Riccardo Calafiori worry highlighted as Liverpool stay in hunt for summer transfer

Riccardo Calafiori of Italy during a pitch walk prior to the press conference of Italy at Olympiastadion on June 28, 2024 in Berlin, Germany.
-Credit: (Image: Claudio Villa/Getty Images for FIGC)

Riccardo Calafiori is the perfect transfer solution for Liverpool as it looks to bolster its defense ahead of the new season. But there's one thing that might be worrying the Reds.

Young but proven at a high level, left-footed and positionally capable of eventually taking over from Virgil van Dijk, and even incredibly handsome to boot, there's plenty to like about Calafiori. He's out of Euro 2024 now too, freeing him up for negotiations.

As if things couldn't get any better, Bologna's director has suggested that Juventus will not win the race for Calafiori, in a summer where coach Thiago Motta has already been poached. That opens the door for Premier League suitors.

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So what's the catch? Arguably, it's quite a silly one, but it will be playing on the minds of Liverpool fans all the same. Simply put, Calafiori is Italian. And no matter how perfect an Italian player looks for Liverpool on paper, it just never seems to work out at Anfield.

There's Alberto Aquilani, who was meant to be the heir to Xabi Alonso. He left after just 28 games in all competitions. Or Andrea Dossena, who had an incredible career at Liverpool if you examine the four-day window when he scored against Real Madrid and Manchester United. Outside of that, not so much — it was another story of not living up to the billing, as he never replaced John Arne Riise.

It speaks volumes that Fabio Borini is among the more successful Italian signings at Liverpool. He at least made it to 38 games, the equivalent of one full season, in a red shirt, although the highlight of his stay in England was undoubtedly a prolific loan spell with Sunderland.

He certainly fared better than Mario Balotelli, Daniele Padelli (still playing, at Udinese) or Gabriel Paletta. At a stretch, you could include Italian-born Thiago to vastly raise the standard, but even his spell at the club proved to be underwhelming when you consider the expectations and the potential with which he arrived.

Mario Balotelli of Liverpool warms up prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Liverpool at the KC Stadium on April 28, 2015 in Hull, England.
Mario Balotelli was not a hit at Liverpool. -Credit:Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Of course, these are all very different players, signed across different eras and under different coaches. It's deeply implausible that there's something intrinsic about Italian footballers that is not compatible with Liverpool. After all, it's not about the step up from Serie A. Mohamed Salah and Alisson are among those to have made that move seamlessly.

Even so, Calafiori would need to overcome the weight of history to succeed at Liverpool. While the thought likely won't even have crossed the mind of Richard Hughes, and rightly so, supporters will certainly be aware of the unhappy pattern. says: If you were deeply invested in trying to find some kind of explanation, perhaps you could look at the Italian footballing culture ingrained into those brought up in the country (but not shared by imports to the league like Salah or Alisson). Liverpool has had many identities over the years, but it's not readily associated with "catenaccio".

Saying that, a number of the Italians arrived under the watch of Rafael Benitez, who did share some of those defense-first principles that have traditionally shaped football in that country. Even so, things did not work out.

All in all, it looks like little more than a quirky run of bad luck with Italian signings. Maybe Calafiori could be the one to end the curse.