Alessandro Buongiorno: Italy’s Next Great Hope in Defense

As Italy look to move on from Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, options are fairly sparse for new manager Luciano Spalletti as he looks to usher them into a new era and refresh their defensive options. Whilst Alessandro Bastoni (25) has emerged as a revelation in Inter’s back three, it remains to be seen whether or not he can translate that form into a back four.


Giorgio Scalvini (20) is making waves at Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta, Federico Gatti (25) has become a starter for Max Allegri’s Juventus, whilst Spalletti could also turn to veteran options such as Rafael Tolói (33), Francesco Acerbi (36) or Alessio Romagnoli (29) as he looks to make a positive first impression this summer and successfully defend Italy’s Euros title. However, one player who could very well be on the plane to Germany is 24-year-old center back Alessandro Buongiorno.


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Born in Turin, Buongiorno developed his skills at Torino’s youth academy and even won the 2017/18 Coppa Italia Primavera, beating Milan 3-0 across two legs. Indeed, 2018 was a breakthrough year for Buongiorno, who signed a professional contract on Valentine’s Day. Nearly two months later, he made his first-team debut in a 4-1 win vs. Crotone, coming on in the 82nd minute only to exit six minutes later due to injury.


Buongiorno would miss out on the Coppa Italia Primavera final after suffering an elbow injury, but rather than stick around at his boyhood club, he elected to move to Carpi on loan for the 2018/19 campaign. He logged 18 appearances under Fabrizio Castori as Carpi suffered relegation to Serie C, playing 49 minutes in the final matchday before getting sent off in a 3-2 loss to Venezia.


He would return to Torino, failing to make an appearance before heading out on loan to Trapani in January 2020. Once again, he would link up with Castori, playing 13 times — 11 after the COVID-19 break — and operating as a left midfielder and a center back. Whilst he was unable to prevent them from dropping down to the third tier, he nevertheless gained valuable experience and registered 1,079 minutes played.


Buongiorno headed back to the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, renewing his contract until 2024, but once again, he found playing time hard to come by under Marco Giampaolo. Davide Nicola took charge on January 19, 2021, enabling Buongiorno to become a more prominent member of the first-team squad. Overall, he registered 12 Serie A appearances as Torino finished 17th, narrowly avoiding relegation.



Desperate to turn around Torino’s dismal situation, president Urbano Cairo brought in Ivan Juric from Hellas Verona, a decision that proved vital for Buongiorno. Under the Croatian manager, Buongiorno would quickly become a vital figure in defense, filling Lyanco’s void in defense following his move to Southampton and registering two assists in 23 Serie A appearances.


Torino’s top scorer was Andrea Belotti with just eight goals in all competitions, but that didn’t stop them from finishing 10th and steering clear of the drop. The Granata lost various key figures in the summer of 2022, with Belotti joining Roma on a free transfer and Gleison Bremer moving to Juventus for €41 million.


Having been voted as the best Serie A defender of the 2021/22 season, Bremer would continue his progression on the other side of Turin, but as for Buongiorno, he would cement himself as one of the first names on Juric’s team sheet, registering 1 goal and 2 assists in 34 Serie A appearances and wearing the captain’s armband on various occasions. His performances attracted the attention of then Italy manager Roberto Mancini, who called him up in the March 2023 window.


After another 10th-place finish in 2022/23, Torino once again lost a host of key figures in defense; Armando Izzo moved to Monza for €3 million, Wilfried Singo went to Monaco for €10 million, whilst Ola Aina made the move to Nottingham Forest on a free transfer. As for Buongiorno, he extended his deal through 2028 and has taken his game to a new level under Juric. He missed three matches in October due to an adductor injury and five in February due to a shoulder injury, whilst he also logged 27 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Lazio in September.


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Apart from those, he has played the full 90 in every single Serie A match except for one — a 2-0 win at Udinese where he was subbed off in the 83rd minute after receiving a booking. Buongiorno’s game has come on leaps and bounds this season and is part of a Torino defense that has continued to be one of the most organized units in Italy.


With three matches remaining, Torino sit 10th in the Serie A table, 18 points clear of the drop. Despite scoring just 31 goals — only Empoli (26) and Salernitana (26) have scored fewer — the Granata are on track for another midtable finish thanks to a stalwart backline that has kept 18 clean sheets thus far, second only to Inter (20). Buongiorno has proven essential for them, making 4.4 ball recoveries per game and 4.4 clearances per game, as well as 2.4 tackles per game and 2.4 interceptions per game.


They’ve kept three clean sheets in their last four matches, and with just 31 goals conceded, they boast the best defensive record outside of the top four. An elegant, left-footed center back, Buongiorno holds his own in aerial duels and reads the game with an intelligence and anticipation that belies his age. He’s excelling at the same club that he grew up supporting as a child, but it’s only a matter of time before he becomes Torino’s next big-money sale.


Buongiorno looked set for a summer departure to Atalanta after the two teams agreed on a part-swap deal; Duván Zapata would join Torino for €8 million and Brandon Soppy would join Torino on loan, whilst Buongiorno would make the move to Atalanta for €25 million.



Whilst Zapata ended up making the move to Torino, and whilst Soppy went to Torino before cutting his loan short in January and moving to Schalke, Buongiorno elected to stay put. Atalanta, meanwhile, would end up signing Isak Hien from Hellas Verona for €9 million in the January window.


Buongiorno has made waves in the Italian top-flight and earned interest from various European giants like Napoli, Chelsea, Milan, Juventus, Tottenham, and Inter, and as he approaches 25 years of age, he could very well be headed for a first-ever major tournament with the Azzurri. He made his international debut on June 18, playing the full 90 in Italy’s 3-2 win against the Netherlands in the third-place playoff match of the UEFA Nations League finals.


In Italy’s final match of 2023, Buongiorno partnered Acerbi in central defense and played the full 90 in their 0-0 draw to Ukraine in Euro qualifying. He was included in the starting XI for Italy’s first match of 2024, only this time, in a back three. Playing alongside Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Scalvini, the Torino defender impressed in a 2-1 friendly win against Venezuela, whilst he remained on the bench in their 2-0 win vs. Ecuador.


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If Spalletti does decide to pursue a back three, he could very well have a defensive core to build upon for the present and future with Scalvini, Bastoni, and Buongiorno. At 1.9m, he is an imposing defender whose unique skillset may very well see him earn a call-up to the upcoming European Championships as Italy prepare to face off against Albania, Spain and Croatia in Group B. He is emerging as one of the top defenders in Serie A, and at 24 years of age, it’s only a matter of time before he’s suiting up for one of the biggest clubs on the continent.


By: Scot Munroe / @scot_munroe

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Image Photo Agency / Getty