Michael Kayode: Fiorentina’s Teenage Prodigy at Right Back

Club: Fiorentina
Nationality: Italy
Position(s): RB, LB, RWB, LWB
Preferred Foot: Right
Height: 5’10”/179cm
Age: 19
Strengths: defending 1v1s, duels, tackling, physicality, athleticism, dribbling
Areas for Development: attacking decision making, experience


Fiorentina haven’t won a trophy since the 2000/01 Coppa Italia, but that could be set to change sooner rather than later. La Viola are on track to reach the Coppa Italia Final and the Europa Conference League Final for a second-straight year, with the Italian side set to take on Viktoria Plzeň in the quarterfinals — if they can get past the Czech giants, they will face PAOK or Club Brugge in the semifinals. Moreover, after edging Atalanta 1-0 in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals courtesy of Rolando Mandragora’s goal, they are in pole position to make it to the final in Rome.



If Fiorentina are to end their 23-year trophy drought, expect Michael Olabode Kayode to have a major role to play. A lockdown defender with supreme athleticism, Kayode has dazzled in his first-ever professional campaign, keeping elite left wingers like Kvicha Kvaratshkelia in his back pocket and increasing his stock over the course of the 2023/24 campaign.


Born in Italy to Nigerian parents, Kayode has honed his trade in the youth ranks for Juventus and Gozzano, but it was at Fiorentina where he made the transition to the senior level. Merely eight months after making his first-team debut for La Viola, Kayode has emerged as an undisputed starter at right back under Vincenzo Italiano.


A defensive-minded right back, Kayode excels in defending 1v1 situations as he doesn’t go to ground too quickly but instead stands his ground, jockeys his opposing attackers and delays the threat before forcing them to make a decision. His speed and physique allows him to close down space and reduce the angles between him and his opposing attacker, putting his upper body strength to use by holding his own in ground duels.


He is skilled at getting close to his attacker and battling with him shoulder-to-shoulder, an unshakeable defender who’s superb at timing his tackles well. When he can’t reach the attacker with a standing tackle, he’s adept at executing slide tackles to win the ball at the last second. He stays focused and is typically positioned well to deal with the danger, but when he’s out of position, he’s more than capable of recovering and closing down the space.



Kayode has the athleticism to thrive at the top level, a speedy, formidable defender with impressive stamina that allows him to support the attack whilst also ensure that his defense isn’t left exposed. This is essential for a lockdown fullback as they face up against a quick, agile, and skillful winger, and Kayode has this recovery pace in bundles.


His long legs not only enable him to make an accurate tackle, but they also benefit him when he’s driving forward, allowing him to open up his stride and reach a greater top speed. He’s more than just a physical beast, however — he’s also an excellent dribbler who’s capable of shortening his stride at a moment’s notice and turning out of pressure in order to evade the onrushing defender.


He is also effective at inverting and passing with his weaker left foot, so much so that he’s even operated as a left back at times, whilst his crossing ability and strong ball-striking ability have even seen him operate as a wing-back and a winger for club and country. In terms of room for improvement, Kayode does need to work on his decision-making when going forward as he’ll sometimes lack the creativity and intelligence to make the right decision going forward.


Make no mistake: Kayode is far more seasoned at the defensive side of the game than the attacking side, but he’s certainly no slouch going forward either. Having scored the winning goal for Italy in last summer’s U-19 Euros Final, he has what it takes to become a valuable asset in the final third. For now, though, Kayode has already attracted interest from various European giants thanks to his ability is a duel-winning machine and a lockdown defender, and it may only be a matter of time before he departs the Stadio Artemio Franchi for greener pastures.


By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alessandro Sabattini / Getty Images