Italian children wake up on 6 January to discover whether the witch Befana has filled their stockings with toys and sweets, for the good, or lumps of coal, for the bad. Safe to say Kaká and Bryan Cristante have been pretty saintly as both had reason to celebrate after AC Milan's 3-0 league win against Atalanta BC on Monday.
"This was the best way to start 2014," said Kaká, who opened the scoring with his 100th Milan goal in the first half before adding another after the interval. Meanwhile, 18-year-old midfielder Cristante marked his first start for the Rossoneri with the side's third, having rattled the bar with a tidy volley earlier in the match.
"I don't know how to explain it," continued Kaká, only the tenth player to reach the 100-goal mark for Milan. "I'm extremely happy to be part of the history of this club. I have been waiting for the 100th goal for a few games now, and it was a great feeling. Every goal I score is exciting. Each time I hear the fans sing my name it's a great feeling because I know it comes from the heart."
Kaká claimed 95 of his goals for Milan between 2003 and 2009 when he helped the Rossoneri win the Scudetto and the UEFA Champions League among other trophies. The 31-year-old Brazil playmaker returned to San Siro in the summer after four seasons at Real Madrid CF. "I did not play as I wanted with Madrid but I'm sure they would confirm that I always worked hard to get back to my best," he said. "I could never have imagined leaving such a big impression in the history of Milan. Now I just want to be an example for players joining the team."
Among that number are France defender Adil Rami, handed his Rossoneri debut against Atalanta, and attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda, who watched from the stands after arriving from PFC CSKA Moskva. "I saw he was very excited to join us and I'm confident he can help us in the second part of the season," Kaká said of the Japanese international. "He is technically skilful and could make a difference for us."
The same certainly applies to Cristante, who joined Milan at 14 and made his Serie A bow in November, replacing Kaká in the 0-0 draw at AC Chievo Verona. The midfielder has already displayed his nose for goal in the UEFA Youth League group stage this term, scoring in both matches against FC Barcelona for the team coached by Filippo Inzaghi.
"Cristante played very well," said Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri, marking a century himself after notching his 100th Serie A victory as a coach just a few days after confirming he will not renew his contract when it expires at the end of the campaign. "Over the last few months he has improved a lot and convinced me to give him a chance today. He has great potential but we need to keep calm about him – he is only 18."
Cristante seems to be staying grounded, as he added: "Just training every day with great players helps me improve. I feel ready but I know I must continue to grow. I will carry on working hard and if I get another chance, I will give it my very best as I did today. Scoring in my first game at San Siro was very emotional, I'm delighted."
Milan remain 11th in Serie A but the new year could scarcely have begun on a better note.
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