For many young footballers, the opening act of their professional career can be far easier than the second chapter.
The freedom of inexperience is at times a boon to up and coming players, who in certain situations are able to avoid feeling the pressure placed on their more grizzled counterparts.
Just ask Mattia De Sciglio, he knows a thing or two about it. Having made his Serie A debut late in the 2011-12 term, the Italian went on to be a regular starter the next season.
In what was a difficult campaign for a retooling Milan, De Sciglio shone. Versatile, intelligent and athletic, he became the symbol of a future Rossoneri side built on youth.
But that invited expectations. A product of the Milan youth system, De Sciglio was anointed as the ‘next Maldini’ – a weighty moniker to live up to. And since then, it’s been tough.
Injuries and difficulties maintaining form limited him to 15 Serie A starts last season. This time around De Sciglio has been a regular, but has largely looked out of sorts.
Still just 22, the Italy international has been left to figure out where it’s gone wrong. And now he’s being compared to a fellow Italian full-back who also lost his way as a youngster in Milan.
Calciomercato have observed that De Sciglio is following a trajectory much the same as that of Newcastle’s Davide Santon during his time at Inter.
After starting brightly under Jose Mourinho with the Nerazzurri, Santon’s role steadily diminished despite his promise, culminating with his sale to Newcastle in August 2011.
Santon himself had even been compared to a young Maldini by former Italy boss Marcello Lippi, but appeared substantively affected by the hype surrounding him.
But the move to the Premier League did Santon a measure of good. A first choice player on Tyneside, he returned to form on English shores.
The 24-year-old only just returned to action after sitting out since August with a knee injury, but the greater context of his revival at Newcastle is most important.
With respect to De Sciglio, the question now is what will become of the Milan man. His sending off against Torino at the weekend only worsened his troubles, and sections of fans have made clear they are losing patience with him.
What’s more is that Milan are reportedly looking at bringing in another full-back this January, signaling that boss Pippo Inzaghi isn’t entirely satisfied with De Sciglio.
In the past, the 22-year-old has himself been linked with a Premier League switch. Amid reported interest from Real Madrid, Sky Sport 24 reported in August that Tottenham Hotspur had asked Milan for De Sciglio in exchange for Roberto Soldado.
De Sciglio’s growing pains are much the same as many players in his position – particularly those anointed as future greats – and the situation is above all in Milan’s hands.
It will be interesting to see if De Sciglio goes abroad should the Rossoneri ultimately decide to sell the youngster rather than stick with him through his development.
The precedent for such a move is there in Santon’s prior departure from Inter for Newcastle, which turned out to be a wise move for the full-back.
Whether De Sciglio will be on his way to new scenery in the short term remains to be seen, but the parallels between his young career and Santon’s are so far clear enough.