With an aging BBC unit, Juventus struck gold in the January transfer netting Mattia Caldara, setting up the Bianconeri’s defence for the next decade.
Defense wins championships in every sport, none more so than football. Juventus’s dominance over the last decade has been inspired in large part by their BBC (Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini). They are three of the best defensemen on earth, all on the same club. These three towering defenders however, don’t last forever. At 35, 29, and 32 respectively Juventus must rebuild their defense to remain competitive domestically and in Europe.
The 2015-16 season marked the debut of Daniele Rugani in bianconero. Already touted as a top prospect, the Juventus owned Rugani played 21 games and eased himself into the squad. This season, it was clear to Giuseppe Marotta and Juventus management that a second young centreback was needed. In typical Juventus fashion, they snatched up one of the season’s brightest stars – Mattia Caldara from Atalanta.
La Dea have been enjoying a breakthrough season, sitting a mere two points from a Champions League place. This is due largely to the impressive play of their young players, one of which is their best defensemen Caldara. At the age of 22, Caldara has been compared to Alessandro Nesta and Juventus legend Gaetano Scirea. He plays a “gentleman’s game” often avoiding committing to challenges, preferring to restrict his opponents through his superb positioning. Scirea and Nesta were also quiet off the pitch, something Caldara has seemed to emulate. He avoids drama, never making any headlines outside of his play, in addition to being bright and intelligent. His love of books for example has earned him the nickame Il Poeta (the poet) from his Atalanta teammates.
Nesta is one of Caldara’s idols, and is still considered by many as the last legendary Italian defenseman, with all due respect to the BBC. It may not be long until the pupil succeeds the teacher. Atalanta have conceded just 12 goals and kept 12 clean sheets in 19 league matches with the youngster in the starting lineup. He shows great composure, is calm under pressure, and is first to the ball more often than not. His anticipation of the play is something seen very rarely in young Italian defenders over the past decade. Unlike Nesta, Caldara has seemed to find a scoring touch. Already with 5 goals on the season (league leader for defensemen), young Mattia has been a towering threat in the penalty box in dead ball situations but has also scored from open play; most notably his 2 on 1 goal against Napoli earlier in March capped his first career brace.
Juventus were so impressed with Caldara that in January they had signed Caldara to a four-and-a-half-year contract for an initial transfer fee of €15 million, rising to a potential €25 million with bonuses. The deal also included a free loan which meant that he will remain at Atalanta until 30 June 2018. This fits perfectly into Juve’s plans as Barzagli is set to retire at the end of the 2017-18 season. Caladara is in the unique situation that he can emulate Scirea, one of the best central defenders of all time for both Juventus and Italy. As if it was destiny, Scirea also joined Juventus from Atalanta in 1974 and jumped into the attacking play in the same manner as Caldara.
Gianpiero Ventura, Italy’s bench boss, has kept a close eye on the youngster and will likely call him up for this month’s international fixtures. A call up for the senior squad in next summer’s World Cup in Russia isn’t out of the question. A decade’s worth of Rugani-Caldara is shaping up to be Italian poetry in motion, at both club and international level.