Riccardo Calafiori: From Roma Wonderkid to Bologna Breakout Star

It remains to be seen what happens in their final two matches against Juventus and Genoa, it remains to be seen whether or not Thiago Motta will remain as manager, but one thing’s for sure: Bologna will be playing Champions League football next season for the first time in 59 years. They sit third in the table after winning 2-0 at defending champions Napoli, and they have lost just two matches in 2024: a 2-1 loss at Cagliari on January 14 and a 1-0 loss to Inter on March 9.


Motta has taken on the task of developing young stars and refining them into consistent performers, and one player who has enjoyed a breakout campaign at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara is Riccardo Calafiori. Over the past two years, he’s plied his trade on loan at Genoa before departing boyhood club Roma for Basel, returning to Italy after a campaign in Switzerland and emerging as a revelation in defense.



At 21 years of age, Calafiori fits the profile of a modern-day defender. His wide defending and ability to sniff out attacks in a high line means he’s comfortable either in a back 3 or back 4, and his unique skillset in possession makes him one of Europe’s most special centre-backs.


Calafiori’s Role in Defense


Motta’s Bologna employ a 4-2-3-1 shape that’s fluid in nature- while Calafiori is the LCB in Bologna’s back 4, he tends to take a variety of positions, often occupying the left wide channel to defend, whilst also being comfortable in possession in central areas.


Out of possession


Calafiori’s defending style can be compared to Manchester City’s Joško Gvardiol’s. His aggressiveness paired with his physical build enables him to be a front-footed defender that sniffs out attacks before they happen. However, this where Calafiori can also improve- he tends to lack control while utilising his aggression, and this can lead to unnecessary fouls.



Calafiori’s broad frame and long legs help him lock down that left-hand side. He’s a lockdown defender in every sense, dominating the flank through ground and aerial duels. His jockeying stance, paired with his ability to shift body weight effortlessly allows him to combat any form of ball manipulation.



Even better, Calafiori is a menace in the air. He stands at 6’2 tall, and times his jumps perfectly to dominate aerial duels. With a 72% aerial duel success rate, Calafiori is one of the best in the world in this aspect.


In possession


Calafiori’s best quality is his mentality. He applies his talent to the fullest extent, willing to take on every bit of responsibility. 



He’s one of their ‘technical leaders’, trusted with the ball under pressure and in build-up. He can switch play, break lines with vertical passes and carry the ball forward with ease. Sometimes, he’s almost too confident, and this can lead to potential turnovers for the opposition.



Calafiori’s ball manipulation is up there with the very best. He puts his frame to use, shifting and turning to wriggle his way out of pressure. He possesses a smooth turning radius and a high level of close control on the ball, which is rare for someone so tall.




The sky is the limit for Riccardo Calafiori. For someone so huge in stature, it is rare to see someone so technical in possession. His aggressive style, coupled with his ability to conduct build-up and operate in the pockets, make him the perfect Italian centre-back to compete with Inter Milan’s Alessandro Bastoni and potentially even surpass him. Alongside Alessandro Buongiorno and Giorgio Scalvini, he is yet another up-and-coming center back in Italy’s new generation, and with a contract until 2027, he could very well be headed for a big-money move sooner rather than later.


By: Pranav Parameshwaran / @__TheNearPost__

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alessandro Sabattini / Getty Images