It’s getting very obvious with every passing day that AC Milan are on a roll in the ongoing transfer market. Having already made six signings, the Rossoneri are showing no signs of stopping or backing away as well.
To add more to their growing list of captures, another man is being heavily linked with a move to the San Siro. If reports are anything to go by then this is a done deal already. Atalanta’s Andrea Conti may not be as well known a player as Hakan Calhanoglu or Ricardo Rodriguez, but the Italian has begun to attract the attention of many of late.
A part of the Italian bandwagon of rising stars who are set to take the world by storm, 23-year-old Conti is being tipped to become a regular for the Azzurri side in the future. And here, we run the rule over the right-back.
Born 50 kilometres away from Milan in Northern Lombardy city of Lecco, Conti is Atalanta through and through, but his career hasn’t been short of flirtations with the Rossoneri. Back in 2002, when he was around ten years old, Conti rejected the opportunity to join AC Milan despite having undergone a successful trial at the club.
While his dislike for the club’s training centre made his turn down the chance, Conti rejected Inter to sign for Atalanta’s famed youth academy the same year.
Ten years later as a 20-year-old, Conti joined the then Serie C side Perugia on loan. He made 18 appearances in all competitions, assisting once and impressing during his stay at the Umbria based club. This wasn’t enough to break into first-team and a loan spell at Serie B outfit Virtus Lanciano followed.
The Italian made 24 appearances and helped the club avoid relegation to the third division and subsequently succeeded in breaking into the Atalanta first-team.
After penning a new deal at the La Dea in September 2015, Conti made his first-team debut in December 2015 as Atalanta got knocked out of the Coppa Italia following a defeat to Udinese. His Serie A debut came in early January and Conti went onto appear 12 times more for the club, establishing himself at the right-back position under Edoardo Reja.
It was in the 2016-17 campaign under Gian Piero Gasperini that he really shone.
Atalanta finished fourth last season and Conti became a vital cog in the club’s wheel, appearing 33 times and scoring eight times by fitting in impeccably in the 3-4-3 formation.
Conti hasn’t made a debut for the senior national side yet, but with manager Gian Piero Ventura giving a lot of opportunities to emerging youngsters, the 23-year-old will get a chance someday.
He made three appearances for the Italy Under-21s side but failed to take the side to the finals of the Euros, as Luigi di Baggio’s men were ousted by an impressive Spanish side in the semi-finals.
Andrea Conti can well be defined as the archetypal modern-day full-back, who is good in both departments of the game. That’s one of the few reasons why he continued to perform consistently throughout the campaign at right wing-back for Gasperini’s men.
The fact that Conti found the back of the net as many as eight times and assisted four times proves that he is very adept in an attacking sense and possesses the ability to play further up the field as a right midfielder as well. He likes to threaten the opposition backline by direct runs from the flank.
He makes 1.1 dribbles per game and doesn’t really like to hug the touchline too much as well. He has variety in the way he moves, he drifts in and motors forward with purpose as well.
Another aspect that makes him perfect for a wing-back role is his ability to cover a lot of ground. He works hard off the ball and has the awareness as to when to drop back and pile forward. He’s got the pace to cover as much ground as he wants and his physique allows him that as well.
That isn’t the only thing that proves how tenacious a competitor Conti is though. He likes to use his body and recover balls when taking on the opposition wingers and circulate the ball forward or run with it himself. He makes two tackles per game and makes 2.3 interceptions per game as well.
Conti has all the characteristic that a proper wing-back must have.
His six feet tall frame makes him a good header of the ball as well and it’s often a useful part of his toolkit. He’s won 54 percent of his headers, which is quite good for a defender.
While Conti is certainly a determined tackler, it’s an ability that he often overuses, which makes him a bit rash when defending. He picked up as many as 12 yellow cards this past season and was booked ten times during his loan spell at Virtus Lanciano as well. Even in two of the Under-21 Euros games, Conti saw yellow.
One more weakness that Conti has in his play is that his passing can be off the pace sometimes. This past season, he had a passing accuracy of 77.9 percent and it’s a problem that he would need to tide over sooner rather than later, especially if he desires to play further forward.
What happens next?
With a move to Milan all but done, it would be intriguing to see how Conti is used. The former Fiorentina boss had experimented with the 3-5-2 formation during the fag end of last season and while it’s uncertain whether he will carry on with that, playing a three at the back would work in Conti’s favour.
Even otherwise though, with Mattia de Sciglio heading for the exit door and Ignazio Abate not as good as he was three seasons ago, Conti will take up the role of the first-choice right back and provide the Rossoneri with much needed attacking thrust in the 4-3-3 formation.
Conti belongs to the upcoming generation of Italian stars who have been touted to take the nation forward at the international level. Atalanta did finish above Milan in the Serie A, but the signings that Montella’s men have made has transformed the outlook of the club completely.
And joining a club which has ambitions of achieving that ‘powerhouse’ status once again suits someone like Conti, who is good enough and deserving enough of the move.