Tipped by Siniša Mihajlović for a "great future in football", Davide Calabria is the latest graduate of the famous AC Milan youth system to make the step up to the first team.
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Davide Calabria's emergence as a "very important player for the future of this club" has given AC Milan fans a new home-grown full-back to cherish. The 18-year-old, having made his senior debut on the final day of last season, started this term on the bench but an injury has offered the defender a run of games. He has not disappointed, setting up a goal on his first home appearance and performing so well as to keep his place for the Rossoneri's last two Serie A matches.
Name: Davide Calabria
Club: AC Milan
Debut: 30 May 2015 v Atalanta BC (Serie A)
Date of birth: 6 December 1996
Preferred foot: right
They say ...
"Calabria has great qualities. If he keeps his feet firmly on the ground, he will have a great future in football. I pick him only because I have huge faith in his talent."
Milan coach Siniša Mihajlović
"Calabria has won everyone over. He is already a crowd favourite at San Siro."
Milan president Silvio Berlusconi
"Calabria is always very calm and clear-headed on the pitch. For someone so young, this is very important. Now we must be patient with him, but he has a great future ahead."
Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo
Born in Brescia, Calabria joined Milan aged 12 and shone for the Rossoneri's age-group teams, operating predominantly in midfield. In 2014, by now a right-back, Calabria was a key member of the side coached by Filippo Inzaghi that won Italy's most prestigious youth tournament, the Viareggio Cup.
Inzaghi was appointed head coach soon afterwards and gave Calabria his Serie A debut at the end of the 2014/15 campaign. The defender subsequently convinced Inzaghi's successor Mihajlović with some fine pre-season performances and is now catching the eye in the Italian top flight.
Playing style ...
Calabria has two good feet and decent ball control. Though not physically dominant, the teenager is blessed with speed and stamina, enabling him to get up and down the right flank and deliver precise crosses. "He is already very mature," said Stefano Nava, an ex-Milan defender coaching in the club's youth system. "He is a modern player, extremely versatile – the kind of player every coach loves because he can be used in several roles."
Shades of ...
Comparisons with Paolo Maldini are inevitable for a young full-back making his way at San Siro. "He is my hero," Calabria said of the Diavolo's erstwhile captain. "I also like [Mattia] De Sciglio, [Dani] Carvajal and [David] Alaba." Calabria asked Alaba for his shirt after the Rossoneri's summer friendly against Bayern München. The Austrian international is probably the player Calabria resembles most for his qualities and versatility.
Replacing the injured Ignazio Abate 18 minutes into the Palermo home game on 19 September, Calabria crossed for one of Carlos Bacca's two goals in the ensuing 3-2 victory. "Bravissimo Davide Calabria," Maldini posted on Instagram. "He was man of the match alongside Bacca."
Praise also came from Alessandro Nesta. "Great personality," he said. "When you suddenly have to come [into the team], you usually think about not making a big mistake. However, he took risks and it paid off." The following week Calabria was in the starting lineup away to Udinese.
Best-case scenario ...
Calabria will become a key man for Milan if his development continues at its current rate. "He is a very important player for the future of this club," Mihajlović said. "With him, [Rodrigo] Ely and [Alessio] Romagnoli we have the back line set for the next ten years."
He says ...
"I joined the squad in the summer and have tried to give my best. Fortunately, I played well from the off and the coach told me I could have a place in the team this season. I take his fighting spirit as an inspiration."
"It's an incredible feeling, impossible to describe. Playing in Serie A for the team I supported as a boy is amazing."
Calabria describes his emotions after his Serie A bow
"It was a special game, I gave my best. Playing in a stadium like San Siro is never easy, but I was calm and everything went well."
Speaking after his debut against Palermo