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FEATURE | Dejan Kulusevski is the real deal

2019 was the year in which Dejan Kulusevski earned his debut Serie A debut, scored his first Serie A goal, provided his first Serie A assist and a received a call-up to the Swedish national team. It was pretty much the year the world got to know about a 19 year old Swedish kid who seemingly knows how to handle a football quite well.

Kulusevski is a versatile left-footed player who is capable of doing a lot of different things on the football pitch.

He has said that his preferred role is as a number 10, behind the striker, but his skill set offers so much more.

For those of us who have watched Parma this season have been witnessing that he can, to put it mildly, handle the right winger position in a 4-3-3 as well. In addition, he’d for sure have no problem at all managing a mezzala role if that’s asked of him.

In one of the most recent games for the Swedish U21 (versus Iceland U21) he even played as a striker.

Born in Sweden to Macedonian parents, Dejan Kulusevski began his footballing career with Brommapojkarna at the age of 6 years old. After the age of just 15 he signed a contract with Atalanta. Thus, he became the first 2000 born Swedish to go abroad playing professional football. 

Kulusevski revealed that the beginning of his time abroad at such a young age, understandably, it was tough at times. He has said there definitely were occasions when he thought about moving back home to Sweden and his family.

However, as time went by he became more and more sure about that this was the right move. His dad came to visit him as often as he could and stayed with him for about two weeks each time to make it easier for Dejan. Through training and school he also became more comfortable with the language and thus his Atalanta youth teammates.

Andreas Engelmark is the man who trained Kulusevski at the age between 12 and 15 when he was still with Brommapojkarna in Sweden.

Engelmark told SVT, when speaking about how Atalanta ended up buying Dejan, that Dejan went on trial for Atalanta in the spring of 2015. Furthermore after that, BM (Brommapojkarna) participated in a tournament where Atalanta, amongst other Italian teams took part. 

In that competition, BM beat Atalanta, with a very solid performance from Kulusevski. After the tournament was finished, a certain Glenn Strömberg called Engelmark and asked: “Is he for real?”

Last season the attacker, coached by Massimo Brambilla, became campioni amongst the primavera sides in Italy with Atalanta, beating Inter 2-1 in the final. It was the first time Atalanta had won this tournament in 21 years and Kulusevski provided the match winning assist in addition to being awarded Man of the Match, named the Piermario Morosini award. 

 Off the bench in this match came Sebastiano Esposito and for Atalanta came Amad Traorè (yes, that Traorè who is the brother of Sassuolo’s Traorè and became the first 2002 born player to score in Serie A). 

The season of 2018/2019 was also the season where Dejan Kulusevski got his first Serie A appearance. 20. January when Atalanta was leading 5-0 away to Frosinone, he came on for Marten de Roon and played the last 20 minutes of the match. 

This term, he has earned his first call-up to the Sweden national team, despite having also been eligible to play for Macedonia.

Kulusevski facts:

  • Idols as a youngster: Kaká, Ronaldinho, and of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
  • Favourite team: Arsenal.
  • Favourite player: Eden Hazard. “Seeing him play is like watching a movie.”
  • Best player having trained with: Josip Iličić.
  • Best player to have faced: Douglas Costa. “He was on a whole different level compared to all others on the pitch when we (Parma) faced Juventus.”

Serie A 19/20

After 12 rounds of Serie A football Kulusevski has:

  • Started every single match.
  • Only One player (Inter’s Marcelo Brozović) covers on average more kilometres per match than Kulusevski and his 11.841 kms.
  • Two goals.
  • Five assists. Only Luis Alberto with eight has more.

TR

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