Pierre Kalulu was one of Milan’s summer recruits that nobody knew much about, and has now become one of the Rossoneri’s most promising youngsters.
The French youngster was signed as a free agent after his contract expired with Lyon, but given his age the Ligue 1 title challengers were owed a development fee of €500k. Kalulu featured in a couple of games during pre-season and glimpses of what he could do were shown but many expected him to feature more for the Primavera than the first team considering he had never played a competitive minute of senior football before his move to Italy.
A season so far full of COVID-19 cases and injuries for Milan meant that Kalulu had been part of the Milan squad in all but three games so far this year. With Milan securing qualification to the Europa league knock out phase with a game to spare, along came the French youngster’s chance against Sparta Praha.
Kalulu played the game in his secondary position which is as a centre-back and impressed with a solid performance, helping the Rossoneri keep a clean sheet and snatching top spot in the group.
Many wondered if he would get given a chance in the league right away after the positive performance in Europe. This was not the case, until Milan academy product Matteo Gabbia got an injury in the next Serie A game after less than 10 minutes which paved the way for Kalulu to make his league debut.
An unfortunate situation for Gabbia allowed Kalulu to get a run of games for the Rossoneri, impressing in all of them and getting his first start for the club in a 2-2 draw with Genoa when he netted the equaliser in the 83rd minute.
Naturally a right-back, Kalulu can also play in the centre of defence has really excited many Milan fans since his debut because of his versatility and exuberance. The 20-year-old has instantly fitted in at the club and his performances on the pitch would make you think that he has been playing the game for years and is beyond what his stats suggest.
He has shown himself to be very athletic defender with great speed and reading of the game, which makes him an asset at the back for the league leaders. When paired next to Romagnoli or another partner he makes up for the lack of speed that the other possesses and clears up any danger, allowing Milan to play more of high line than they usually would.
Kalulu is not the strongest in the air but makes up for it in other aspects in his game. For example, he is confident passer of the ball and his composure while on it really suits they way Pioli has Milan playing. His first and only game at right-back came recently against Torino in the Coppa Italia where the Rossoneri kept a clean sheet.
Musacchio – a Milan outcast – started in defence that game and on a couple of was bailed out by the less experienced youngster who showed his versatility and put in a very solid performance.
Pierre looks an incredibly good back up for Calabria and could challenge him for a starting spot over the next two seasons, and his ability to cover two defensive positions will be a big advantage for Pioli and his men.
Having only paid €500k for his services, this is increasingly looking like one of Paolo Maldini, Ricky Massara and the rest of the management’s best transfers. He is a player that fits the project to a tee and can play confidently and competently in multiple positions.
Kalulu looks to be part of this team for many years to come. The Rossoneri have struggled at signing the right players in defence in recent years with the likes of Conti, Musacchio, Duarte, Rodriguez and more all flopping. This time it looks like they have found a gem, and at Lyon’s expense.