Gaetano Castrovilli’s Italy call-up was met by a sprouting of joy amongst the Azzurri faithful. There seems to be a collective admiration for the midfielder, whose graceful performances for Fiorentina this season have made a mark on more than just the Viola faithful.
In what is his first full campaign at the club, Castrovilli has come leaps and bounds in a very short space of time. He has left opposition teams rattled with his trickery, technical ability and how blessed he is on the ball.
These technical abilities stem from his adept dancing skills, which have helped the 22-year-old in his development. He has admitted to signing up to dance classes as a kid and, during a recent Press conference for Italy, he has already said he still practices his dancing skills in his spare time.
The system at Fiorentina has brought the best out of the player. The Viola struggled in their first few games of the season, but Vincenzo Montella has since settled on a unique 3-5-2 with two false nines in Franck Ribery and Federico Chiesa. This formation has transformed into a 3-4-1-2 more often than not, with Castrovilli playing behind the two quick forwards.
He has been given the freedom to move and use his impeccable technical abilities behind two very mobile strikers. Playing in the hole, Castrovilli has been tasked with pressing the opposition and coming deeper to squeeze the space they have in midfield. He cuts out passing lanes and his quickness on the ball allows him to speed up transitions and get the ball up to Ribery and Chiesa quickly.
He has completed an average of two tackles per game this season and has been fouled 2.3 times. Indeed, he likes to get stuck in and deny the opposition from building moves in the middle of the park.
His creativity has been able to thrive, too. For the Viola, Castrovilli has played the third-highest number of key passes per match (1.5). He has completed more dribbles than Ribery and Chiesa and is top of the table for that stat with 2.9.
Playing slightly further up the pitch has unlocked his abilities to score and create. He has bagged three goals - against Milan, Sassuolo and Parma. Those strikes were the difference in two matches, even though the goal he scored against the Rossoneri only extended the lead.
He has also assisted twice. One of those assists came against Sassuolo and the second one came in the close 4-3 defeat to Napoli.
In the first two appearances of 2019-20, Montella had gone with a 4-3-3 that saw Castrovilli play on the left side of the midfield. He wasn’t as impressive in that position, but the transition to 3-5-2 has worked wonders for the 22-year-old.
He has always possessed an attacking instinct, considering how he played out wide or behind the striker in his loan spell at Cremonese last season. During his loan stint at Bari, Castrovilli had even played as the defensive midfielder but was later used in multiple positions. And it shows how versatile and adaptable a player he is.
But being a dancer by nature, he can be a joy to watch in the final third. Montella has given him the confidence to shine as the regular player in that position, behind a fellow Fiorentina youth product and one of greats of the game.
Castrovilli already admitted to having learnt a lot from the Frenchman. “He always suggests the best position or how to place my body so I am more aggressive towards someone in possession. He really is a guide, which is pretty incredible.”
It just shows what sort of impact Ribery has had on young players at the Artemio Franchi. His experience and understanding of the game has helped Castrovilli and Chiesa thrive, and the vibrancy he brings to the plate has made Fiorentina look like a side who play very attractive football on their day.
The jump from playing in Serie B for two consecutive seasons to getting picked for Italy is a huge one. Very few have managed to pull that off. But with the confidence of his coach, playing in the perfect system, Castrovilli has proved that he is the real deal. As things stand, little can hold the man from Canosa di Puglia back.