The long-term injury suffered by Mattia De Sciglio against Udinese, in addition to Luca Antonelli’s constant pains, is likely to definitively launch Davide Calabria in Milan’s starting XI.
Often named amongst the best Italian talents, Milan’s fullback Davide Calabria hasn’t had too many opportunities to reveal his qualities. Now, due to Milan’s dire straits with regards to injuries, Calabria will be presented with a great opportunity, as well as a great responsibility, in a focal moment of the season. Thus, follow us as we attempt to discover just what kind of player Calabria is.
Meet Davide Calabria:
Date of birth: 06.12.1996 (20 years old)
Position: Fullback (Right or Left)
Club: AC Milan
Height: 1.77 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in)
International caps: Italy U-17 (9 apps), Italy U-18 (1 app), Italy U-19 (12 apps, 1 goal), Italy U-21 (3 apps)
Club caps: Milan (13 apps)
So far in his career, Davide Calabria has not played nearly enough the right amount of games to prove what he can do. Consequently, the next couple of months will truly determine whether he’s got what it takes to make it in Italy’s top flight. Nonetheless, the games played thus far do tell us some things about the player. Before we evaluate his main strengths and weaknesses, however, let’s take a brief look at his history.
Born in Brescia, Calabria was quick to make the 1-hour trip to Milan, signing for Milan at only 11 years old. Originally a defensive midfielder and then a winger, Calabria conclusively established himself as a fullback under the guidance of Christian Brocchi, in Milan’s Primavera. After seven years in the club’s academy, somewhat like his colleague Mattia De Sciglio, Calabria made his debut in the first team. The debut game was a 3-1 victory over Atalanta, but the club was undergoing the most turbulent of times – it was 2015,and the most unsuccessful season of the Berlusconi era, under the management of Filippo Inzaghi, had just terminated.
After impressing the new boss Siniša Miihajlović, Calabria was permanently aggregated to the first team for the upcoming season. As early as July, Mihajlović claimed that Calabria had surprised him the most in the group and that he would improve majorly by staying with the team, as opposed to leaving on loan. Impressive compliments, which shone a light on the youngster, coming from a hard man like the Serbian. Then, during Milan’s friendly matches in the summer, Calabria was consistently amongst the best performing players, highlighting, in particular, his ductility and personality, seeing that he was able to play on either flank with equally positive results.
Despite the great premises – Mihajlovic went as far as saying “if he stays humble, he has a great future ahead of him” – Calabria totaled a mere 8 games between the league and the cup, during the whole of the 2015-16 campaign. As said, there was a lot of talk about this product of the rossoneri’s academy, as well as a few good games, but the starlet’s true potential was never given enough time to reveal itself.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Calabria’s main areas of strength have been easily noticeable since his first few games: he’s fast, likes to support attacking moves and, as aforementioned, is ductile, a rare quality. His offensive skills were emphasised particularly in last year’s Coppa Italia final, where Calabria was a starter in Milan’s tight 1-0 loss to Juventus. Despite the final result, Calabria was publicly commended for his performance, in particular with regards to his attacking prowess, which dazzled the Juve defenders and created many opportunities for Milan. In fact, Calabria’s pace and decent technical abilities allow him to carry the ball extensively, breaking through the opposition’s defensive lines – a significant quality for a fullback.
In addition to this, Calabria’s pace enables him to track back and quickly resume his defensive duties. With regards to the player’s ductility, nothing more needs to be said other than the fact that he can comfortably be employed as either left back or right back, although his favorite position is admittedly the latter. Initially, this availability to switch flanks was recognised as a sign of personality on part of the youngster, bold and modest enough to play wherever he was requested. However, the player’s recent performances, which we’re about to discuss, may suggest otherwise.
As a matter of fact, in his recent excursions on the pitch, Calabria has looked very uneasy and nervous. In both recent matches against Torino (2-2) and Napoli (1-2 loss), Calabria, who played in his less-preferred position on the left, was flimsy and only noted for his rash clearances and general clumsiness. The Gazzetta dello Sport described his start to the Napoli game as “a nightmare” and some say the kid is still looking for Napoli’s Josè Callejon. Needless to say, putting pressure on the youngster for two negative games will do Calabria no good – instead, he must be given the benefit of the doubt, especially seeing that he’s playing for a team which is still in the making and under the eye of some very demanding fans.
One does however have to mention what appear to be the player’s limits. First and foremost, it is often clear that Calabria did in fact undergo a period of adaptation to his current position. Inevitably, his defensive skills need working on, particularly his positioning and tactical awareness. It is clear that Calabria is more comfortable, as well as more useful, during the attacking phase.
It is important to keep in mind that Calabria’s career is yet to take off, and that any judgments made so far are unavoidably speculative, to some extent. Consequently, it will be equally important to treat the next few games as an opportunity to finally get a good look at a player whom we’ve heard a lot about but seen little of.
No doubt, playing more will help him, both with regards to general experience and in building up his personality. In addition, it will finally consolidate him and integrate him within Milan’s schemes. This was, according to Calabria himself, a problem under Mihajlović. In fact, the 20 year-old has claimed that his lack of game time under the Serbian boss made him lose confidence in his own means and that playing more would benefit him – that is 100% true.
Therefore, it is very hard to make a conclusive statement about Calabria’s future. We will probably know more about it towards the end of this season, which promises to be a tough one for the youngster – a verdict will surely be produced depending on how he deals with the pressure of substituting De Sciglio. Thus, what more can we say than good luck Davide!