All you need to know about Arsenal’s top target Riccardo Calafiori

Calafiori was one of the standout performers in Italy’s disappointing Euro title defence and now the 22 year old is set for a big money move to the Emirates.

A youth product of A.S. Roma, Riccardo Calafiori was unable to break into the first team regularly under Jose Mourinho, moving to Genoa on loan and subsequently making a permanent switch to Swiss giants FC Basel.

It was in Switzerland where Calafiori began developing into the player we see today with regular minutes as both a central defender and left fullback.  This was the first season in his career he played more than 10 games in a campaign, making 26 appearances in 2022/23.

In August of 2023, Bologna brought Calafiori back to Serie A for less than five million euros.  Under the leadership of Thiago Motta, the Italian’s skills came to light, becoming an integral piece in Bologna’s historic UEFA Champions League qualification last season.

Arsenal are reportedly close to agreeing a deal with Bologna after personal terms were agreed with the player on a long-term deal.

As a young player his father nicknamed him “Ruspa” which translates to bulldozer and his style on the pitch mirrors this compliment.  Calafiori is monstrous with the ball at his feet, recording the most assists from a central defender in Europe’s top five leagues last season.

His ability to hold onto possession, pick out a teammate or build-up from the back is of the highest quality.  He combines the qualities of a fullback and a modern-day central defender, with excellent technique, vision and a powerful shot from range. His profile as a left-footed, versatile defender also makes him a rare commodity in the current football market.

For all his strengths on the ball, he is still young and by no means the finished product.  Although he is solid defensively, he can still make errors when defending in the channels in 1v1 situations and needs to improve on his tackling.

Another area of concern is Calafiori’s injury history.  At 22 years-old he has made over 120 senior club appearances, but in this same time frame he has missed 151 matches through injury, including a ligament tear that saw him sidelined for 290 days.

All in all, Riccardo Calafiori is undoubtedly one of the most exciting prospects in European football, with his age, physical presence and unique skillset combining to potentially create a world class footballer for the next decade.

Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images for FIGC

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Dylan Johnson