Riccardo Calafiori Transfer Targets GFXGOAL

The rise of Arsenal transfer target Riccardo Calafiori: From career-threatening injury to Paolo Maldini comparisons at Euro 2024

Riccardo Calafiori was 16 years of age, he'd only just signed his first professional contract with Roma and yet he was being told that his career might already be over. In the 82nd minute of a UEFA Youth League game against Viktoria Plzen, he'd been left with a right knee swollen so badly that it was three times the size of his left after being on the receiving end of a shocking, studs-up tackle from Vaclav Svoboda.

Some of the specialists that assessed the damage done couldn't believe what they'd seen: all of the ligaments had been ruptured, along with his meniscus and articular capsule. "Something like this usually only happens in motocross - not in football," a medic told the Corriere dello Sport. "It's an injury that happens only once every 10 years."

Looking back on it now, Calafiori says he was probably lucky that it happened while he was still so young, because he didn't quite fully grasp the gravity of the situation. But that doesn't make his defiant reaction to such a serious setback any less remarkable.

"The time has come to truly bring out everything that I have inside," he wrote on Instagram just the day after his entire world had been turned upside down. "This time, no decisive match, no final to win... There is the most important battle of my life ahead of me, and I certainly cannot back down. The time has come to put aside the boy, the, at times, little boy that I have been until now, and become a MAN.

"A bad knee injury will keep me sidelined for a long period and will keep me away from the pitch, but the desire to come back STRONGER than before will increase every day. For the umpteenth time I find myself faced with a very difficult challenge but, as always, I will win!!!"

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