This time last season, Rasmus Hojlund had scored just once for Atalanta in a barren spell across his first 11 Serie A appearances followed by a purple patch of eight in his 21 games after the winter break. Still, he was in and out of the starting line-up, but at times his performance level was spectacular.
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said: “He has the characteristics to become one of the strongest strikers in the world. Among the young emerging players in his role, if not the best, he is among the best in Europe.”
Like Chelsea’s summer signing Nicolas Jackson, he has had a very challenging start to life in England. More challenging than his Chelsea counterpart, in fact. Hojlund, who doesn’t turn 21 until February, has scored three times in the Champions League but his eight Premier League appearances, seven in the starting line-up, have not yielded a single goal.
Both players have shown glimpses of their vast potential. Both have also, at times, looked as unpolished as you would expect such relatively unproven players to look. And, even in their most difficult moments, both would be entitled to feel their struggles have been a symptom of a wider dysfunction rather than a cause.