Dejan Kulusevski is quickly becoming a household name for many in Italy and Sweden. The Atalanta loanee, who is firing on all cylinders at Parma, could soon become a household name in Europe. Indeed, the Swede’s performances have attracted interest from many of the European giants.
Reports earlier today said that Manchester United are looking to sign the La Dea star. The reports go as far as saying that the Red Devils have made an offer of €25 million. But it is also said that Atalanta president Antonio Percassi has turned down the offer. The Bergamo-based side are looking for about €35 million for the youngster.
That amount of money is something Kulusevski deserves. For Roberto D’Aversa’s men, he has been highly productive playing on the right side of the attacking midfield.
Someone who is similar to Paulo Dybala, Kulusevski plays as a right-winger or a number ten. In his younger days and even in his time with the La Dea Primavera side, he would often play as the most advanced central midfielder.
But this season, Kulusevski is part of a very pacy forward line at Ennio Tardini Stadium. In a 4-3-3 shape, he plays on the right. In D’Aversa’s 4-3-1-2, he plays just behind quick forwards in Gervinho and Yann Karamoh. Those two play on the left or central in a 4-3-3.
Kulusevski has become known for his directness and pace. He doesn’t just like to get past defenders, he has the ability to be definitive in the final third too. That is a rare quality for a player who is 19. Not every young forward has the decisiveness in his at the age of 19. Kulusevski has that, even if he is playing his first season of senior football.
He has been completing 2.4 dribbles per game for I Crociati. Not just that, he has played just as many key-passes per game. He does have the problem of being dispossessed or coming up with a loose touch, but it will only improve with time.
His performances against Udinese, Torino, and Genoa show that he can win games at will. When he gets going, he is an absolute nightmare. On paper, he does play on the right. But like Dybala or Nicolo Zaniolo, he doesn’t hug the touchline. He likes to get on the ball and cut inside since he has been a central player since he was young.
He has also been used as a striker by the Sweden Under-21s side during the Under-21s European Championship qualifiers earlier in the year. Playing in that position, Kulusevski scored three goals and had one assist in two games.
Apart from how he can be susceptible to being dispossessed sometimes, Kulusevski is inconsistent. He can have two good games and then shine in the next. He can impress a lot in one game and disappoint in the next three.
A combination of these things will ring the bells for Manchester United. They have a Norwegian in Ole Gunnar Solskjær in charge and have a Swede in the side in Victor Lindelöf. More than that, the club has been on the hunt for an attacking midfielder for a while now. Not just that, there has been the need for a proper right-winger for many years now.
United did draw links with Dybala and Bruno Fernandes in the summer. They continue to draw links with James Maddison– a clear intention of a number ten. But Kulusevski isn’t exactly a number ten. He likes to drift into those positions while playing on the right.
United have two inside forwards in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. Both of them are more bundles of pace instead of being technical packages. Kulusevski provides something different with his completeness as an attacking player.
Daniel James is left winger, even though he can play on the right sometimes. At Swansea City under Graham Potter, the Welshman was a regular left-winger. He does bring directness on the right but isn’t a technically adept player.
United’s two attacking midfield options happen to be Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira. Both of them have taken constant criticism for a lack of creativity and inability to provide service. And Kulusevski is certainly better than them- his numbers show that.
D’Aversa is known for an attacking system at Parma. It is reactive and flexible, but the basis is a possession-oriented attacking style. Kulusevski is a vital cog in that system, acting as the chief creator for two pacy forwards and in front of a physical midfield.
With a group of quick players, United have been playing good football going forward, on their day. They have looked slow and planless sometimes, but it is due to the lack of a proper striker and the lack of a number ten. Kulusevski fits right in.
Having said that, this is the Swede’s first season of first-team football. There is a huge risk involved when going for a player like that. No matter how good he is, every player needs a longer period of time to completely prove himself. The same goes for Kulusevski. That is why teams didn’t come forward for Zaniolo.
More than that, Atalanta suit him the most. Gian Piero Gasperini’s narrow 3-4-1-2 shape has superbly technically talented players in the front three. Ruslan Malinovskiy being the latest addition. If not United, Atalanta is still a very good place for the 19-year-old.