Milan teenager and Brescia-born fullback Davide Calabria has quickly risen through the ranks of the Rossoneri and into the mix with the crop of fullbacks on the current club.
Typically, this is where one would bash the club and it’s decision making with recent young talents (Saponara, Darmian, Aubameyang..you get the point), but that’s too easy of a subject to talk about. It’s in the past.
To the present we go. Milan currently have several new faces, straight from their youth academy, in the current squad already making an impact. 16-year old keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has been the name that most have been raving about across Italy and all over Europe. The excitement is real and the youngster has shined since making his Serie A debut against Sassuolo last month. However, there is another young Italian who is deserving of some recognition.
In the second of a series of posts covering the youth of Milan, we give you the inside scoop on the Italian U-21 fullback Davide Calabria.
19-year Davide Calabria, who made his Milan debut last May against Atalanta, has become a player many are begging to see more of. The current Italy U-21 right-back has not only climbed his way through the Milan academy. He’s continuously progressed through the tiers of his country as well.
From the under-17 side to his recent call-up by Luigi Di Biagio for the under-21 Azzurrini, Calabria has proven that he can make the necessary adjustments to grow as player and impress.
Previously a midfielder before being converted by Primavera manager Cristian Brocchi, Calabria isn’t exactly a menacing figure in terms of size at 1.77m (5 ft 10 in). He is still filling out but his size will most likely never be an attribute that makes him successful. The best way to describe Calabria is that he is feisty. A pest, who really doesn’t have one noticeable top-flight quality, but what makes him unique is that because he has tremendous drive, speed and stamina, he gets the job done and in multiple ways.
There are many prospects out their who possess such a raw skill set and who have everything on paper to be a phenom in football. However, sometimes it’s the mental ability that renders more success than natural talent. Italian maestro and former Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo once said:
“Football is played with the head. Your feet are just the tools.”
Calabria is a different type of player. He likes to get more involved in the final third in terms of attacking goal rather than working the wing and supplying cross after cross, but by no means is ball distribution a weak point. He does this well already with potential room for growth and in time, this could be one of his strongest strengths. Being as he was a midfielder before, he has carried over the tools as a centrocampista over to his current role as a versatile terzino. The technical ability and ball control are two skills that come to mind.
There are certain areas of his game which can be compared with Mattia De Sciglio and former Milan youth fullback Matteo Darmian, but since we have seen just a handful of top-tier Italian football matches from the teenager, it’s difficult to say which traits are comparable and which ones aren’t.
Stefano Nava, a former Milan defensive coach, boasted about the player saying:
“He is already very mature. He is a modern player, extremely versatile- the kind of player every coach loves because he can be used in several different roles.”
Calabria’s idol has always been the legendary Paolo Maldini but those shoes are virtually impossible to fill. Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal and Bayern Munich’s David Alaba are two players the youngster is fond of but it’s the Austrian Calabria resembles most given his entire repertoire.
Perhaps the biggest weakness in his game lies in the air. Calabria lacks the size to be a formidable aerial presence but to be honest, it’s not something that will hold him back in his career. As a fullback, rarely will he be called upon to make the clinical header so if this is his major “flaw,”that’s quite alright.
Outlook on Davide Calabria
Davide Calabria has been a player Milan supporters can’t wait to see each weekend. With promising showings against Palermo and Udinese this season, it’s clear the kid is poised to make a lasting footprint on Italy.
With the rapid climb and fall of De Sciglio and the inconsistencies of Ignazio Abate, the Rossoneri are in need of help at fullback. Sure, Luca Antonelli has locked down the left-back position but the role opposite the 28-year old is up for grabs.
At his age, you’d think that he would be fearful in making a mistake or miscue, but we’ve seen the opposite in just a handful of matches. In fact, after Calabria shined off the bench against Palermo in a 3-2 win, former Milan centre-back Alessandro Nesta praised the U-21 defender for his composure:
“Great personality. When you suddenly have to come (into the team), you usually think about not making a big mistake. However, he took risks and it paid off.”
With what we have seen thus far in his short stint in Serie A, it’s clear that Siniša Mihajlović should push the envelope once again like he did with Donnarumma and start Calabria. His confidence and willingness to play to his strengths could work in his favor and prevent him from having the struggles De Sciglio has recently undergone.
The newly turned 19-year old really has everything there is to be a key factor in the Milan defensive unit for years to come. He’s already become a fan favorite and in time, the right-back position could be his for good.
For more insight on Davide Calabria and many other Milan youth products, please check out Rossoneri TV (@RossoneriTV) and host/panelist Adamo Ritacco (@AdamoRitacco), who features regularly on the YouTube Channel.