Atalanta have made a recent habit of surprising the rest of Serie A with unexpected good results, finishing 4th last season and sitting in 6th this season despite losing some of their best players (Milan-bound duo Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti chief among them). They’ve done it through a combination of quality youth and seasoned veterans, taking full advantage of the Serie A’s propensity and comfort with loaning players left, right, and center.
One of their biggest stars this season has been 23-year-old Bryan Cristante, on loan from Benfica since January 2017. Atalanta are apparently set to activate his bargain of a €4m buy-option at the end of the season, and then turn around and sell him on for a healthy profit. According to Sky Sports, Chelsea, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and most of Italy’s top clubs are all monitoring the Italian-Canadian national, who has 2 caps for Italy, his country of birth.
Cristante is able to play multiple roles in central midfield, acting to shield the defence, helping with transition in the middle, or supporting the forwards directly. This season, he’s played mostly in the last two roles, racking up 12 goals and 4 assists in 44 games and 3,489 minutes of action.
Sky Sports claims Cristante’s representatives were in London two weeks ago to hold meetings with English clubs, which is something he’s apparently keen on. Although Sky do not mention a potential transfer fee, a recent rumour from Tuttosport claimed Atalanta would want at least €30 million for the midfielder. These reasonable demands are certainly set to rise if there are in fact as many clubs interested in his services as its rumored.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s success at Crystal Palace, which is likely to earn the youngster a trip to the World Cup with England, does lessen the need of a player such as Cristante. But Chelsea should stay in the mix. Danny Drinkwater is not panning out as expected, Tiémoué Bakayoko is still far from justifying his transfer fee and Cesc Fàbregas isn’t getting any younger. There could be space for both RLC and a young talent such as Cristante in the Chelsea midfield next season and beyond.