If there was ever a word that could define Mattia Caldara’s situation in simple terms, then it is the word ‘unlucky’. Since arriving at AC Milan in the summer of 2018, the Italian has suffered injury after injury. He has played only two games in all competitions but is yet to make an appearance in Serie A for the Rossoneri.
Milan manager Stefano Pioli recently revealed that Caldara isn’t doing well in the recovery from his ACL injury. He told reporters (via SempreMilan):
“Yesterday he had fatigue and sore in a tendon. It will take time but he is an important player with certain characteristics that I hope to have available to understand how to organise the team.”
This doesn’t really give the impression of a promising situation. Transfermarkt already states that Caldara has suffered another minor fitness issue, as confirmed by Pioli. This is his fifth injury issue ever since he arrived.
Somewhere in the background, Juventus would be rather happy that they did a piece of business that worked out. In the summer of 2018, they resigned Leonardo Bonucci in a deal that saw Caldara join Milan permanently and Gonzalo Higuain join the Rossoneri on loan.
It is evident how that deal has worked out. Higuain is back at Juve and has scored three times in all competitions. Bonucci is a regular at the back for the Bianconeri too. But Caldara hasn’t played a single league game yet. It is unfair but that just happens in football.
It isn’t the end of the road for Caldara, though. Pioli’s comments suggest that they still see a future for him at the San Siro, despite all the injury issues.
Former manager Rino Gattuso used Caldara one time each in the Coppa Italia and Europa League. In his last season at Atalanta when Juve had loaned him out to La Dea, Caldara had played 24 times in the Serie A and had even scored three goals.
His good reading of the game saw Caldara make the third-highest number of interceptions per game in the 2017-18 season. He made the highest number of clearances per game- 4.4 and being very good in the air allowed him to win 1.9 aerial duels per game (via Whoscored).
In the 2016-17 season, he was one of La Dea’s best players. His reading of the game allowed him to make the highest number of interceptions per game that season- 3.4. He made 5.2 clearances too- highest for the club. He scored seven goals– a rarity for a defender. But that is just a testament of his aerial ability.
Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini hailed Caldara last season. The Italian told reporters (via Gianluca di Marzio):
“He is an important player, a serious youngster. He was very prepared to go to Juve but ended up in a big club. With Conti and Kessie, we can say there is a bit of Atalanta at Milan…
The Rossoneri are working with young players, even for the future. They are two squads that are satisfied with the results of this transfer.”
The 2016-17 campaign was the best of his career. But before that, he had spent loan stints at lower league sides in Cesena and Trapani. He had been a regular central defender for both sides, scoring five times in total for both of them.
Milan did sign Leo Duarte from Flamengo for a fee of €11 million this past summer, but the Rossoneri have just three central defensive options. Alessio Romagnoli is the undoubted first-choice, but Mateo Musacchio has come under criticism.
The 29-year-old was sent off against Fiorentina and has been poor in the last five games. Duarte played as second-choice to Musacchio in the Argentine’s absence, but the rossoneri do not have another defensive cover.
Caldara is still 25 and has a contract until the summer of 2023. His future isn’t under immediate threat, because of that. The deal that brought him San Siro isn’t dead yet. But Milan have to show enough trust in him as soon as he returns.