Italian football is well renowned for its defenders and the art of defending. The Italian national team is one of the most successful teams globally, and so are the Italian clubs. The national team has won 4 FIFA World Cups in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, only Brazil national team with five titles won stands above them.
“Catenaccio” is a highly defensive tactics of play that is commonly associated with Italians, both in national team and clubs in Serie A, with some managers still having faith in it and putting it into action.
Most of the best footballers from Italy are defenders, and some of those players who used to be the walls in football are: Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluca Zambrotta, Tarcisio Burgnich, Antonio Cabrini, Claudio Gentile, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro, Giuseppe Bergomi, Giacinto Facchetti, Gaetano Scirea, Franco Baresi and Paulo Maldini.
Italy already has a young defender who is capable of continuing the legacy of these legendary defenders. He is Inter Milan’s Alessandro Bastoni, the 22-year-old left-footed defender.
Former Inter Milan defender Francesco Colonnese stated that Alessandro Bastoni is currently the best Italian defender. “I see him reaching the very highest level, like Virgil van Dijk,” he stated. “He can be at the level of Sergio Ramos, he can really do everything – he can play in a back three or a back four, he has goals, and defensively he has improved.”
“In my opinion right now he is by far the best Italian defender,” he went on, “and certainly one of the top four or five in all of Europe.”
During his teenage years, Bastoni was immediately recognised as one of the best young talents in Italian football.
He grew up in Atalanta’s prolific youth academy and, despite having played only a handful of games for the senior side, was signed by Inter at the age of 18 for a fee of 31 million euros.
Bastoni spent the next two years on loan, first back at Atalanta and then at Parma. He returned to Inter for the start of the 2019-20 season at the age of just 20 under coach Antonio Conte.
Under Antonio Conte, it did not take much time for Bastoni to become a first-team player. He is a ball-playing defender who can break an attacking press with his dribbling and passing with pace.
Last season, he completed 5.51 passes into the final third per 90 – the fifth most for defenders in the league. He has completed 89% of passes in the 2020-21 season.
Having started his career as a full-back, Bastoni’s crossing is also superb, and he managed four assists during the 2020-21 season for Inter, an impressive number for a centre-back.
His aerial duels are also impressive. In 2020-21, he won 69.7% of aerial duels. When adding this to his performance with the ball on his feet, he is a solid one.
On Alessandro Bastoni, former Italy U21 coach Di Biagio said: “It was difficult to make a mistake with him, today I think he is among the best defenders in Europe for defensive qualities and in the setting phase. He will be a leader of the national team for a long time.”