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Ricardo Calafiori: Italy's Newest Defender

Italy began their Euro 2024 campaign against Albania, and despite going 1-0 down in the opening 23 seconds, Italy would come back after a 5-minute stint that saw them lead 2-1 and see out the rest of the game. One of the standout players was Bolgona's Ricardo Calafiori, and he certainly didn't disappoint, drawing many new eyes outside of Serie A to his presence.

Who Is Ricardo Calafiori?

Ricardo Calafiori began his career at the AS Roma academy, making his league debut in Serie A in a 3-1 win against Juventus in August 2020. However, he only made 10 appearances for the Giallorossi before being sent out on loan to Genoa in 2022. There, he would only make 3 appearances before, later in the year, making a move to Swiss club Basel, where he would go on to appear 38 times, making his debut for the club in a 1-0 defeat against Lugano.

However, despite the young defender signing a 3-year contract with Basel, this performance with Basel helped him be spotted by Bologna coach Thiago Motta, who changed his position to centre back and in the 2023/24 season, he thrived under the coaching of a great manager and scored his first goal for the club in a 3-3 draw against Juventus and was pivotal in his side's season, helping guide them to Champions League Football for the first time since the 1964/65 season.

Calafiori's International Career So Far

Italy's defence of their European crown did not get off to an ideal start against Albania on Saturday. After 23 seconds, they were 1-0 down, thanks to a defensive mistake. However, they needed to quickly regroup, and that's exactly what they did. They eventually won the game 2-1, controlling the game and possessing the ball for the majority of the game whilst goal scorers Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella gained much-deserved praise the young faced Calafiori gained a lot of attention for his role in keeping the Azzurri in front and in control against Albania.

In the post-match analysis of the game, Ricardo Calalfiori was featured almost as much as replays of Nicolo Barella's game-winning wonder strike in the 16th minute.

Calafiori gained all of this attention due to his demeanour throughout the game. The neutrals watching would not have known that Saturday's game was his competitive debut for the national team and his third time wearing the shirt, with his two other appearances coming in friendlies against Bosnia and Turkey.

Having been called into the preliminary squad by Spalletti, he would first have a 5-minute cameo against Turkey and then be tested for a full 90 minutes against Bosnia. Through his appearances in both games, Spalletti saw enough to select him for the 26-man squad for Euro 2024.

Performance Against Albania

Unsurprisingly, Bologna's exceptional season under Thiago Motta increased the value of their stars, including Ricardo Calafiori, with the likes of Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus, Liverpool and Tottenham all showing interest in the young Italian defender and, based on his performance against Albania, the interest from other clubs is certainly justified. Liverpool and Juventus especially are European powerhouses looking to restore their squads to title-challenging quality.

Calafiori recorded one tackle, three interceptions, and three aerial duels won whilst also connecting with 93.4% of his 106 pass attempts in his impressive display.

His post-match interview highlighted his humble nature, which has helped endear him to his coaches, who have played a big part in his career. "I just try to play like I do at club level and not think about the rest," Calafiori told Sky Italia. "I focus only on positive feelings, like my family in the stands or friends watching back home on television. I think I did pretty well."

Whilst social media has blown up after seeing Ricardo's performance, comparing the young centre-back to the likes of legends such as Paolo Maldini and Sandro Nesta, both for similar defending skills and having the seemingly iconic long hair, however, whilst people are just starting to see the potential greatness that Calafiori has he will simply be preparing him for the mammoth task in his next outing against heavyweights Spain and will give him a much tougher challenge, but is one that Spalletti and the Italian fans will have full faith in the next generation of Italian centre-back.

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