Halifax Wanderers sign French midfielder Lorenzo Callegari

The Halifax Wanderers announced on Wednesday afternoon that the club has signed 24-year-old French midfielder Lorenzo Callegari for the upcoming Canadian Premier League season, with an option for 2024.

Callegari, a native of Meudon, France, comes to Nova Scotia from fourth-tier side FC Chambly, but he’s a youth product of Paris Saint-Germain, having played for the Ligue 1 giants’ youth and reserve sides from 2011 to 2018.

While with PSG, Callegari made 43 appearances for the B team, also playing for various youth sides, and he made his first-team debut in a preseason friendly against Real Madrid in 2016, sharing a pitch with the likes of Ángel Di María, Thiago Silva, and Edinson Cavani. Callegari also made one top-flight appearance for PSG’s first team in November 2016, getting the call off the bench from then-manager Unai Emery in a Ligue 1 match against Angers.

Since leaving the Paris club in 2018, Callegari spent time with Italian Serie A side Genoa before returning to France with Avranches and then, most recently, Chambly.

“We’re happy to welcome Lorenzo to Halifax and delighted he chose to take the next steps in his career with us,” Wanderers sporting director Matt Fegan said in a statement. “In our discussions, he has been thorough in his assessment of everything we’re doing in Halifax. He has shown a great appetite to contribute to our project, and he will add some experience and forward-playing creativity to the base of our midfield.”

Callegari has also played for France at several youth levels, representing his country at the 2015 UEFA U-17 European Championship in Bulgaria — where he played 21 minutes in the final as France defeated Germany 4-1 to lift the trophy. Callegari has also played for the U-18, U-19, and U-20 French sides, including a U-19 friendly against Spain in 2016 in which Callegari started alongside Kylian Mbappé.

“We expect him to be a key contributor, and he’s a difference-maker,” Wanderers head coach Patrice Gheisar told this week. “Lorenzo is going to be able to suit the style we want to play, which is a possessional team with the ability to break up plays and switch the point of attack. Also, he’s going to improve our team culture because he’s coming from a different world, speaking a different language with different experiences.”

Callegari is primarily a holding midfielder, who may anchor the middle of the park for the Wanderers alongside captain Andre Rampersad. Gheisar identified his passing range, in particular, as well as his technical ability honed at a world-class club’s academy as assets that can help him succeed in the CPL.

Gheisar added that Callegari’s choice to come to Canada at this stage in his career, while not necessarily a conventional option, could help the talented youngster by providing a new challenge and a change of scenery:

“The elephant in the room is that if he was at PSG, how’d he end up here? I think everybody sometimes needs to reset their career and go a different path to get to where they want to go with their end goals. Hopefully this will open up an avenue for other key players in Europe that might look at CPL as being a reset.”

Callegari is the third newcomer to the Wanderers this off-season, joining Tiago Coimbra and Massimo Ferrin — as well as Wesley Timoteo, who spent 2022 on loan with FC Edmonton and has yet to suit up for Halifax — and he’s the fifth international player in the squad. He’ll be joining a midfield group that includes Rampersad as well as Mohamed Omar and the recently re-signed Aidan Daniels.

“I can’t wait to come to Halifax to meet the other players and the supporters that I know always come out and support the Wanderers,” Callegari said in a statement. “I’ve never been before, but I can’t wait to discover Canada; I’ve only heard good things. The club has kept important players from last season, so I think there will be a good atmosphere within the team.”