Trends in January Window: Has Serie A improved?

A few years ago, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli described Serie A as a transient league- the type of place where players developed, only to pursue a significant step up in their careers abroad. Back then the bianconeri were still at the mercy of the player’s will and lost both Vidal and Pogba, Inter was dealing with some crippling Financial Fair Play parameters, Milan was going through the final gasp of the Berlusconi and Galliani era, while Roma was known as a supermarket on the transfer market.

But in recent years the tide started to turn. Juventus landed Cristiano Ronaldo and Mathijs De Ligt, Inter broke their individual transfer record on not one but two players last summer and Napoli retained top players like Koulibaly and Allan while adding the likes of Fabian Ruiz and Manolas. There’s also hopes that Roma and Milan will be able to elevate their status once their ownership situations become more settled. 

The recent January window represented a continuation of a positive trend after a summer session that saw Serie A adding the likes of De Ligt, Lukaku, Godin and Lozano. While in recent years Calcio felt like it was missing two of its key protagonists, both Milan and Inter made a bold statement. The rossoneri brought back Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Inter landed Christian Eriksen after a long negotiation with both his agent and Spurs- while the two players are in different stages of their careers, they certainly bring more star power to Serie A.

The two milanesi clubs have been dabbling in nostalgia and the Bosman market respectively in recent years, but these two signings feel different. Ibrahimovic has already made an impact on the pitch and has helped develop Leao and Bennacer while giving the entire team more confidence, his return feels significantly more impactful than say Kaka’ and Balotelli’s. 

While Inter completed one of the best Bosman signings of the decade with Stefan De Vrij, landing Eriksen was even more impressive when you consider that not long ago he was linked to Real Madrid, had significant recent interest from Paris St Germain and is good enough to start. Inter went the extra mile to meet Spurs’ demands in order to acquire Eriksen immediately, but the impressive part of this deal was getting Eriksen to agree to terms to a multi year deal.

Napoli went into the January transfer window in a much different situation than Inter’s. The partenopei needed to get a jump start on a rebuild on top of finding midfielders functional for Gattuso’s decision to go back to the 4 3 3 formation, sporting director Giuntoli once again looked to the foreign market after previously hitting a homerun with Fabian Ruiz. Demme has certainly played like someone thrilled to be managed by his idol Rino Gattuso and for the club he grew up supporting, while Lobotka gives them options while pondering Allan and Zieliniski’s futures.

Midtable clubs in Serie A tried to follow the Atalanta blueprint of finding good values on talented players in leagues outside of the classic top five. Bologna brought in talented Argentine midfielder Nicolas Dominguez, Cagliari may have found a gem with Pereiro, Milan brought in Saelemakers to compete with Calabria and Conti, while Atalanta turned the Kulusveski’s plusvalenza into Tameze, Sutalo, Czyborra and Bellanova.

In: Eriksen, Czyborra, Sutalo, Bellanova, Tameze, Skrabb, Bjarnason, Pereiro, Soumaro, Dominguez, Moses, Young, Perez, Villar, Yoshida, Demme, Lobotka, Ibrahimovic, Saelemakers, Cutrone

 

While Serie A added some significant talent in January, the league also lost some fairly big names in Suso and Piatek. Because of Milan’s issues with Financial Fair Play and the uncertainty surrounding their ownership situation, setting up a potential significant plusvalenza for Suso makes sense especially since he lost his starting job under Pioli and while there is risk with moving on so quickly from the Polish striker, the opportunity to break even on a player they had invested so much in was too much to pass on. 

Milan also shed the significant salaries for Pepe Reina, who admitted that when he signed with the rossoneri he assumed Donnarumma was leaving, and Ricardo Rodriguez who lost his starting job to Theo Hernandez, another strong new addition to Serie A from last summer.

During the January window we also saw Florenzi and Lazaro leave on loan, with the Italian international much more likely to return to Serie A down the road out of the two. Lazio and Fiorentina moved on from Pedro, Durmissi and Berisha after they struggled to adapt to Serie A.

Out: Arana, Pedro, Boateng, Dzemaili, Lazaro, Florenzi, Pusetto, Murillo, Pepe Reina, Suso, Piatek, Rodriguez, Durmissi, Berisha, Rigoni

While it’s hard to argue that Serie A has more talent now than it did at the end of December, the more positive trend is the mobility of top talents within the league. In previous years we all too often saw examples of the transient league described by Andrea Agnelli, but this January we witnessed Juventus, Napoli and Fiorentina sign three of the breakout players of the season with Kulusevski, Rrahmani and Amrabat respectively.

Significant players sold but who stayed in the league: Kulusevski, Rrahmani, Amrabat, Barrow, Politano

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