw the 1-1 draw with Southampton.
Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that Cutrone is still finding his way in English football. Two goals in 17 appearances — one in the 5-2 home defeat by Chelsea on September 14 and the other in the EFL Cup defeat by Aston Villa last week — means he still has work to do to convince coach Nuno Espirito Santo to change his first-choice attacking partnership of Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota.
‘I’m calm about it,’ Cutrone insists. ‘I’ve always scored goals in my career. We’ve shown with recent results what a good team we are and that we can compete with anyone. I’m starting to settle here and I feel loved by the fans and my team-mates. Goals will come.’