Riccardo Montolivo is widely regarded as one of the rising stars of Italian football, a status he has underlined with some fine performances of late. Habitually in the right place at the right time, the central midfielder offers defensive security and an extra option going forward, and possesses the long-range shooting skills to test any goalkeeper.
Montolivo began his career as an 18-year-old in Serie B with Atalanta, the club that nurtured him as a youngster. He played 41 times in the Bergamo outfit's promotion-winning season of 2003/04, scoring four goals. His top-flight debut came against Lecce in September 2004 but despite some excellent displays and three goals in all, he could not prevent Atalanta from going straight back down again.
Sold to Fiorentina, the tactically astute Montolivo immediately forced his way into the first team and showed how hard he can strike a ball by scoring against Ascoli with a screaming shot measured at 117 kmh.
Montolivo was an ever-present in all Italy's youth teams between 2001 and 2007 and made his full Azzurri debut in the October 2007 friendly against South Africa. A last-minute discard from Roberto Donadoni's 23-man pool for UEFA EURO 2008, the Viola man consoled himself with a place in the squad for the Beijing 2008 Men's Olympic Football Tournament and was recalled by Marcello Lippi to the senior team for the South Africa 2010 qualifier against Bulgaria.