Bryan Cristante covered different roles at Roma this season and his versatility could help the Azzurri at Euro 2020, writes Owen Diana.
If Roberto Mancini was choosing his final squad based on versatility alone, Bryan Cristante would be one of the first names on the list. The former Milan man has morphed into a jack-of-all-trades at Roma, but that adaptability probably won’t be enough to earn a starting spot this summer.
Despite a successful season as a swiss army knife in the Italian capital, it seemed that Cristante had fallen off the CT’s radar screen. The former Milan man’s last match for the Azzurri was in an inconsequential friendly with Moldova back in October, and he wasn’t called up for the two most recent international breaks.
A groin complaint didn’t help the 26-year-old’s cause back in March, but injury issues for other midfield candidates are working in his favour this time around. Marco Verratti and Stefano Sensi are both struggling for full fitness, and Cristante could help make up the numbers.
His selection, however, has been the perfect way to cap what has been an impressive campaign for the ex-Atalanta stalwart. Fielded out of position as the central pillar in a three-man defense during large stretches of the season, Cristante adapted impressively to what was an unfamiliar role. His comfort on the ball was a major boost in the absence of Chris Smalling, while a keen sense of positioning helped make up for a lack of athleticism.
Mancini’s Italy do not play with a three-man backline, however, and the Azzurri are stacked in the middle of the pitch. That is Cristante’s preferred position, but his chances of getting game time there are slim.
Jorginho has established himself as a key cog under Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, while even club teammate Lorenzo Pellegrini is capable of doing a job as a deep-lying playmaker. Although Cristante will likely be watching this summer’s tournament from the bench, that should not obscure the merits of this talented technician.