Following Arturo Vidal’s transfer to Bayern Munich back in the summer of 2015, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli described Serie A as a transient league- a place where players improved before they moved on to clubs able to pay them more.
Since then we have seen some improvements when it comes the Italian clubs being able to keep their best players. Juventus have been able to increase their revenues considerably, Inter now have significantly more financial resources with Suning taking over for Erick Thohir and now no longer have to worry about Financial Fair Play, Fiorentina look much more ambitious under Rocco Comisso, while both of Napoli and Lazio’s presidents have developed a well deserved reputation as tough negotiators.
So with another summer transfer window in the books, has this trend continued? Have Serie A teams been able to increase the overall talent in the league by keeping more top players and attracting new additions that can make a difference? Let’s first take a look at the players that left.
Interestingly two of the biggest players to depart Serie A- Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic- did so on loan and there’s a fairly good chance they will return (at least temporarily). Wanda Nara has already made it clear that ultimately she and her husband/client want to go back to Inter and that they see the move to PSG as a the kind of break a couple takes to calm things down, while with Perisic it remains to be seen if Bayern Munich see him as just a short term stop gap.
Juventus and Roma did end up selling two of their top performers to make some needed plusvalenze. Losing a player of Joao Cancelo’s caliber is always painful, but becomes even more problematic when you sell him to a team who has a legitimate chance to win the trophy your fan base is obsessed over and to a manager who can get the most out of him. Stephan El Shaarawy on the other accepted an offer you can’t refuse and moved to China following a great season in Italy’s capital (I have a feeling he’ll be back in a year or two).
It shouldn’t be particularly surprising to see Sampdoria off to a very slow start this season considering they sold two of their five best players in Dennis Praet and Joachim Andersen. While many assumed both would follow Marco Giampaolo, the manager that fully developed them, to Milan they ended up going abroad for significant profits- the Danish center back joined Lyon and the Belgian midfielder headed to Leicester.
We also had two home grown players bring significant profits to Milan and Juventus respectively because they had no amortized value to offset. Patrick Cutrone essentially financed most of Milan’s incoming moves for this fiscal year by joining Wolves, while Moise Kean landed at Everton when he had just one year left on his contract at Juventus.
The other significant outgoing moves outside of Italy involved numerous Monchi rejects at Roma- Coric, NZonzi, Karsdorp and Schick will all try to regain some value on the transfer market and jump start their careers outside of Italy.
So you could look at the fact there weren’t many top players that left as either a sign Italian teams are in a stronger position or that the talent overall in Serie A wasn’t very good last season since only Cancelo, Kean, Praet, Andersen and El Shaarawy fetched significant fees- I tend to think it’s more the former also because we have seen a good amount of players that in previous years would have gone abroad- Manolas, Barella, Bennacer, Mancini, Sensi, Demiral and Lazzari- ended up being transferred to other Serie A, in addition to players like Milinkovic Savic, Chiesa, De Paul, Donnarumma, Izzo and Suso who on paper looked fairly certain to leave just ended up staying at their respective clubs.
But how did Serie A fair on the incoming side overall? Juventus continued to demonstrate their ability with Bosman signings by snagging Rabiot, who was linked to Barcelona for a long time, and Ramsey who left a top Premier League team to come to Italy. But the bianconeri weren’t the only one flexing on the market for players with expiring contracts- Inter added one of the best defenders in the world in Diego Godin while Napoli signed Fernando Llorente to give Ancelotti another option up front.
Interestingly we had quite a few players return to Serie A after a stint abroad (although even the most fervent Calcio cheerleader would have a hard time characterizing other leagues being transient and improving these footballers) including Buffon, Higuain, Darmain, Kalinic, Zappacosta, Rebic, Alexis Sanchez, Obiang, Kjaer, Murillo and Balotelli.
We saw Inter break their transfer record by acquiring Romelu Lukaku, Napoli doing the same with Lozano, Juventus defeat Barcelona and PSG in the race for Mathis De Ligt, Milan landing some intriguing prospects in Leao and Theo Hernandez, Roma acquire their most expensive keeper ever with Pau Lopez, Genoa shock the world by convincing Schone to leave Ajax to play in Liguria and Commisso make a huge splash by signing Ribery.
In addition to players, we have also seen Serie A bring back two great managers in Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri while Paul Fonseca brought his intriguing offensive mind to Italy. I think it’s safe to say the talent level in Italy has increased this summer, but I’ll let you decide by just listing the names
In- Muriel, Kjaer, Ribery, Ghezzal, Schone, Balotelli, Joronen, Vavro, Nandez, Lukaku, Godin, Lazaro, De Ligt, Ramsey, Rabiot, Higuain, Danilo, Buffon, Jony, Darmian, Smalling, Zappacosta, Mkhitaryan, Kalinic, Pau Lopez, Obiang, Murillo, Lozano, Elmas, Theo Hernandez, Duarte, Rebic, Leao
Out- Nagy, Helander, Donsah, Lafont, Kean, Cancelo, Perisic, Icardi, Joao Mario, Praet, Andersen, Nzonzi, El Shaarawy, Karsdorp, Schick