Sam McGuire: This Italian Star Could End Liverpool Transfer Curse

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Liverpool’s Pursuit of Riccardo Calafiori: A Perfect Fit

Liverpool have had a mixed history with Italian signings. The Reds have seen various degrees of success and failure, from Andrea Dossena to Mario Balotelli. However, Riccardo Calafiori might break the streak. Sam McGuire’s recent article highlights why Calafiori is a standout candidate for Liverpool’s plans.

Photo by IMAGO

Italian Signings: A Rocky Past

Historically, Liverpool’s attempts to integrate Italian talent have been less than fruitful. Andrea Dossena’s brief moments of brilliance, like his goals against Real Madrid and Manchester United, didn’t translate into sustained success. Similarly, Alberto Aquilani, intended as a successor to Xabi Alonso, struggled with injuries and form, ultimately leading to a £13 million loss when he returned to Italy. Fabio Borini, Mario Balotelli, Gabriel Paletta, and Daniele Padelli also failed to make lasting impacts at Anfield.

This trend is partly due to Italian players’ preference to stay within Serie A, as highlighted by the fact that only three of Italy’s 26-man squad for Euro 2024 play outside their home country, two of whom are goalkeepers.

Riccardo Calafiori: A New Hope

At 22, Riccardo Calafiori represents a significant departure from Liverpool’s past Italian signings. His willingness to move abroad, as demonstrated by his stint at FC Basel, shows his commitment to developing his career beyond Serie A. His recent success at Bologna, where he played a crucial role in their Champions League qualification, further cements his rising profile.

Calafiori’s journey has been remarkable, especially considering his severe knee injury in 2018. As McGuire notes, doctors described the injury as one that “occurs once every 10 years” and was akin to injuries seen in motocross, not football. Yet, Calafiori defied expectations, returning to the pitch and eventually thriving in a new role as a centre-back under Thiago Motta.

The Numbers Game

Calafiori’s statistics from last season are impressive and align with Liverpool’s requirements for a centre-back. His ability to maintain possession, his versatility in playing left-back and centre-back and his aerial prowess are particularly noteworthy. Calafiori won 71.4% of his aerial duels, with a notable performance in Italy’s win over Albania, where he won all three aerial battles.

These attributes make him an attractive option for Liverpool, who are known for their tactical flexibility and need for defenders who can adapt to various formations. McGuire points out that Calafiori’s profile is a near-perfect fit for the Reds, given their interest in players like Levi Colwill, Willian Pacho, and Piero Hincapie.

Beyond the Sergio Ramos Comparison

While Fabio Capello has likened Calafiori to a young Sergio Ramos, McGuire argues that this comparison does a disservice to the Italian. Unlike Ramos, known for his aggressive and sometimes reckless style, Calafiori exhibits a more composed and calculated approach to defending. This distinction is crucial, as it highlights Calafiori’s potential to be a reliable and steady presence in Liverpool’s backline rather than a volatile one.

In summary, Riccardo Calafiori stands out not just because of his talent but also because of his resilience and adaptability. His journey from a potentially career-ending injury to becoming a key player for Bologna and a member of Italy’s Euro 2024 squad is a testament to his determination and skill. For Liverpool, he could be the Italian signing that breaks their unfortunate streak and adds value to their defensive setup.

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