There’s no doubting that full-back has long been an issue on Roma’s right side. Now, with Aleksandar Kolarov moving on to Inter after a successful three year spell in the capital, Roma’s left no longer looks like a position of strength either. Leonardo Spinazzola seemed to turn a corner with the switch to a back three, but he’s a perennial injury concern. So, how does Roma fill Kolarov’s place?
Enter Riccardo Calafiori.
Number Eight: Riccardo Calafiori
Current Club: AS Roma
Future Comparison: Theo Hernandez with Kolarov’s physical presence
Who is He?
A native born Roman who joined Roma’s academy at age 9, Calafiori has risen through the Giallorossi youth ranks to become one of the club’s top homegrown prospects. In just his second Primavera appearance, at 16 years old, Calafiori suffered a career-threatening knee injury in the UEFA Youth League against Plzen on October 2, 2018. Calafiori’s injury seemed to be a major blow to one of Roma’s best prospects.
However, against the odds, Calafiori fought back to recover from the injury to regain his status as one of Roma’s best prospects. Prior to the 2019-2020 season, the Mino Raiola client inked an extension with Roma through the 2022 season. After rejoining the Primavera side for the ‘19-'20 season, Calafiori made his senior side debut in Roma’s last match of the season against Juventus.
After proving that he is once again a top LB prospect, Calafiori has attracted the attention of Juve and PSG this summer. However, it looks like he’ll remain in Rome to deputize for Leonardo Spinazzola with Roma recently shooting down a €7 million proposal from Fiorentina.
What Can He Do?
Quite simply Calafiori can contribute on both ends of the pitch. In just 17 Primavera matches, Calafiori scored five goals and provided two assists. A recent scouting report from Forza Italian Football summed up his all-around game well.
Calafiori just turned 18 on May 19, but he is already physically developed, possessing the speed and strength necessary to thrive as a modern full-back.
His contribution to the attacking phase this season, be it by scoring goals or setting them up, is evidence of his impressive technical ability – good dribbling, accurate crossing and a powerful shot.
Off the ball, he has the power, stamina and intelligence required in defence, while he has shown great personality and character in his recovery process, as well as on the pitch.
His hour-long debut gave us a preview of exactly what that report says. In the match, Calafiori had a wonder-goal called off for an infraction prior to his shot. Shortly thereafter, Calafiori marauded into the Juve box and was pulled down—winning a PK for the Giallorossi.
There’s a reason why Luca Pellegrini was expendable last season. Roma knew that had Calafiori waiting in the wings.
What Can He Become?
If the devastating knee injury is indeed completely behind him, Calafiori projects, at worst, as a quality starting left back or left wing-back in the not too distant future. However, he looks to have all the qualities to become even more than that.
His nose for goal and all-around game bring to mind Milan’s Theo Hernandez but with Aleksandar Kolarov’s physical presence. If that’s the case and Raiola doesn’t push him away from the capital, Calafiori projects as one of the better Romans to come through the club in some time.