Just two years ago, Dejan Kulusevski was the furthest thing possible from a household name, but after cutting through Serie A like a hot knife through butter, he’s now getting the credit he deserves.
The Juventus man enjoyed a productive debut campaign with I Bianconeri and will hope to carry that momentum over to the international stage with Sweden at this summer’s European Championships, where we at 90min are tipping him to shine.
With the Euros right around the corner, let’s take a deeper dive into what you can expect from Kulusevski this summer.
Brought to Juventus for a whopping £30m fee last year, it’s safe to say that Kulusevski has not shied away from trying to tackle the mountain up which I Bianconeri had to climb.
In a side which hasn’t always shone in the attacking third, Kulusevski managed seven goals and seven assists in all competitions. He was his team’s fourth-highest scorer, behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Alvaro Morata and Federico Chiesa. Not bad company to keep for a 21-year-old.
Andrea Pirlo was rarely scared of turning to the youngster, whose best performances came in the Coppa Italia as he single-handedly dragged Juve to their only trophy of their season.
His goal beat Genoa in the last 16, he helped take apart SPAL in the quarter-final and he both scored and assisted in the final as Juve toppled an Atalanta side who have been notoriously difficult to topple this season.
This was just his debut season, and we’re ready for year two.
Does Kulusevski even know the answer to this question?
In Atalanta’s youth setup, he was used as a central midfielder before being promoted into the 10 position behind the striker. At Parma, he completely exploded as a right winger. For Juve, he has played in literally every position apart from in defence or in goal.
While most would say his best performances have come as a winger or a striker, Kulusevski sees himself as more of a 10.
“I’ve played as a mezzala for most of my career, so I know that I can do it,” he says. “In the Atalanta youth academy, I started the play from the back.
“As far as I am concerned, I believe my best position is a trequartista behind the strikers.”
Kulusevski is a towering winger who doesn’t always use his physical attributes to his advantage, instead relying on his technical ability to produce in the final third. In that respect, there are plenty of similarities to Atalanta’s Josep Ilicic, but it’s not an exact science.
If you ignore his size and instead focus on his style of play, you’ll see parts of Mohamed Salah and Arjen Robben in Kulusevski’s game. The Sweden starlet likes to drift out on to the right wing but is heavily left-footed and is always looking for a way to cut inside to use it, and comparisons to those two are pretty easy to find.
There have even been comparisons to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but apart from sharing the same colour passport and being kinda tall, there’s not a lot in that one.
“He is a great talent. He will help us to win and achieve incredible things. I really like him, he has great potential and he’s an excellent player.”
– Cristiano Ronaldo
“I’ve heard a lot about Kulusevski, he’s a very good player. Sweden does not have so many players in big clubs around the world. Everyone who comes up with that level develops Swedish football. This is something that Swedish football needs.”
– Zlatan Ibrahimovic
“I’m amazed by his ability to combine technical quality with his physical output.”
– Bruno Alves
“He is proving himself to be a champion in his mentality even quicker than he proves it on the field, so I expect great things.”
– Andrea Pirlo
“Considering his pace, his ball control and his finishing, I see him as similar to Robben.”
– Janne Andersson
On FIFA 21 Ultimate Team, Kulusevski starts out as a 77-rated right-winger, but you’ll see that bumped up to a 78 if you draft him into your team in Career Mode.
He already comes with an excellent mix of speed, power and technical ability, but if you give him minutes and keep him busy in your training drills, you can help Kulusevski hit his potential of 88 in no time.
Unfortunately, Juve know they’ve got a gem on their hands, so you’ll have to break the bank if you want to sign him.
As we all know, you’re not a wonderkid until Football Manager tells you you’re a wonderkid.
Kulusevski comes with that exact treatment in FM21, but with the added blessing of already being a solid winger right at the start of the game, when he’s just 20 years old. He’s good enough for a top team already.
Here are his stats when you load up the game.
And when you hit 2030…
As a Nike athlete, Kulusevski has been rocking the Mercurial Vapor 14s this season, so expect to see him whip them out again this summer.
The real question is not ‘will Kulusevski be involved?’, but rather ‘how will Kulusevski be involved?’.
With Ibrahimovic not heading to the tournament, Kulusevski will take up the role as Sweden’s talisman and he’ll be given a lot of responsibility. He’ll start every match and will be expected to come up with the goods.
Expect to see him split his minutes between a handful of positions. Sweden have used Kulusevski as both a right-winger and a central striker, but he spends most of his time out wide to allow Alexander Isak and Marcus Berg to shine in attack.