GdS: ‘Captain, my captain’ – why Milan-Roma means more to Calabria and Pellegrini

By Oliver Fisher -

The magnitude of the Europa League clash between AC Milan and Roma will of course not be lost on any of the players involved, but there are two for whom it might just mean that little bit more.

As La Gazzetta dello Sport write, both Davide Calabria and Lorenzo Pellegrini were born in 1996, six months and 450km apart. Their stories run in parallel, from their senior debuts in 2015 to their trophy wins in 2022, and tonight they meet in Europe for the first time as captains.

Captain Calabria

Calabria had legendary role models to follow at Milan, the club he grew up a fan of. The Rossoneri teams who dominated Europe and the world featured Baresi and Maldini, but the full-back actually started further up field then moving into midfield.

Now he is a right-back, and Calabria made his debut at 18, with Sinisa Mihajlovic as the head coach, a man who also decided to field Gianluigi Donnarumma for the first time. For Calabria, however, there has never been a lack of competition, such as the €25m signing Andrea Conti and Diogo Dalot.

Davide had to fight to hold on to a starting place and his tenacity rewarded him. He changed the minds of many, including Pioli: in his first Milan there was no room for Calabria, but from 2020 onwards the music changed.

Now he has become a senator in the dressing room, to the point of earning the armband that was attached to his arm frequently in 2021-22, the title-winning season.

Calabria was the captain in fact but on 22 May, the day the Scudetto was sealed against Sassuolo, he stepped aside, leaving the honour of raising the trophy to Alessio Romagnoli.

Since last season the title has officially passed to him, and he will play his 255th match for the Rossoneri. His great objective is to lift his first trophy as captain.

“The AC Milan fan is the one who puts the team before himself and gives everything for this shirt,” he explained in a recent interview, a philosophy perfectly applied on the pitch. Off the field, Calabria is waiting for a call from the club because his contract expires in a year and he expects a suitable offer.

Lorenzo the leader

Immediately after the Conference League triumph in Tirana in 2022, Lorenzo Pellegrini thought of his father Tonino, the one who passed on his passion for Roma to him. If today he is the captain of Roma and is also a true fan, the credit goes to Tonino, who taught him first to play and then to cheer as a fan.

In 2001, the year of the Giallorossi’s third scudetto, Pellegrini was there in the Curva Sud cheering together with Tonino. He was only five years old, a few years later he also joined Roma’s academy in Trigoria, fulfilling the dream he had had since he was a child.

Then came everything else, with the transition from centre-forward to midfielder, the teachings of Tovalieri and Montella and the climb towards a senior debut at the Olimpico after two years on loan at Sassuolo.

Then the armband arrived, after a Roma-Spezia match in which Dzeko let down Fonseca and the Portuguese coach decided to make a definitive change, giving the armband to Lorenzo.

Pellegrini and Dzeko were friends, Lorenzo also experienced the situation with a hint of embarrassment, but being captain of Roma – for someone who grew up a fan of the club – was an opportunity that was impossible to refuse.

Daniele De Rossi sees a bit of himself in Pellegrini: “I know well what it means to wear that armband for Roma, to have burdens and honour. I left Lorenzo when he was almost a child and I found him a mature boy. For me he is perfect in this role, he is an example on and off the pitch.”

Since De Rossi arrived Pellegrini has effectively been reborn, returning to being as decisive as he had been in Mourinho’s first year. And perhaps this is also why the captain is now flying again, because whoever coaches him was a Roman captain and a Roma fan like him.


Tags AC Milan Davide Calabria Lorenzo Pellegrini
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