Michael Kayode: Italy’s Future Starter at Right Back?

It has been nothing short of a meteoric rise for Michael Olabode Kayode. Born in Borgomanero, Italy to Nigerian parents, Kayode developed at Juventus’ youth ranks before polishing his skills at Serie D side Gozzano. After two years at Gozzano, he joined Fiorentina’s academy in 2021, winning one Coppa Italia Primavera and one Supercoppa Italiana Primavera for La Viola.


Kayode excelled for Italy in their run to the 2023 U-19 Euros Final, where he would score the winning goal to lead the Azzurri to victory against Portugal. One month later, he would make his first-team debut, starting at right back in their season opener, a 4-1 win vs. Genoa. He hasn’t looked back since then, racking up 1 goal and 4 assists in 30 appearances across all competitions, ascending to Italy’s U-21 side, and attracting interest from a wide variety of Europe’s top clubs.


Style of Play


Michael Kayode primarily operates as a right-back in Fiorentina’s 4-2-3-1, capable of pushing alongside the double pivot and acting as a third centre-back. He has also shown useful versatility as he can be deployed at right wing-back as well as left-back.   



Kayode’s most valuable quality is undoubtedly his ability in defence. Blessed with immense athleticism and physicality, he shows great intelligence in stepping out of his position to intercept or counter press opposition players. 



In 1v1 situations, he uses his broad, wide frame to cover space and close all angles for the opposition players. He’s also got excellent upper body strength to hold off physical players, evident from the way he deals with Lazio striker Ciro Immobile below.



If all else fails, Kayode has shown willingness to go to ground. He’s got long legs, akin to Manchester City’s Nathan Aké and Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka, that allow him to steal the ball with ease, if all else fails.



Most of the time, Kayode’s positioning is intelligent, but when he jumps out too quickly, he can get caught in behind. Luckily, his top recovery pace and athleticism give him an extra tool up his sleeve to stop counters, similar to City right back Kyle Walker.



In possession, Kayode is a tidy passer. He displays maturity and calmness with every pass, applying the perfect weight to them. He is comfortable in carrying the ball out of pressure, often combining with the midfielders inside to build play. His ability to use his left foot means he’s an asset in central areas, opening him up to more angles.



Kayode’s long legs give him the edge defensively, but it also means he’s excellent at carrying the ball in large spaces, particularly in transitional situations. Pair this with his athleticism, and he can be an unstoppable asset in possession. He shows a great understanding of overlapping runs, often running into space if required. However, this is where is biggest weaknesses come in, which is his final third play.


He is not the finest crosser, and while displaying a sense of temperament, has often shown the quality of making the wrong decisions in possession on several occasions. For example, rather than trying to recycle play, he may try driving play forward, ultimately forcing a turnover. However, this is a minor concern, as these are flaws that can be refined over time.



Fiorentina’s league form has fallen by the wayside in recent months with Vincenzo Italiano’s squad — after spending the first month of 2024 in fourth place, the club currently sit 10th in the table. However, they can find respite in both cup competitions, with La Viola set to take on Viktoria Plzeň — if they can get past them, they’ll take on Club Brugge or PAOK in the Europa Conference League semifinals.


After beating Atalanta 1-0 courtesy of a Rolando Mandragora’s goal, Fiorentina will travel to Bergamo on April 24 for the second leg, and they are in pole position to reach a second-straight Coppa Italia Final and potentially a second-straight Europa Conference League Final as well.


If Fiorentina do manage to end their 23-year trophy drought, expect Michael Kayode to have a big role to play. A physical dynamo who’s capable of driving forward on the overlap, inverting into the middle, and acting as a third center back. At 19 years of age, he’s already emerged as one of the finest up-and-coming right backs in Europe, and his versatility and athletic prowess could very well earn him a big-money transfer as well as a maiden call-up from Italy manager Luciano Spalletti in the coming months.


By: Pranav Parameshwaran / @__TheNearPost__

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alessandro Sabattini / Getty Images