Serie A. Home to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Godin, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
And now it’s the playground of Dejan Kulusevski.
The 19-year-old wonderkid has burst onto the scene at Parma this season, scoring four goals and assisting a further six strikes in his 16 appearances thus far. The Swedish winger has catapulted I Crociati into the top half of the Serie A table, and he is already being linked with big-money moves to some of Europe’s top clubs.
Kulusevski is only on loan at Parma from Atalanta this year, and the Bergamo club must seriously be wondering who signed off on this deal. The teenager was part of the title-winning Atalanta youth team last year, but he was expected to need a season to adjust to the demands of Serie A.
The wide man was subsequently shipped out to Roberto D’Aversa’s Parma side, and he has left Gian Piero Gasperini kicking himself ever since that moment.
With Europe’s top sharks circling the future world-beater, Atalanta may never get to truly enjoy the brilliance of Kulusevski in the blue and black of La Dea.
But what makes him so special? And why are Manchester United being linked with the talented midfielder?
Well, let 90min talk you through why your club should be breaking the bank for Kulusevski this January.
He may have only been in the public eye for a matter of months, but Kulusevski has already performed expertly in a number of positions for Parma. The starlet has featured on both flanks and centrally, but his best position is undoubtedly on the right-hand side of the attack.
Kulusevski likes to collect the ball from deep and carry it forward, and he regularly drifts inside in search of space to fire a shot away at goal. The left-footed wizard is also very adept at playing on the opposing wing, where his pinpoint crossing comes into play.
Plenty of options, then.
Good Touch For a Big Man
Only 19 years old, Kulusevski stands at 6ft1, and he has one hell of a body frame. With the physique of a fully-grown adult, the Swedish star often surprises his opponents with his frightening strength and close ball control.
Once Kulusevksi is on the ball, it’s very difficult to shake him off it as he uses his body effectively to defend himself, and the youngster possesses a bag of tricks and dummies to sell to his tortured markers.
The winger’s size also allows him to thrive centrally, driving his side forward with lightning pace and unstoppable strength. But he isn’t afraid to get stuck in either, recycling possession for his grateful teammates and setting Gervinho off to rampage towards the opposition goal.
Pass it Like Pirlo
If you’re looking for a new trequartista, you shouldn’t rule out Kulusevski from taking the role to new heights (literally and figuratively). The strapping Parma man is able to force those around him to play at his speed, which is the mark of any top footballer.
The teenager has a plethora of defence-breaking passes in his locker, and his ability to pick the right pass at the right time is astounding, as demonstrated in I Crociati’s recent shock victory over Napoli.
Not only did Kulusevski show blistering pace in the 90th minute to keep up with the human roadrunner Gervinho, but when presented with the opportunity to finish the game himself, he opted to gift the chance back to his Ivorian teammate.
The calmest of touches, delays and passes handed Parma the victory – all after an 80 yard sprint, too. Pure class.
The drag-back. The dummy. The roulette. The swimming donkey (Okay I made that one up). Whichever the skill, Kulusevski can pull it off – and with style, too.
Unlike Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003, the Swedish international saves his tricks for when they’re needed. There are no 100 step-overs in the final minute with no one within 20 yards of him. His tricks are calculated. They help him avoid the flying tackles, allow teammates to overlap and join attacks, and expertly sweep the ball into the path of his flying colleagues (usually Gervinho).
Go check out his Youtube highlight reels. Yep, he’s got one already.
We’ve all seen it before. A youngster is gifted a wonderful opportunity, one-on-one with the keeper to give his side the lead. And he fluffs his lines. Straight at the keeper. Over the bar. Falls over his own feet.
Not our man Kulusevski, however.
Not only did the Swede assist the winning goal, but he also broke the deadlock against Napoli, capitalising on a defensive slip-up and cooly slotting home beyond goalkeeper Alex Meret.
Ice in his veins.
It’s not just his one-on-ones which are worth writing home about, either. The kid can absolutely leather a ball too. The Parma star has already made a name for himself as a lethal finisher from the edge of the box, mixing precision with power to devastating effect.
If he shifts that ball onto his left foot, well – it’s game over, folks.
It’s Dejan’s world, and soon we’ll all be living in it.