Capello: ‘Calafiori is like Sergio Ramos, but there’s one doubt…’


Fabio Capello compared Bologna defender Riccardo Calafiori to Spain and Real Madrid legend Sergio Ramos, but has ‘one doubt’ about the centre-back. Writing for La Gazzetta dello Sport, Capello shared his analysis of the 22-year-old, who impressed many in his performance for the Azzurri in their 2-1 win over Albania:

The “BC” defensive duo certainly bodes well for Italy: after Bonucci-Chiellini, here’s Bastoni-Calafiori. From the pair that triumphed at Wembley in 2021 to the one that led Italy in the winning debut against Albania the other night. But after passing the Armando Broja test, the difficulty level increases, a bit like in video games. The next exam is called Alvaro Morata, someone who immediately scored in the opener against Croatia and whom we know very well. Alvaro is fast, plays well with the team and above all scores goals. At times he can seem a bit indolent, but he’s strong. The former Juventus striker of Atletico Madrid – and Spain in general – will be a good test for Italy and in particular for Spalletti’s defense. I followed Spain’s debut against Croatia. Modric and co took control of the game, but at the first defensive mistake they were punished by Morata and that’s where the match changed. The Azzurri will need even more attention on Thursday.

Courageous and Vertical – Another asset: they know how to play the ball

One thing is certain: Bastoni and Calafiori played an excellent game against Albania, also thanks to the precious filter of the midfield and a super Nicolò Barella in his Inter version. Luciano seemed rightly satisfied after the success in Dortmund. Apart from the beginning and the end, Italy didn’t face any dangers at the back. Bastoni and Calafiori, as a pair, are an added value with the ball at their feet. Neither the Inter man nor the Bologna one limit themselves to two-meter horizontal passes. The two Azzurri are courageous, possess an excellent shot and verticalize as soon as they can. And playing the ball forward quickly is the best way to put the opposing midfielders in difficulty and to facilitate one’s own teammates.

Riccardo Reminds of Ramos – The same enterprising spirit

Of Calafiori, I was also impressed by the personality he showed in Dortmund. He didn’t seem like a debutant at a European Championship and an almost newcomer in the Italy shirt. A bit of that and a bit of the enterprising spirit with the ball at his feet. If I have to compare the Bologna defender to a player from the past, the first thought goes to a young Sergio Ramos. In 2006-07, in my second stint on the Real Madrid bench, I coached the Spaniard, who had arrived the previous season from Sevilla. Calafiori, just like Ramos, transformed from a full-back into a center-back. And I can assure you that Sergio Ramos, as nasty as we remember him now, became that way over time.

To Be Verified – The ‘exam’ against Morata

The only doubt about the Bastoni-Calafiori pairing concerns their speed in one-on-ones with strikers who take off like projectiles. Broja and Albania were not too probative tests. But if the two Azzurri were to be confirmed against Morata, we would better understand this aspect too. It is not a problem, however, that both Bastoni and Calafiori are left-footed. The important thing, for a coach and a team, is to have good defenders. When they are, the rest is settled through the coordination of movements and mutual knowledge.

The Fewer Changes, The Better – The general rule for the defense

I don’t want to substitute myself for Spalletti, who sees and trains the Azzurri every day. Only Luciano can evaluate and know whether it’s better to insist with the Bastoni-Calafiori pair or if it’s more appropriate to face Spain by inserting people like Gianluca Mancini or Alessandro Buongiorno at the back, who are more skilled at marking. I trust Spalletti, his sensitivity and his experience. But if we have a general discussion, the fewer changes in defense, the better. It’s a matter of knowledge, synchronization, coordination of movements. All aspects that need games – minutes – to be improved and refined. It’s (almost) always like that. Even more so if the defensive pairing doesn’t have a great history together and if time is short, as can be the case in a European Championship or a World Cup. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think Luciano has only one thought in view of Thursday’s clash against Spain: that no one gets injured during the run-up training sessions.


Serie A obsessive.