Being an Italian defender comes with its own sense of responsibility, something Giulio Donati is undoubtedly aware of. The Italy U-21 right-back signed for in the summer of 2013 on the back of an excellent UEFA European Championship in Israel for his country’s junior side.
The tournament, in which the Azzurrini ended as runners-up, showcased the solidity which made Leverkusen swoop to sign him on a four-year deal and replace Real Madrid-bound Daniel Carvajal. So far, swapping one Mediterranean full-back for another has been beneficial for the Werkself, as Donati’s start to his Bundesliga career has justified the faith placed in him by Rudi Völler and Sami Hyypiä.
That faith has been something Donati has found hard to come by in his career up until now. The youngster was an FC Internazionale Milano player from 2009 to 2013, but did not make a single appearance for the first team in that time, finding his route blocked by the evergreen club legend Javier Zanetti, and the Japanese full-back Yuto Nagatomo.
The desire for regular playing time meant Donati was loaned out to US Lecce, Calcio Padova and US Grosseto over consecutive seasons, and his consistency was rewarded with a national U-21 debut in 2010 - a team he subsequently became a mainstay of, playing every minute of Italy’s 2013 run to the final.
Champions League challenge
Strong in a tackle and adept at picking out his passes, the added exposure to regular first-team football could be the key ingredient to Donati fulfilling his potential. Furthermore, he’s also showcased a different side to his game - the forward thrust which is a requisite for any modern-day full-back - proving his propensity for creating chances for his team-mates.
Such consistency at a high level has always been the desire for Donati, who made it clear upon arrival that he “will give everything to help Bayer Leverkusen meet their aims”, and added that playing in the UEFA Champions League “was a great challenge, but an exciting one”. Donati will provide Leverkusen with the consistency that the lineage of Italian full-backs before him have always assured, and by providing such stability, will hope perhaps to be able to show his talents on a world stage next summer.