Linked with Juventus & Liverpool – How good is Italy centre-back Riccardo Calafiori?

5 assists last season 

Linked with Juventus & Liverpool - How good is Italy centre-back Riccardo Calafiori?


Italy’s last minute equaliser against Croatia to confirm their place in the knockout stage was one of the most dramatic moments of an already enthralling Euro 2024Mattia Zaccagni may have taken the plaudits as he expertly curled the finish into the top corner, but the space was created by centre-half Riccardo Calafiori intelligently stepping into midfield, drawing players towards him and laying off the pass. The centre-back came all the way from his own half, playing a one-two and then driving with the ball and providing the assist. And he’s been one of the star performers for ‘the Azzurri’ at Euro 2024 thus far. He will however miss the round of 16 clash against Switzerland after ‘taking one for the team’ against Croatia for his second booking of the tournament.

Before a ball was kicked at the tournament, the stock was already pretty high in Calafiori after a superb season under Thiago Motta at Bologna, in which the club qualified for the Champions League. Motta has now become Juventus manager, who are one of the favourites to sign the Italian centre-back this summer. There is also fierce competition from the Premier League, with Liverpool one of the clubs particularly interested in his services. Calafiori has a current market value of €30 million, but just how good is the 22 year old? With expert insight from Italy, Transfermarkt brings you everything you need to know about the Italian.

How good is Riccardo Calafiori?

Calafiori is far from an orthodox centre-back. As you can see in the graphic above, no other centre-half provided more assists across Europe’s top five leagues last season. His technique and vision allowed him to strive in Motta’s revolutionary system in which the centre-halves would often push forward with the ball. Jatin Dietl is Transfermarkt’s area manager in Italy, and explains more about Calafiori’s qualties: “He began his career as a left-back, but was later also employed as a central defender, particularly during his time at Bologna under Motta. Left-footed, he has excellent technique and considerable tactical intelligence, as well as a good shot from distance. He combines the qualities of a full-back with those of a modern central defender.”

“In 2019, he was included in the list of the best sixty footballers born after 2002 by the English newspaper The Guardian, while in 2021 he was listed by UEFA as one of the 50 most promising youngsters of the year.” Dietl added. At the age of 22, he has already made 129 senior club appearances, as well as five caps for Italy. He was part of the Roma team that won the Europa Conference League back in the 2021/22 season. He is not yet the finished article however and may still have flaws in his game, as Dietl expands on, “What he may have in terms of gaps in man-to-man cover and tackling, he makes up for with his quality in attacking play. But until his move to Bologna, he was never really able to show his talent on a consistent basis, it was only with the incoming Juve coach [Motta] that he became the player he is now.”

He seems destined to move on from Bologna this summer, enhanced by his strong start to Euro 2024. “He definitely seems ready to take the next step.” Dietl proclaims. “Personally, I think he will follow his old coach [Motta] to Turin and it seems a good step. He definitely needs a playing system that suits his characteristics, as being played as a pure old-fashioned defender he would be wasted and probably not a good investment.” Where he does end up remains to be seen, but Calafiori is sure to have plenty of suitors.

Who could sign Riccardo Calafiori this summer?

Reports suggest Juventus are the current front-runners to secure his signature, and are reportedly close to agreeing a deal with Bologna for a fee in the region of €40m. It’s thought Motta being the new head coach could be a deciding factor. When it comes to competition from the Premier League, Liverpool appear to lead the way. With Virgil van Dijk reaching the twilight of his career, it’s thought that new manager Arne Slot would like to add to this ranks at centre-half and Calafiori could be the perfect fit.

Both Chelsea and Tottenham have also previously shown interest too, but with Cristian Romero, Micky van De Ven and Radu Dragusin, it seems unlikely Spurs would make a move without one of that trio exiting. If Italy can make it past Switzerland and we get to see Calafiori perform again at this Euros, a repeat of his showings in the group stage is likely to only further drive up the asking price and add more competition to sign the 22 year old. He will certainly be one of the hottest properties in his position this summer. 

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