Top class centre-halves a few and far between these days, so expect Europe's biggest to have earmarked the Atalanta stopper.
Thanks to the Hollywood exploits of Claudio Ranieri’s band of brothers, the underdog storyline has enjoyed a new leash of life across the continent, with a Mario Balotelli-inspired Nice glancing down at PSG in France and Hoffenheim unbeaten in the Bundesliga under 29-year-old manager Julian Nagelsmann.
And Italy, ever the romanticists, have put their own spin on the tale, with Gian Piero Gasperini’s youthful Atalanta gambolling into European contention on the back of five straight wins. Juve-bound Franck Kessie and newly anointed international Roberto Gagliardini remain the posterboys for the revolution, so much so that talented centre-half Mattia Caldara has slipped under the radar.
1) Caldara is very much in the mould of the ‘modern-day defender’ blueprint, with his composure in possession and his ability to dribble out of defence impressing almost as much as his defensive capabilities this season. According to WhoScored, the languid centre-half boasts an impressive pass completion rate of 81 per cent.
2) Atalanta’s goal against column may resemble a page of binary code this season, with just four goals conceded in their last 11 Serie A fixtures, but their fresh-faced stalwart has proved himself rather effective at the other end too. In his last four games, Caldara has struck three times, including a winner away at Pescara and the equaliser in a famous comeback win against Roma last time out.
3) The 6ft 1ins stopper is something of a late bloomer, having only tallied eight senior appearances for La Dea after spending the majority of the previous two campaigns learning his trade in Serie B with Trapani and Cesena.
4) Consequently, he only made his Italy Under-21 debut in March of this year, but has since featured on nine occasions for the Azzurri reserves. With Daniele Rugani and Alessio Romagnoli honing their prodigious talents at Juventus and Milan, Italy’s BBC could transform into the RRC before we know it.
5) Caldara was born and raised in Bergamo, meaning Atalanta is his hometown club. Therefore, it’s doubtful he would be striving to scarper just a few months after finally breaking into the first team.
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea might not have conceded in any of their last six league games since the infamous switch to a 3-5-2, but Kurt Zouma’s long recovery from a cruciate ligament injury, coupled with John Terry’s advancing years, means an addition to the ranks may be high on his short-term wishlist.
Caldara’s composure in possession means he could be an ideal alternative to David Luiz as the ‘spare man’ in the back three, while his clever positioning means he would adapt seamlessly to one of the orthodox centre-half roles to.
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger’s admiration for ball-players is well-established and, like Chelsea, his current alternatives may not be at the club a year from now.
Per Mertesacker has been linked with one final stint in his home country while Gabriel is yet to prove he is Premier League quality. The young, malleable Caldara, then, could fit the bill. For a price, of course.