Munich - Never before has the Bundesliga seen so many Italian players. Vincenzo Grifo and were last week joined by Giulio Donati, before the arrival of Luca Caldirola five days later.
The captain of the Italy U-21 team, who signed a four-year contract at the Weserstadion, has been brought in to replace Borussia Dortmund-bound Sokratis Papastathopoulos - a job Caldirola is expected to relish. “Luca's already played a lot of games for his age. He's now in a position to lead a back four,” believes club sporting director Thomas Eichin.
Caldirola joined Italian giants FC Internazionale Milano in 2010 and made his first-team debut for the club in a UEFA Champions League game in December 2011. He found playing time with the Nerazzurri hard to come by, however, and it was away from the San Siro that he was really able to develop.
He moved on loan to Serie B side Brescia Calcio for the 2011/12 season, making 19 league appearances, before joining A.C. Cesena at the beginning of the 2012/13 campaign. He spent the first half of the season as a staple in the side, before returning to former stomping ground Brescia in January, racking up another 19 appearances for the Biancoazzurri.
The decision to leave Inter proved a fruitful one. Quickly establishing himself in the Italy U-21 team, he became captain of the Azzurrini soon afterwards, and a successful 2012/13 season was crowned with some exceptional performances at the UEFA European U-21 Championships in Israel.
Italy reached the final of the competition, defeating the likes of England and the Netherlands. Their run was finally ended by Spain, who prevailed 4-2, but Caldirola was one of the standout players throughout and was named in the team of the tournament. “This is the biggest tournament there is for an U-21 player;” said Caldirola proudly, before reminding people that his idol, Alessandro Nesta, had announced his arrival on the world stage in the 1996 edition of the competition.
Excited by the challenge
Having already played for five clubs, including Vitesse Arnhem in the Dutch League, Caldirola is no stranger to taking up a new challenge, and Bremen was a destination that aroused his immediate interest. “When my agent told me Werder were interested, I said 'yes' right away. They’re a great club with great tradition and I’m really looking forward to the years ahead,” he said once the transfer had been completed.
‘Challenge’ would seem to be the operative word in Bremen. Four-time winners of the Bundesliga title and DFB Cup victors as recently as 2009, the Green-Whites endured a miserable 2012/13 campaign. They were in danger of being relegated right up until Matchday 33, before a draw with Eintracht Frankfurt helped them crawl over the line to safety.
New era for Werder
Caldirola will also need to hit the ground running if he is to become the leader of a Bremen backline that last season shipped 66 goals (only 1899 Hoffenheim conceded more), but Eichin is confident that the rangy, ball-playing defender is up to the task. “He has an excellent technique and a real flair for starting moves from the back,” he added.
Tattooed on Caldirola's left leg are the words, “I will do everything in my power to achieve my goals, and everything I can for the people who always believed in me”. The 2013/14 season is something of a new beginning for Werder under new coach Robin Dutt, and such a motto should make their latest recruit fit right in.