Callegari Finds Serenity In Halifax, But Eyes A Higher Level
Halifax Wanderers midfielder Lorenzo Callegari arrived to the Atlantic coast as a player yet to grace the high ceiling he once seemed destined for: the 25-year-old was a Paris Saint-German product who had dropped down all the way to France’s fourth division. This year saw him find joy at the professional level again within Patrice Gheisar’s midfield, where he’s played a step above what anyone expects to see in the CPL.
Earning a nomination for the league’s coveted Player of the Year award, the resurgent midfielder recently told Italian outlet Cronache Di Spogliatoio that his first of two guaranteed years on Canadian soil have been good for both his mind and his career.
“Here in Canada I am well, I am happy, and I have found serenity again. I feel confidence here and it makes all the difference in the world for a soccer player,” said Lorenzo, who led the entire league in passes with an astounding 2,046 of them – a stat miles ahead of anyone else.
There is a catch to his revival, however: like any professional soccer player ought to be, Callegari is filled with ambition. Patrice has revived that spark in a player who made his debut under Unai Emery at PSG, coming on for Lucas Moura: he has tasted levels well above the CPL, and he hasn’t forgotten the flavour.
“I would love to go back to Europe and go play in a league of a higher level, like even MLS could be,” he says. “I feel confidence here, and it makes all the difference in the world for a soccer player, but let’s see: I want to get to a higher level. I want to show that I have the qualities to go higher.”
The midfielder reflected specificallyon Italy’s ranks as a possible destination. Following his PSG days, Italian top flight side Genoa took a chance on Lorenzo and inked him to a contract. He was loaned out to Serie C side Ternana just a month later, however, and moved on to French lower league side Avranches the following season. He’d like another crack in Italy, where his parents are from.
“I think I can have my say in a Serie B team that plays ground ball. Compared to Serie C, a very physical league that I played in with Ternana years ago, in B there is a lot of play and technique can be emphasized. I would see myself well in a team that plays entertaining soccer. Pressure then is no longer a problem for me: remember I come from PSG, a club where you grow up with pressure. Today I am mature, I am no longer the shy boy of those years.”
He is truly a far cry from the young boy who had arrived to PSG after being noticed by the storied side at a summer camp, where they were impressed by his ability to direct the ball from midfield. PSG proved to be an institituion that didn’t let Lorenzo ‘lack anything, on the field but also off of it’: he blossomed in the environment, and in the 2016-2017 season he got to feature under Emery over the summer at the International Cup, suiting up against Inter Milan And Real Madrid, attaching some buzz to his name.
It wouldn’t take long for Lorenzo to make his full first team debut in the fall, coming on three minutes from time against Angers. Replacing Lucas Moura, it was a fleeting moment in time that he carries with him.
“What a satisfaction, though. It lasted for a short time but I remember that I was very focused on getting every little detail right. When I got home everyone called me, parents, friends. Only at that point did I realize what I had done. I said, ‘okay, I put one foot on the field,’ but soccer is tough stuff. If you get a head on your shoulders, you’re done. I was aware that I was not at anything.”
While he certainly didn’t have an ego, things still derailed for Callegari, who at that point was a France U-19 international who seemed to have golden-paved road aplenty in front of him.
“Let’s start with this: PSG that season had Matuidi, Verratti, and Thiago Motta. One of the strongest midfields in the world. For an 18-year-old to play in that role was not easy. Another thing: at PSG it has never been too easy for young people. There is not too much space. There is always a need to win, there are pressures, the club spent so much on champions who were then necessarily ahead of you in the hierarchies, but from whom I nevertheless learned so much by being around.”
Lorenzo also recognizes that he was not blameless in not breaking through: he says he has his own responsibilities and faults, and that he was down on himself when he returned to the second team.
“My character at that time did not help me. I was a shy boy, and at that age I paid dearly for shyness. Soccer goes at a crazy speed. If you are more outgoing, especially in a locker room like that, it’s easier, you fit in better. Today I’m not like that anymore. I’ve grown so much, partly because of that experience.”
The holding midfielder finished his time with the reserves after making 43 appearances for them, going on the aforementioned move to Genoa (and his loan to Ternana) before returning to France with Avranches, eventually signing with FC Chambly before his move to Canada’s east coast.
The rest is history: tallying seven team of the week nods, Callegari’s passing vision and ability it to dictate play wowed Canadian crowds from coast-to-coast. He racked up six assists, leading the league in passes and recoveries before finishing as a tight runner-up for the CPL’s Player of the Year award.
Having met his appearance clause to trigger an automatic contract renewal for 2024, he’s poised to be a pivotal figure for Halifax next year – a campaign that could prove a springboard back to the higher levels he’s hoping to return to.
Header Image Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan
Source: Cronache Di Spogliatoio