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Scouting Europe: Giorgio Scalvini

Paolo Maldini. Franco Baresi. Fabio Cannavaro. Giorgio Chiellini.

Italy has produced a number of formidable central defenders over the decades but the nation has experienced a lull by their impeccable standards.

As football has evolved, the vintage Italian defender is of a dying breed and yet in Giorgio Scalvini, there is still hope that this identity will be preserved.

Standing at 6ft 4in, Scalvini is a physical marvel who combines defensive resilience with impressive elegance in possession.

Making his debut for Atalanta in 2021, the 20-year-old defender has established himself as a vital component in Gian Piero Gasperini’s plans, with La Dea's tactician boasting an impressive record at developing youth prospects.

As Atalanta punch above their weight once again in pursuit of Champions League football, we assess the growth and potential of Scalvini in the latest of our Scouting Europe series.

Built in Bergamo

On the books with Brescia from the age of 10, Scalvini was picked up by Atalanta’s prestigious youth academy just two years later.

Representing Italy from U15 to U19 and ascending their ranks, Scalvini was a fabulous prodigy and there was no better environment to hone his development than at La Dea’s Bortolotti complex.

Alessandro Bastoni, Dejan Kulusevski and Manuel Locatelli are just some of the individuals to roll off the production line and the prolific output of the academy has provided the Bergamo club with a valuable source of income.

Atalanta’s ethos is centred on opportunity; to blood in young talent is of great value.

Scalvini’s impressive stature and ball-playing capabilities perked the interest of Gasperini and the defender made five Serie A appearances before his 18th birthday. By the end of the 2021/22 campaign, he had become a regular feature in Atalanta’s squad, preferred in central defence to either Merih Demiral or Berat Djimsiti.

His versatility come to the fore at the start of the 2022/23 season, utilised in a defensive midfield position before cementing a permanent role in the heart of Gasperini’s back three.

It was a platform from which Scalvini blossomed. Displaying his competence in possession, no centre-back in Serie A averaged more progressive passes. He benefited from the freedom Gasperini offers his players; given licence to roam forward, no centre back carried the ball into the penalty area more than Scalvini.

Ball-playing capabilities can often mask a defender’s vulnerabilities and yet Scalvini demonstrated his defensive diligence, completing 6.90 ball recoveries and 4.24 tackles and interceptions per match. And boy, does he love a sliding challenge.

His presence was vital as La Dea made good on their strong start to secure a Europa League berth, pipping Roma and Juventus to fifth.

From strength to strength

If he had impressed in the campaign before, then Scalvini has gone above and beyond in the 2023/24 season.

Even with seasoned veterans Djimsiti and Sead Kolašinac accompanying him, Scalvini has emerged as a vocal figure in the squad, demonstrating the leadership qualities of a future La Dea captain.

Scalvini’s assuming character stems from the determination to emulate his role model, Thiago Silva.

“I always liked him when I was a child when I watched Serie A and he was at AC Milan,” Scalvini told Italian press. “I really like how he acts on the pitch, he is a leader with great spirit and charisma.”

He is a leader on and off the pitch. He’s destined for greatness. Wherever you put him he has quality and class.

Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini on Giorgio Scalvini

His reading of the game has improved, enabling the 20-year-old to become a key disruptor in Atalanta’s ranks; no player in Serie A recording more interceptions than Scalvini.

As you would expect for someone with his towering height, Scalvini is aerially competent, winning 70.8% of his aerial duels which ranks him in the top 5% of defenders in Italy’s top flight.

Gasperini’s attack-minded tactics complement Scalvini’s aggressive, front-foot style. Atalanta work to pressure their opposing number in a bid to retrieve possession as swiftly as possible, creating the second-most goals from high turnovers and it’s a system that Scalvini has embraced.

Frequently you will see him marauding forward, contributing to the attack – no central defender in Serie A has crafted more goal-creating actions than Scalvini.

From a defensive perspective, his eagerness to close an opponent down has resulted in him being caught out of position on several occasions but that’s the high-risk, high-reward strategy that Atalanta abide by.

Interestingly, though, he’s yet to make an error that’s resulted in an opposition shot in the Serie A so far this season, evidence that he’s a far less erratic figure than the one who made his breakthrough last term.

Giorgio Scalvini - Serie A: 2023/24


44 (1st)


38 (4th)

Aerial duels won

68 (5th)

Winning five consecutive league matches, Atalanta are in a prime position to secure Champions League football next term and there is even an opportunity to win silverware this campaign, with a Coppa Italia semi-final against Fiorentina awaiting them in April.

The joyous mood around the club was heightened when Scalvini put pen to paper on a new lucrative contract that will keep him in Bergamo until 2028, though that hasn’t thrown the big clubs off his scent.

Inter Milan and Juventus have both declared their interest, while there are rumours emanating from Old Trafford that Scalvini is a target for the new Jim Radcliffe era.

Whatever he chooses next, it will be fascinating to watch how his game develops.

Atalanta 2023/24 Odds

Serie A

To Win Outright - 500/1
To Finish in Top 4 - 4/7

Coppa Italia

To Win Outright - 9/4

Europa League

To Win Outright - 22/1

Italy international

After rising through the national team ranks from U15 to U21 level, Scalvini was handed his senior debut for Italy by Roberto Mancini in June 2022, introduced as a second-half substitute in a match the Azzurri would lose 5-2 against Germany.

His next outing was an improvement, making his first start in a 3-1 win friendly win over Albania, but Scalvini’s emergence coincides with a difficult period for Italian football.

Since their triumph at Euro 2021, Italy endured a deterioration in results and failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Despite former boss Mancini bemoaning a lack of homegrown talent last year, Luciano Spalletti secured their progression to the European Championships, where they will defend their crown in Germany and Scalvini will likely savour his first taste of a major international tournament.

The young Atalanta defender will desperate to prove himself, not least because of his sobering experience against England at Wembley in October.

Partnering Francesco Acerbi in a back four, Scalvini and his defensive colleagues were frequently exposed by a ruthless England attack. The aggressive style that was so notable from Scalvini at club level was absent; the inexperience of playing in a back four seemingly a factor.

Humbling encounters like the one against England can be the making of a player and there remains great expectation that Scalvini will be at the heart of Italy’s defence for many years to come.

Italy Odds

Euro 2024

To Win Outright - 16/1
Group Betting - Group B - 11/4
Group Qualification - Yes - 1/5
Group Qualification - No - 10/3

World Cup 2026

To Win Outright - 22/1

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