One of Europe’s most promising centre backs is in a transfer tug of war. Perhaps lesser known to fans outside of the Italian peninsula, it’s Mattia Caldara.
The Italian has impressed during his time on loan at former club Atalanta, which has inevitably sparked interest from Europe’s elite. Despite not playing a minute for Juventus since his move in 2017, the defender’s fine form in Serie A has caught the eyes of AC Milan and Chelsea, who have expressed interest in acquiring his services. Despite their aging defence, the Bianconeri seem willing to sell Caldara and have reportedly turned down bids upwards of €30 million.
Mattia Caldara began his career at hometown club Atalanta, featuring prominently for their youth teams until 2014. He was promoted to the senior team at 20 years of age, making his Serie A debut with a substitute appearance against Catania (2013/14).
With the aim of gaining more experience, Caldara was loaned out to Serie B outfit Trapani for 2014/15. He was a constant figure in their backline throughout the season, making 21 appearances in all competitions, whilst also scoring 2 goals in the process. His efforts in defence helped Trapani achieve an 11th place finish, yet he was only halfway through his stint in Serie B, as fellow Serie B side Cesena signed him on a season long loan deal for 2015/16.
He continued to develop and improve in Serie B starting all the games that he played in Italy’s second tier. The Italian improved on his total appearances in 2015/16 with 29 appearances in all competitions and 3 goals in the process. Despite establishing himself as a starter, Caldara did accumulate two red cards in his time with Cesena, but other than that, his 2015/16 season was considered a success.
After two seasons on loan, Caldara was ready for Atalanta’s first team in Serie A. A successful pre-season alongside his form on loan in Serie B helped the centre half establish himself as a first team regular for 2016/17. This was the breakout season for the Italian where he showed his ability to contribute offensively alongside his expected defensive responsibility. The Italian’s defensive efforts were evident with 5 clean sheets in first 7 games, including games against Napoli and Fiorentina. But alongside his solidity in defense, he scored 3 goals with the winner against Pescara and equaliser in a 2-1 victory against Roma.
Caldara’s talent was becoming more known to the rest of Europe, but Juventus were the most keen for his signature. They signed him for €15 million rising to €25 million in add ons, but part of the deal saw the young Italian go back to Atalanta on loan for 18 months. He continued to improve as the season went on and his highlight of the season was his brilliant performance against Napoli. Remarkably for a defender, he scored both of Atalanta’s goals whilst also keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 away win against the Azzurri. The Italian finished the season with 31 appearances in all competitions and an impressive 7 goals from defence.
The defender’s 2017/18 season was just as good for Caldara. The central defender made an improved 34 appearances in all competitions, scoring 3 goals in the process. He made on average 1.6 tackles per game and 1.7 interceptions per game, significantly better than fellow Juventus defender as well as fellow Chelsea target Daniele Rugani who made just 0.8 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game.
Caldara is considered to be a very composed and focused central defender. Like most modern day centre backs, he is comfortable on the ball and willing to play out from the back rather than hoof the ball into Row Z. He had an 84.1% pass accuracy and averaged 42.6 passes per game last season, a testament to his capability to contribute offensively. Although this suggests he is quite attacking and may leave the defence exposed, his 1.6 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game statistically put him in Europe’s top 10 defenders, implying he balances attack and defence very well.
After yet another stellar season in Italy, Caldara has played a few pre-season games for Juventus and has a variety of options to choose from. He could either choose to stay with the Old Lady, potentially becoming a starter there in 1-2 seasons time, especially with the aging duo of Barzagli and Chiellini. However at 24, perhaps Caldara wants first team football from the get-go, which he would certainly be able to get at AC Milan.
Of course the San Siro would have significantly lower trophy potential than Juventus or Chelsea, which may be a deterrent for the defender who is yet to win silverware. So perhaps Stamford Bridge could be the destination for one of Europe’s most promising defenders.
He would be under fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri who plays an attacking style of football that he would fit into perfectly with his ability on the ball. €35-€40 million for Mattia Caldara would be shrewd business by any team. At 24, he still has time to improve and with first team football like he got at Atalanta, he could become a world class defender. But only time will tell where his next destination will be.