Final round in Serie A’s Coaching Carousel

Halfway through June we are starting to get a lot more clarity on the remaining seats on the coaching carousel in Serie A. Here’s the latest on the remaining vacant jobs:

 

Marco Giampaolo set to become Milan’s next manager

 

The worst kept secret in Calcio is currently the identity of the rossoneri’s next manager. Once the club’s new hierarchy at director level is revealed, we can expect Giampaolo’s arrival to be finally announced. The former Empoli manager’s style of play has been heavily influenced by Maurizio Sarri and his knack to develop players in recent years (Torreira, Skriniar, Schick who was sold for a huge fee to Roma) fits quick well with Gazidis’ vision for the club- acquire players before they become stars.

Giampaolo is arguably the best manager Milan has had since Allegri left, certainly at least on the offensive side of the equation. Piatek will likely continue to strive and could be very well suited to a formation with two strikers and a trequartista as impressive as Paqueta behind him, it feels like Berlusconi will enjoy watching this version of his former club.

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Maurizio Sarri brings a new vision to Juventus 

 

I guess you should be careful what you wish for. Many of the Juventus fans who demanded Max Allegri’s head on a platter because he was so pragmatic with his style, are now horrified to find out he’ll be replaced by the manager who gave them the middle finger when his Napoli travelled to Turin to face Juventus in a key match in the scudetto race.

Sarri will certainly bring a radically different style to Juventus. Gone are the days of doing the bare minimum to win, with the top talent available to him in Turin, Sarri should be able to consistently play with the same flare we saw at Allianz Stadium when Juventus defeated Atletico Madrid 3-0.

Gaining the fan’s base acceptance won’t be easy for Sarri, but he can draw inspiration from his predecessors. Allegri had rocks thrown at his car when he arrived for his first training session, while the best Juventus managers of past 40 years (Lippi, Trapattoni and Conte) had won no trophies before joining Juventus, they became great coaches in Turin.

 

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Paulo Fonseca officially joins Roma

While Roma failed to land Conte, Sarri and Mihajlovic who dropped out of contention for the job because he was concerned with how he would be received by the fan base, the giallorossi may have found a great fit for their team regardless.

While the Ukrainian league is far from competitive, Fonseca handled the pressure of replacing a legend like Lucescu very well and brought an offensive minded style to the team. Zaniolo, Kluivert, Under (assuming he stays) should fit very well in his 4 2 3 1 and Rudi Garcia, who arrived to Roma from abroad, had a very successful start to his tenure at the club.

 

Vincenzo Montella to stay at Fiorentina?

 

While the former Milan manager struggled significantly upon replacing Stefano Pioli, he’s expected to return as the Viola’s manager next season after signing a multi year deal when he was hired. Sporting director Panteleo Corvino took the fall for the Viola’s disastrous season and was officially let go on Tuesday.

Montella will likely have a short leash since Corvino’s replacement Prade’ may want to appoint his own manager should the team get off to a slow start.

 

Eusebio Di Francesco to Sampdoria?

 

Speaking of Stefano Pioli, since last week he seemed like the front runner to replace Giampaolo in Liguria. But Sampdoria’s president Ferrero met with Di Francesco to gauge his interest, while he would be an appealing candidate, the former Roma manager is asking for a significant salary on top of a guarantee he’ll have a competitive squad.

Considering that Sampdoria could be sold and the club is expected to cash in on a few key players regardless of what happens at the ownership level, Pioli is probably a safer pick to be the next manager.

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Aurelio Andreazzoli to Genoa?

 

With one former Empoli manager on his way out in Liguria, we could have another one coming in to Sampdoria’s cross town rivals. Andreazzoli gave a massive spark to the Tuscan club when he returned at the end of the season, the final match at San Siro against Inter was just an example of how well the team was playing in the final stretch.

Andreazzoli also developed numerous players in his tenure at Empoli (Di Lorenzo, Zajc, Traore’ to name a few) and could also bring Bennacer and Caputo to his new team. Genoa had a very difficult season after foolishly letting go of Davide Ballardini, after Juric and Prandelli failed to get the team back on track, Andreazzoli is the ideal candidate to give the club a fresh start.

Assessing the striker market in Serie A

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After previously analyzing the keeper, center back, wing back, midfielder and winger market in Serie A, it’s time to close out this series by analyzing the striker position. Let’s first look at the current situation for the top Italian teams:

 

Juventus- Cristiano Ronaldo did his part in the Champions League by scoring the bianconeri’s five last goals in the competition, Moise’ Kean broke out in 2019 while Mario Mandzukic ran out of gas in second part of season for second year in a row, Paulo Dybala struggled significantly playing next to Ronaldo and only scored 10 goals in all competitions. Higuain could be a significant factor here, because Juventus will be hard pressed to find him a new home to avoid his enormous wages impacting their balance sheet.

Napoli- while Milik scored over 20 goals this season, his miss in the group stages against Liverpool maybe the most memorable moment of his campaign. Dries Mertens had a very strong finish to the season and is determined to stay at club for foreseeable future while Roberto Inglese, who was on loan at Parma, could be used in a deal to secure a bigger name.

Atalanta- in a recent interview, the Bergamaschi’s president Percassi stated that Papu Gomez and Ilicic (who has just one year left on his deal) will stay while Duvan Zapata could be on the move. Highly rated prospect Musa Barrow struggled to find consistent playing time.

Inter- Lautaro Martinez had an overall positive season first season in Serie A since he proved to be a versatile striker but ended up with just 9 goals in all competitions- although he wasn’t help by the fact that Spalletti didn’t think he and Mauro Icardi could play together. Speaking of Icardi, it’s remarkable how much his stock has fallen in 2019…

Milan- with Marco Giampaolo expected to be the next manager, the rossoneri could be playing two strikers regularly- one of which will certainly be Piatek while Cutrone could represent a substantial plusvalenza by being sold since he’s a homegrown player. After a an uneven season in la Liga, Andre’ Silva will either return to Milan or more likely his agent Jorge Mendes will have to find him a third team in three years.

Roma- with the giallorossi determined to slash their payroll after failing to qualify for the Champions League, Edin Dzeko is certain to leave now that he has just one year on his deal. While Patrik Schick showed some flashes of his Sampdoria form at the beginning of 2019 after he hired a personal motivator, he still has yet to come close to justifying his transfer fee and there’s been a talk of a swap with Andre’ Silva that would send him to Milan where he would be reunited with Marco Giampaolo, the manager who got the most out of him.

Lazio- Ciro Immobile had his worst season at Lazio but still scored 15 goals in Serie A while Felipe Caicedo showed significant improvement in his second year in Italy. The biancocelesti have recently linked to FIFA superstar Wesley who would be an intriguing long term addition.

Let’s take a look at which strikers could be on the move:

 

Fabio Quagliarella- the 36 year old attacker finished the season as the league’s top scorer and could be on the move this summer. Napoli are considering bringing him back, which would also be an attempt to mend fences with their fan base. It however remains to be seen if Quagliarella is willing to go to a team where he won’t be a guaranteed starter since he’s looking to be part of Italy’s team for next year’s Euro.

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Duvan Zapata/Josip Ilicic- Quagliarella isn’t the only former Napoli player linked with a return to the Amalfi coast this summer, in fact Duvan Zapata is now De Laurentiis and Giuntoli’s top target. The Colombian striker was an afterthought for Maurizio Sarri, but he would be an ideal number 9 in Ancelotti’s system. Atalanta’s president Percassi said that if an offer for around 50/60 million for Zapata he may not be able to say no..

Zapata isn’t the only Atalanta player linked to Napoli. In fact there are reliable reports that he has agreed to personal terms with the partenopei on a three year deal, and considering that he has just one year left on his current contract with Atalanta, they will almost certainly have to either give him a raise to extend him, or sell him this summer to avoid losing him for free in 2020.

 

Mauro Icardi- just 6 months ago many thought his 110 million exit clause was a relative bargain on the transfer market. But after all the recent drama and his inability to score from the run of play since returning to the team (in addition to missing a penalty in the key last match), his value has plummeted.

Icardi has made it clear he wants to stay at Inter, but it remains to be seen if Antonio Conte will allow him to be such a big distraction to the start of his new project. There has been talk of a potential swap for Dybala, which won’t be easy to pull off for a variety of reasons, but a club like Atletico Madrid, who isn’t afraid to invest in reclamation projects, could be an even better fit.

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Edin Dzeko- regardless of what happens with Icardi, the Bosnian striker will almost certainly join Inter who are offering him a three year deal. Dzeko is a perfect fit for Conte’s system and is expected to be an ideal mentor for Lautaro Martinez.

 

Mario Mandzukic- despite signing an extension a few months ago, the Croatian striker will likely leave Juventus this summer. Mandzukic would have almost certainly stayed had Allegri not been relieved of his duties, but with Sarri expected to come, he’s less than an ideal fit in Juventus’ system moving forward. Manduzkic could cash in by playing in China for the next few season.

Andrea Petagna- the former Milan striker had a breakout season by scoring 16 goals for SPAL and could now move to a bigger club. Petagna would be an ideal fit at Roma since his style of play is so similar to Dzeko, in preparation for a potential move, his current club SPAL has already targeted Francesco Caputo, who also scored 16 goals last season playing for Empoli.

 

Milan’s new fresh start & The Memento Conundrum

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Christopher Nolan made a name for himself when he released “Memento” back in 2000. The film stars Guy Pearce as Leonard, a man with no short term memory and who is tracking down the man who murdered his wife. While Leonard can remember his distant past, he has to constantly reset because he doesn’t know where he’s going and why.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Leonard’s character as Milan get ready for another rebuild- they’ll now have their fourth sporting director in four year and with Gattuso’s departure, they have to appoint their seventh manager in eight years. While everyone remembers Milan’s glorious past, they are so often starting over that you start to wonder where they are actually going.

But Milan fans finally got a dose of reality with Ivan Gazidis’ gave a lengthy interview in Wednesday’s Gazzetta dello Sport where he illustrated the Elliott Fund and his vision for the future. Gazidis stated that he’s “looking for the right balance between quality young players and players with leadership and experience. We won’t invest in top players or those who have already been, but those who can become one in our shirt”

This decision is driven in large part by the reality of having to operate within strict Financial Fair Play parameters which Gazidis described this way “FFP? Skipping the rules, looking for an improbable “all in” as if we are at the poker table is not only risky, it’s wrong, because behind a presumed “enjoyment in the moment”, there is an abyss to come. The goal is to grow in compliance with FFP  and bring quality players at Milan, who can grow with the club, showing their value and becoming a pride for the fan. We will not buy young talents to resell them, but so they can stay and enter the future history of the club”

For Milan fans who have just have memory from the long lost past like Leonard in “Memento” but none of recent events, it’s very easy to paint Elliott and Gazidis as the bad guys here since they are being honest on the club needing to make long term decisions rather than pursue instant gratifications, but a closer look at what happened in past 4 years will show that blaming the Elliott Fund and Gazidis is like being angry at the fire fighters who are tasked with taking out a fire that someone else started.

While Berlusconi had been honest following the sale of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva by saying he was no longer able to spend and keep up with the super rich clubs, he fell drastically short of his goal of only selling his beloved club to someone who could make Milan great again- instead he passed on his club to a conglomerate of unheard of Chinese investors who disappeared as quickly as they appeared when the Elliott Fund took over.

But in the meantime, Galliani’s replacements Fassone and Mirabelli spent over 200 million without bringing any true difference makers and in the process dug a huge financial whole that the Elliott Fund had to cover by pumping in a ton of money just to ensure that Milan could matriculate for the Serie A season that just ended.

While Mirabelli’s replacement Leonardo certainly doesn’t deserve nowhere near as close the amount of blame as his predecessors, he also shouldn’t get a full pass either (I know many will disagree here by the way). Granted he didn’t have much time, but aside from Bakayoko (who is almost certainly leaving the club after arriving on loan with option to buy), none of his summer moves panned out- Caldara barely played at all, Higuain’s massive salary and poor attitude were a drag on the team and Laxalt was nowhere the player we had seen at Genoa and in the World Cup in Russia.

No club in Serie A spent nearly as much as Milan during the January window (I believe no club in Europe for that matter), and while Paqueta’ and Piatek certainly are looking like players who could fit the vision Gazidis has for the future, all of these moves didn’t get Milan back to the Champions League, since they feel behind  cross town rivals Inter and Atalanta who have a fraction of the rossoneri’s payroll.

The lack of the Champions League revenue has now brought even more urgency for Gazidis’ long term plan, and while it may certainly be sexier to see Milan linaked to big name players, at least now fans will know exactly what to expect- a far cry from the promises made under the Chinese regime. Milan fans will still have the long term memories of the Champions League wins, but now thanks to the transparency shown by Gazidis and the financial reality, they won’t have Leonard’s lack of short term memory which would force them to constantly start over.

Assessing the Market for Wingers in Serie A

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After previously reviewing the market for goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders, it’s now time to take a look at the winger market in Serie A. Let’s first take stock of the current options available to the top Italian teams going into the summer window:

 

Juventus- Douglas Costa got off a fast start before becoming an after thought following some injuries and an off field issue (on top of the spitting incident), Bernardeschi showed pretty good chemistry with Ronaldo although his stats were underwhelming, Mandzukic continues to often play on the wing. Cuadrado struggled with a severe injury in second half of the season, while Cancelo’s defensive limitations could see him playing in a more advanced position next season.

Napoli- Callejon is now 32, Insigne started the season playing as a second striker, Younes showed flashes the few times he played and Ounas made the most of the opportunities given to him by Ancelotti- which were more frequent than under Sarri but still probably not enough for a 22 year old looking to break out. Simone Verdi continued to battle with injuries and is probably at best a super sub moving forward.

Inter- while Perisic did perform better in the final stretch of the season, he continued to disappear for months at a time. Politano was a very pleasant surprise and the best new addition along with De Vrij- he will certainly be redeemed from Sassuolo after his first season on loan with option to buy. Candreva continues to be hit like a pinata by Inter fans on Twitter

Atalanta- we covered Hateboer, Gosens and Castagne in the wing back article since they cover that role in Gasperini’s formation.

Milan- Suso and Perisic had similar seasons but at least peaked when it matters most. Castillejo wasn’t nearly as impactful as Deulofeu and could return to Spain, Bonaventura continues to rehab from his surgery while Calhanoglu hasn’t yet shown he can be a quality/consistent starter moving forward.

Roma- as great as El Shaarawy was this season, it’s not a good sign that he was clearly the club’s best winger (and probably best player period) over highly rated prospects like Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert.

Lazio- we covered most of their players at this position in the wingback section since Simone Inzaghi runs a similar system to Gasperini’s but Angel Correa could play as a winger with a new manager and was the club’s best player in second half of the season.

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Federico Chiesa- Fiorentina’s disastrous season makes him much more likely to leave, but has his value taken a hit since he’s the signature player on the most underachieving Serie A team of the season? Napoli had previously offered close to 50 million to acquire him and could still use him, while Chiesa has also been linked to Juventus and Inter. Chiesa is obviously very talented and only 21 years old, but this season he was more known for diving than scoring goals or delivering assists.

 

Douglas Costa- there are few players more electrifying in Serie A than the Brazilian international, but between the spitting incident in the match against Sassuolo and deciding to go to Neymar’s birthday party right after being involved in a car accident, it remains to be seen if Juventus, a club known for not tolerating these sorts of things, decide to hold on to him. But considering that they invested significantly to acquire him on a permanent basis from Bayern Munich (another club who got fed up with his off field antics) just last summer, he’s not a player they can turn a plusvalenza on easily despite his considerable skills.

 

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Keita Balde’- while Inter will certainly redeem the rights to Politano, it’s unlikely they’ll pay Monaco over 30 million to keep the former Lazio winger permanently- but considering their excellent relationship with his new agent, they could look to extend the loan. Keita struggled at first because he didn’t get much of a summer retreat and later battled injuries so another team could try to capitalize his considerable talent.

Ivan Perisic- Inter may regret not selling him after his excellent World Cup but at least his late season contributions could help them clinch a Champions League spot (I’m writing this a few days before final match of the season). Perisic has been linked to Premier League teams for the past two years and as recently as January when he came close to joining Arsenal and with Conte arriving, it’s likely that the nerazzurri will go for a more natural fit in 3 5 2.

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Cengiz Under- following Roma’s deep run in the Champions League last season, the Turkish winger was being mentioned as a player worth 50 million but the giallorossi decided to keep him after cashing in on Alisson, Strootman and De Rossi so he could be part of their young core. While Under didn’t have nearly as a good a season, Arsenal and Spurs continue to be mentioned as possible destination for him.

Suso- the former Liverpool winger has a 40 million exit clause and Milan have been trying to negotiate a new deal to increase it or eliminate it altogether, but so far Suso is requesting to be paid as much as Donnarumma and it’s hard to imagine the rossoneri wanting to pay him nearly that much.

Hakan Calhanoglu- the Turkish international best chance at staying is for Gattuso to be confirmed as Milan manager, if not it’s likely he’ll either head back to the Bundesliga or the Premier League where he has been linked to Leicester City.

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Lorenzo Insigne- after a stellar start to the season, Napoli’s home town star struggled considerably and looked more like the player we are (unfortunately) accustomed to seeing on the Italian national team. Insigne recently formalized his relationship with Mino Raiola as his agent, but while a transfer can’t be completely excluded, it’s more likely he’ll sign a new contract with Napoli and become arguably the biggest “bandiera” left in Serie A after Chiellini.

Rodrigo De Paul- after three seasons at Udinese, the former Racing winger/attacker is ready to take the next step in his career especially considering he also made his debut on Argentina’s national team. Napoli and Inter have been heavily linked to him and both clubs have an excellent relationship with Udinese.

Riccardo Orsolini- few players were more impactful in the second half of the season than the Bologna winger whom Juventus still own. The 22 year old could be used as part of a package by the bianconeri to acquire a bigger name (perhaps Chiesa or Milinkovic Savic) and should absolutely be considered an intriguing player for the Azzurri’s senior squad.

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Papu Gomez/Josip Ilicic- Atalanta’s current captain must be thrilled he never left to go play in the Middle East considering his club’s stellar season. Could he look for a huge pay day at the age of 31? It’s hard to envision that should Gasperini stay and if they qualify for the Champions League. Ilicic on the other hand has just one year left on his contract and has already agreed to personal terms with Napoli, it will be up to Atalanta to decide if they want to give him a raise after a stellar season.

 

Allegri leaves Juventus- what can his replacement expect?

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“When Conte abruptly left, many felt the sky was falling. The Allegri hiring was universally mocked on social media and rocks were thrown at his car when he arrived for his first training session.” I know you’ve read and heard a variation of that line many times, I can vouch for fact I used it many times myself to illustrate that we shouldn’t take for granted Allegri’s success at Juventus.

The expectations were so low when a manager who had been sacked at Milan after being constantly mocked by Rossoneri fans, and even Silvio Berlusconi publicly at a political rally, replaced Antonio Conte, a club legend who had brought Juventus back from the ashes of Calciopoli. 

I bring this narrative once again to illustrate that Allegri’s stature as a candidate for a top club has only risen compared to five year ago and Juventus could very well keep winning even if his replacement doesn’t appear to be adequate at time of hire which is in line with both Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi, who won the Champions League at the club, as well as Antonio Conte.

There also appears to be the potential for some Allegri remorse amongst some of his biggest critics based on the same the names being discussed as his replacement (Simone Inzaghi and Sinisa Mihajlovic) but make no mistake about it- it was time for both Allegri and especially Juventus to part ways. 

It was bad enough that most of the club’s fans were done with pragmatic, defensive and “just do the bare minimum to win” approach, we now had Dybala’s brother and agent publicly stating many of the players were unhappy and ready to leave. Sacrificing all of the likes of Cancelo, Dybala and Douglas Costa (some of whom could still leave) because of their issues with the manager was too much of a price to pay for even the most ardent Allegri defender.

While Allegri will almost certainly land a top job abroad based on the fact he has a much higher approval rating outside of the Serie A bubble (it’s more a matter of when, since he could also take a year off and collect the checks from the last year of his deal at Juventus) it remains to be seen if the name of his replacement will be equally prestigious.

Certainly Juventus made a very significant and surprising splash by landing Cristiano Ronaldo last summer after years of being mocked for loan with option to buy deals, but they historically have always hired an Italian manager- the only exception in past 30 plus years was Didier Deschamps who had some black and white DNA after being a club captain as a player but was also hired when the club was relegated to the second division.

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The fact that Zidane decided to return to Real Madrid was a game changer- just like Deschamps he has a strong tie to the club already and of course has a remarkable track record at the club. While Juventus would love to make an exception for Pep Guardiola, there appears to be no chance he leaves the club despite their potential escalating Financial Fair Play issues. 

While Mourinho is represented by Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, the biggest complaint about Allegri was his defensive and pragmatic approach and on top of that there’s the Special One’s iconic past at Inter to consider. Hiring Pochettino would be very expensive because of his release clause and he could be a candidate for Barcelona.

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Recently Maurizio Sarri has also been discussed as a possibility. While there’s a distinct possibility he’ll leave Chelsea after the Europa League final, he would be an awkward fit culture wise at Juventus because of his style. It would also be interesting to see how the former Napoli coach would be greeted by all the Juve fans who loudly commented on the fact he hasn’t won anything despite playing beautiful football (at least at Napoli and Empoli)

While there has been a lot of buzz for Antonio Conte’s return, Inter are still confident they will appoint him as their next manager and there appears to still be some bad blood between him and president Andrea Agnelli based on the way he left 5 years ago- many have also noted how much warmer Juventus’ brass was with Allegri when announcing his departure compared to Conte.

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That would leave two former teammates of Juventus’ most prominent directors- Simone Inzaghi is close to Fabio Paratici and has been successful at Lazio, while Pavel Nedved played alongside Sinisa Mihajlovic and was one of the finalists for Juventus’ coaching job in the past and has recently raised his stock by turning around Bologna this season.

What is Allegri’s successor walking into? Juventus is focused on winning at least two more Scudetti to make it ten in a row, plus the fans also expect a much more attractive style of play. If that weren’t enough, Allegri had already substantially raised the bar in the Champions League- you can mock him for taking credit for making two finals and losing them, but without the substantial revenues that came with those deep runs, Juventus would have never been able to sign Ronaldo and Allegri is the last manager to eliminate the two coaches in the current final.

While the expectations will be enormous, the next Juventus manager can draw inspiration from his predecessor- Allegri leaves Turin with his profile raised despite fact many assumed he would fail as Conte’s replacement.

 

  

Assessing the Midfielder Market in Serie A

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After previously reviewing the market for goal keepers and defenders in Serie A, let’s now focus on the midfielders. First let’s take stock of the situation at the position for the top Italian clubs

 

Juventus- on the bright side Bentancur gained experience, Emre Can vastly improved in the second half while Ramsey will bring attributes the team has lacked since prime Marchisio. On the flip side, Khedira was given a rich extension, Pjanic could be sold and it’s unlikely Matuidi can be a starter for a Champions League contender at this stage of his career.

Napoli- Fabian Ruiz joins the list of impressive midfielders- Jorginho, Allan, Zielinski, Diawara- acquired by the club in recent years, but the partenopei have lacked depth since Hamsik’s departure. There could be some fairly significant changes in the midfield this summer…

Inter- Nainggolan didn’t live up to expectations, Borja Valero is set to retire, Joao Mario had a spark when he started the season and now he’s just garbage and Gagliardini is ideally your first midfielder off the bench. The fact that Brozovic may have become the club’s most important player probably highlights fact club needs to work on their midfield. 

Atalanta- while Ilicic, Zapata and Papu Gomez get all the accolades, Freuler and De Roon are the unsung heroes of Gasperini’s team. The team however lacks depth especially since Pasalic only joined the Bergamaschi on loan.

Milan- compared to a few weeks ago, it appears less likely that Milan will redeem Bakayoko’s rights. Kessie’ has attracted interest from the Premier League and Luca Biglia could return to Argentina . Bertolacci and Montolivo will both leave the club once their contracts expire at end of June.

Roma- with Daniele De Rossi’s departure we now have a full turn over of the giallorossi’s midfield. On the bright side Cristante, Zaniolo and Pellegrini constitute and intriguing trio while N’Zonzi improved once Ranieri replaced Di Francesco 

Lazio- Parolo and Lucas Leiva are now 32 and 35 respectively, Badelj and Berisha struggled in their season at the club and describing Milinkovic Savic as inconsistent would be generous. Lotito will likely make some significant changes to this unit during the summer.

 

Which current Serie A midfielders can we expect in the transfer news headlines

 Lazio v Napoli - Serie A - Stadio Olimpico del Nuoto

Allan- while the Brazilian midfielder kissed the badge after scoring a goal recently, he struggled for a few months after his transfer to Paris St Germain collapsed in January. Allan performed well in the Champions League last fall and has arguably been the best box to box midfielder in Serie A since prime Vidal, so it’s not surprising to see his valuation in 70 to 80 million, considering Napoli’s track record of finding excellent midfielders, they’d much rather sell him than Koulibaly. 

Sergej Milinkovic Savic- following an uneven World Cup which was the perfect platform to seal his value in the 100 million range after a brilliant Serie A campaign last season, the Lazio midfielder struggled significantly in the first half of the 2018/19 campaign. SMS returned to his usual self with the new year and scored Lazio’s first goal in the Coppa Italia. While he did improve over the course of the season, it’s unlikely a club would be willing to come close to making an offer in the triple digits. Considering that Lazio are in  solid financial shape, have an aging midfielder around him, Lazio may decide to hold on to Milinkovic Savic for another year since he’s still only 24.

Steven NZonzi- the World Cup champion was dreadful for most of the season and was towards the top of the list of busts acquired during the ill fated Monchi era. NZonzi did perform better under Ranieri and with De Rossi abruptly leaving the club he could end up being an important piece for next season, also because it maybe hard to find a club willing to pay his exorbitant remaining amortized value for a player his age.

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Nicolo’ Zaniolo- while NZonzi’s high remaining amortized value makes him hard to move, the fact that Roma could have a massive plusvalenza on their uber talent because they acquired him for such a low price (around 6 million) gives him a lot of leverage when negotiating a contract extension with the club. Odds are Zaniolo will sign his new deal and stay at least one more year in Italy’s capital.

Miralem Pjanic- speaking of potential profits, the Bosnian midfielder could net a huge one since Juve has had a few season to amortize his already under market value transfer fee. Pjanic did receive an extension last year, but in a recent interview in France did leave the door open on a departure from Turin this summer. 

Nicolo’ Barella- the 22 year old had a break out season at Cagliari and established himself as a starter on the Italian national team. Barella was heavily linked to both Chelsea and Napoli in January but could end up at Inter in the summer where he would be a great fit in the Vidal role should Conte (as expected) become the nerazzurri’s manager.

Stefano-Sensi

Stefano Sensi- Sassulo’s playmaker has been the extension of manager De Zerbi on the pitch and could be a good fit as Biglia’s replacement at Milan. While Sensi has also been linked to other teams, the rossoneri could include Sassuolo’s forced option to buy for Locatelli in the deal which would also help them with their FFP restrictions.

 

Dennis Praet- while the Belgian international may not be the sexiest name in this column, he was also the pick of the litter at Sampdoria for Juventus sporting director Paratici over the highly rated Torreira. Praet is now 25 and has multiple seasons as a starter in Serie A under his belt- he could be a good fit at both Milan based clubs or follow the path of his former teammates Bruno Fernandes and Torreira and head abroad. 

 

Amadou Diawara- the adage that the former Bologna midfielder deserves more playing time made a lot more sense when Sarri was his coach since his successor Ancelotti hasn’t been afraid to rotate a lot and give playing time to the hot hand. But even after Hamsik’s departure, Diawara struggled to play frequently and when he did very rarely stood out. Might be better for all involved if Diawara leaves in the summer, but don’t expect Napoli to sell at a cheap price either.

Assessing the market for wingbacks in Serie A

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After goal keepers and center backs, let’s assess the wing back market in Serie A. Let’s start by looking at the current depth chart for the top teams in the league:

Juventus- on paper the bianconeri are in great shape at the position after acquiring Cancelo last summer and signing Alex Sandro to an extension during the season. In addition, Spinazzola showed flashes of being a starting caliber wingback at a top club while De Sciglio is an adequate backup. However, should Allegri stay on at the club, it’s not out of the question Cancelo is sold and replaced with a more defensive right back.

Napoli- we witnessed a transition at the position for the partenopei. Hysaj and Ghoulam can no longer be considered the starters and while Malcuit is an intriguing option at least offensively, in order to take a leap forward Napoli simply can’t rely on Mario Rui as much. Napoli have been heavily linked with Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier.

Inter- it’s probably not a good sign that despite bringing in numerous new faces (Vrsaljko, Asamoah, Soares) the nerazzurri’s best wing back ended up being D’Ambrosio. Asamoah may be energized by Conte’s expected arrival but on the opposite side of the pitch, we’ll almost certainly see a new addition with Manchester City’s Danilo at the top of the list.

Atalanta- going into the season Gosens and Hateboer were the most underrated starting wingback duo in Serie A , but thanks to Atalanta’s great season they are no longer under the radar. Castagne has taken an extra step in his development and looks to be a star in the making. Even though they’ll be competing on multiple fronts, Atalanta will probably have to replace at least one of these three.

Milan- the rossoneri are so deep at this position that I had honestly forgotten they still had Strinic on the squad. Calabria and Conti are both starting caliber right backs and compliment each other quite well skill set wise, on the left side both Rodriguez and especially Laxalt have failed to live up to expectations.

Roma- the giallorossi invested heavily in Karsdorp two years ago and gave Florenzi a rich extension during the season. Kolarov continues to be one of their most important players at 33, while Santon can only be considered a backup. Luca Pellegrini could be the long term answer at left back.

Lazio- after Marusic took a substantial step compared to last season, sporting director Tare’ brought in Romulo in January. Just like Kolarov at cross town rivals Roma, the biancocelesti still heavily rely on a 33 year old in Lulic at the left wing.

 

Here are the wingbacks currently in Serie A who are expected to be in the transfer news headlines:

Joao Cancelo- could the talented Portuguese wingback leave Juventus after just one season same way he did at Inter? Should Allegri stay in Turin that is not out of the question and despite investing 40 million on him less than a year ago, Juventus could turn a profit when you consider how scarce the right wing back market. Joao Cancelo could be a great fit in the Premier League should he change teams once again.

Timothy Castagne- it will be interesting to see if Atalanta chooses to sell Gosens in the summer and give the starting job to Castagne or sell the most precious asset since Castagne has clearly higher upside and value. The 23 year old Belgian international has already scored 4 goals this season and has all the tools needed to be a starting left back on a top team in the near future. Castagne has already been linked to both Milan and Inter as well as teams abroad.

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Manuel Lazzari- it wasn’t particularly surprising to see SPAL turn their season around once the 25 year old wing back returned from an injury earlier this year. At times it felt like manager Semplici’s offensive game plan was to give the ball to Lazzari to see if he could make it down the flank for a pin point cross. Lazzari has been previously linked to Napoli but would also be a great fit at Inter playing for Conte or at Lazio where he would be a considerable upgrade over Marusic/Romulo.

Nicola Murru- the former Cagliari left back has been in our lives for so long that it’s hard to believe he’s only 24, He’s now ready to make the leap at a bigger club after completing the next phase in his development at Sampdoria. Murru could be an intriguing fit at Lazio, Napoli and Roma.

Diego Laxalt- obviously Higuain and Caldara ended up being massive disappointments for Milan this season for different reasons, but Laxalt isn’t that far behind in this ranking of underachievers. The Uruguayan performed very well in the World Cup last summer following a strong season at Genoa, he looked more than ready to take a leap at a club like Milan. Laxalt would be an ideal fit on a club that uses a 3 man center back defense so his own coverage liabilities can be minimized.

Ola Aina- Torino acquired him in the summer on loan with an option to buy set at 10 million euro and considering his strong performances, there’s no doubt Torino will exercise this right- but there maybe teams with deep pockets looking to pounce on opportunity to sign a left back with Serie A experience who won’t turn 23 until October of this year for an even higher amount.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo- the Empoli left back made the most of his first season in Serie A and will certainly remain in Italy’s top division even if his current club gets relegated. Di Lorenzo could be a great option for a team like Atalanta, Torino, Fiorentina and Sampdoria should they decide to sell their current starter.

Cristiano Biraghi- the former Inter youth team product had an excellent start to the season which culminated with making his debut on the senior Azzurri squad. But with Fiorentina collapsing in the second half of the season, there has been a lot less buzz surrounding Biraghi’s name.

Rogerio/Lirola- the two Sassuolo wingbacks have quite a bit of experience in Serie A despite being 21 years old. Squinzi’s club shrewdly acquired Lirola outright from Juventus for 7 million last year, while Rogerio has already been linked to Chelsea during the January window as a potential replacement for Emerson Palmieri. Look for at least one of them to move to a bigger club this summer.

 

 

Assessing the Center Back Market in Serie A

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After looking at the goalkeeper position earlier this week, let’s review the market for center backs in Serie A. Let’s start with which top teams could use an addition or two

 

 

Juventus- Chiellini proved to be Juventus’ most important player this season and the fact that he’ll be 35 this year should give the team urgency to bolster this position especially since Bonucci was often a liability defensively while Rugani showed he’s not ready to be a starter at a club of this caliber. Emre Can could be used a center back more frequently but that would further weaken a midfield that isn’t great to begin with.

Napoli- there will be a lot of suitors for Koulibaly, and even though he’s expected to stay at the club, Albiol’s age and recent injuries, make the center back position a key need moving forward regardless of what Koulibaly does.

Inter- the nerazzurri are loaded at the position with Diego Godin joining Skriniar and De Vrij. Should Conte replace Spalletti, he’ll have a new version of the BBC waiting for him at la Pinetina.

Atalanta- the Bergamaschi could use an upgrade at the position especially since there’s a lot of suitors for Gianluca Mancini.

Roma- not upgrading this position in January is one of the many significant mistakes Monchi made at the club. The situation could get even more dire when you consider Kostas Manolas has a 36 million euro exit clause which is also valid in Italy.

Milan- Romagnoli took another step forward this season while Musacchio was considerably better than in his first campaign in Serie A. If Caldara can fully recover from his recent ACL injury, this will be one position where Milan can stay put with on the market.

Lazio- while Acerbi proved to be a more than adequate relacement for De Vrij, the rest of the biancocelesti’s center backs aren’t good enough to start for a team that wants to consistently compete for a Champions League spot. Should Inzaghi leave this summer, Lazio could also move away from a 3 center back defense which would have an impact on their summer plans- but regardless sporting director Tare’ needs to find at least one above average center back.

 

Now let’s look at the center backs in Serie A who will almost certainly be in the transfer news headlines

 

Koulibaly, Skriniar, Romagnoli- all three are expected to stay at their respective teams, but because of their impressive ability, they will certainly be targets for rich clubs abroad.

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Kostas Manolas- while De Ligt and Varane are Juventus’ top targets to build their defense around in the post Chiellini era, the Greek defender could be a very good stop gap. His speed would be an asset on a team that got run over by Atalanta and Ajax this season and the bianconeri have a great relationship with his agent Mino Raiola. Manolas’ profile was raised internationally last season thanks to Roma’s deep Champions League run, so he could also receive offers from outside of Serie A.

Nikola Milenkovic- the versatile Bosnian defender has been previously linked to Manchester United but Fiorentina’s very disappointing season has taken away some of his luster. But considering his ability to play as both a center back and right wing back, despite his considerable height, he will still be attractive to many teams.

Fiorentina spent just 5 million for him, so they can easily turn him into a massive profit. It will be interesting to see if Napoli or Roma get in the mix, considering he’ll turn 22 in October, MIlenkovic would still have considerable resale value down the line.

 mancini

Gianluca Mancini- between Atalanta’s magical run and making his debut for the Azzurri senior squad, this has been a magical season for the 23 year old defender from Pontendera. Roma has been targeting him for quite some time to either be Manolas’ partner or replacement and despite Monchi’s departure, a move to Italy’s capital still makes the most sense.

 

Nicholas NKolou & Armando Izzo- assuming he lands the Roma job, Petrachi would love nothing more than to bolster his new defense with one or two of Torino’s current key players. But the expected divorce from president Cairo looks to be quite acrimonious so it’s unlikely the granata would let either be reunited with Petrachi. Keeping both would be quite the statement from Torino especially when you consider their performances this season have elevated their profiles on the market.

Merih Demiral & Cristian Romero- while Juventus is expected to sign at least one big name at the center back position, their sporting director Paratici will also look to add a young player or two for the future. Juventus worked in synergy with Sassuolo to bring Demiral to Serie A from Turkey and he has more than distinguished himself since arriving, he’s very tall and has significant margins for improvement when you consider he’s only 21 years old.

Juventus is also expected to acquire Romero from Genoa, don’t be surprised if the transfer fee is rather substantial in light of the fact the amount of the Sturaro signing raised eye brows (remember that it’s very flawed to look at deals in a vacuum when clubs do a lot of business with one another). Both Romero and Demiral could however stay at their current clubs for another year.

 

Bruno Alves & Nicola Bastoni- Parma’s two stand out center backs could be on the move this summer. The veteran Portuguese international was linked to Juventus and Inter in January as a potential replacement for Benatia and Miranda respectively but ended up staying put. Bastoni on the other hand is on loan from Inter but would likely be better off staying on D’Aversa’s squad one more season so he can play regularly.

Joachim Andersen & Omar Colley- while Quagliarella has rightfully dominated the story lines surrounding Sampdoria, sporting director Osti has continued his streak of discovering intriguing center backs following Skriniar’s explosion. Considering that Colley is four years older than Andersen, he could be sold first.

 

Assessing the goal keeper market in Serie A

Gianluigi-Donnarumma

 

With just three games left in the season, we can start looking to the summer transfer window. To get ready, let’s assess the market at each major position and the needs for the top teams in Serie A:

 

Juventus- all set with Szczesny at the starter position after he made the post Buffon season uneventful, Mattia Perin is recovering from an injury but expected back as backup

Napoli- Alex Meret has the potential to be the best keeper in club history, Ospina’s rights expected to be redeemed

Inter- Handanovic is still one of the elite keepers in the league but since he’s 34 time to look for a successor. Ionut Radu could be the heir apparent or a chip to make a plusvalenza, Brazao is expected to be at the summer retreat after finishing the season at Parma

Atalanta- Gollini replaced Berisha as the starter but the club could look for an upgrade especially if they qualify to Champions League

Milan- Donnarumma had a strong comeback season, Reina is the highest paid backup keeper in Serie A, Plizzari recently signed an extension

Roma- you have to wonder how many more points they would have had Mirante replaced Olsen sooner. But Mirante is also 35…

 

 

Alessio Cragno

 

The Cagliari keeper had a breakout season and you can make a case he was the best keeper in the league along with Sirigu in 2018-19. But unlike the Torino keeper, Cragno is just about to enter his prime since he’ll turn 25 and will have a significant market moving forward. Cragno could be a great fit at Roma as an immediate starter or he could be the long term replacement for Handanovic at Inter should they decide to cash on Radu. If Atalanta wanted to make a bold move, especially if they qualify for the Champions League, Cragno would be a wise investment since he would also have future resale value.

 

Ionut Radu

 

The Romanian keeper replaced Marchetti as the starter at Genoa last fall and quickly established himself as one of the best young keepers in the league. It will be interesting to see if Inter, who ultimately own his rights with a counter buy back option, decide to use him as a financial asset and turn him into a plusvalenza, or if they will be more gun shy after Zaniolo’s explosion at Roma. 

 

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Mattia Perin

 

Could the former Genoa keeper follow in Neto’s foot steps and decide to leave Juventus because the backup role isn’t fulfilling enough? Prior to his injury, Perin did little to show he was a serious threat to replace Szczesny as the starter, but because of his reputation he still has a significant market and could net Juventus a fairly significant plusvalenza since they acquired him for 12 million euro. Perin could be an enticing option for Atalanta and Fiorentina should they decide to cash in on Lafont.

 

Alban Lafont 

 

The FIFA superstar had an up and down debut season in Serie A. Not surprisingly he had his fair share of great saves, but he also cost his club numerous points with some significant blunders and poor ball distribution skills. But considering the dumpster fire season Fiorentina is about to complete and the excellent performances by Bartomiej Dragowski at Empoli while on loan, we could see a changing of the guard at the keeper position.

Lafont could still fetch a good profit for Fiorentina because of his reputation and the low price it took to acquire (around 8 million). He could be a fit at Roma or more likely at a club outside of Italy.

 

Juan Musso

 

The former Racing club keeper turned heads in his debut season in Serie A. His performances for Udinese earned him a selection to Argentina’s national team, assuming the Friulani don’t get relegated, it’s likely they’ll hold on to him at least another season to further increase his value (and lower his amortization cost).

Emil Audero

 

After the success of the Lucas Torreira deal, it’s not surprising to see Arsenal once again looking at Sampdoria. The Gunners have scouted the Indonesian born keeper multiple times this season, but in order to tempt Ferrero’s club, they must offer considerably more than the 20 million euro paid in January to redeem his rights from Juventus. 

Gigio Donnarumma

 

 Considering how long he has been in our lives, it’s hard to believe the Milan keeper is just twenty years old. Donnarumma has fully established himself as Buffon’s heir on the Azzurri and for a long stretch of the season, he was right there with Cragno and Sirigu as the best keeper in the league. 

Donnarumma also fixed his relationship with the club’s fan base, but his humongous salary and fact he would represent a massive plusvalenza at a time that Milan faces significant Financial Fair Play restraints (especially if they don’t qualify for the Champions League)

 

Taking Stock of the market for managers in Serie A

With four games to go in the season, many clubs are already looking to the future. The first order of business is deciding who will be sitting on the club’s benches, so here’s a list of available options

 

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Antonio Conte

 

The former Chelsea manager has a wide range of options between clubs who will definitely need a coach next season (Roma and Milan) and those who may look for a change (Juventus and Inter) if right candidate comes around. While Roma have been pushing hard to sign him and are trying to make their job more attractive by hiring Conte’s former teammate and friend Gianluca Petrachi to be the sporting director, Conte is taking time to ponder his options. He could take a page out of the Lippi and Trapattoni playbook by returning to Juventus, but at the moment the bianconeri’s first choice appears to be Guardiola, who unlike Conte, would bring a radically different approach than Allegri’s to the club. Inter would offer Conte the opportunity to build a new BBC around Skriniar, De Vrij and Godin while Milan would give him a clean slate to build open like when he first joined Juventus as a manager

 Genoa-Empoli Campionato Serie A Tim 2014-2015

Gian Piero Gasperini

 

Atalanta is the best story line in Serie A this season so it’s not surprising to see their manager getting a lot of buzz. Despite starting three center backs, Gasperini plays a free flowing offensive style with a team that runs much more than your average Serie A club, the only knock on him is the uncertainty on him continuing this success at a bigger club after failing during a brief stay at Inter (you could also point to the fact many of his former players have struggled after moving to a larger stage). Should Atalanta make it to the Champions League, Gasperini may decide to just stay but he could be an attractive fallback option for both Roma and Milan.

 Di Francesco

Eusebio Di Francesco

 

On one hand the former Sassuolo manager’s stock rose a bit because it became pretty obvious Monchi was the person most responsible for Roma’s struggles this season, but on the other his replacement Claudio Ranieri has fixed the defense and made Roma more consistent. Di Francesco could be a fallback option for Milan or a good replacement for Gasperini should he move on from Atalanta- in addition Sampdoria could be an option should they decide to make a change from Giampaolo. If you were trying to sell Di Francesco stock you could still point to his success in Europe since he did get Roma out of the group stage in the Champions League for two years in a row and the fact he did launch Under and Zaniolo.

 

Sinisa Mihajlovic

 

After a very brief experience at Sporting, the former Milan manager completely turned around Bologna’s season after replacing Pippo Inzaghi and could parlay this success into a bigger job while knowing he has a great fallback plan by staying put. Should Ferrero keep Sampdoria, he could be tempted by idea of a reunion with his former manager after recently describing him as “the best in the world”

Marco Giampaolo

 

While Mihajlovic’s stock is way up in recent weeks, the opposite can be said for Sampdoria’s current manager. Ironically the blucerchiati’s heavy loss to Bologna a few weeks ago was arguably the lowest point of their season, it caused sporting director’s Walter Sabatini’s abrupt resignation- things didn’t get better last weekend since Samp also at home to Lazio. Considering that there were already questions marks on Giampaolo’s ability to handle stress after an odd situation at Brescia a few years ago, it’s likely that this recent collapse takes job such as Milan and Roma off the table.

 

Roberto D’Aversa

 

While Parma was one of the best story lines in Serie A in the first half of the season, once they were essentially safe from relegation they became pretty anonymous.  But make no mistake about it, never being in danger of going back to Serie B is quite the achievement for any newly promoted team. But considering how many more established managers are available on the market, D’Aversa is likely to stay put next season.

 

 De Zerbi

 

Roberto De Zerbi

 

While D’Aversa is an old school catenaccio type coach, De Zerbi has been making a name for himself as a great offensive mind dating back to his days at Foggia. Sassuolo have had a very solid season despite selling one of their best players in January in Boateng and De Zerbi could be an excellent option for Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Atalanta- all clubs known for valuing attractive football- in the near future.

 

Stefano Pioli

On the bright side, Fiorentina haven’t been any better since Vincenzo Montella replaced him, but it’s hard to argue that Pioli’s stock has improved since he was let go at Inter. At this point, Pioli looks like the type of manager who will be one of the first to be called during the season when a club decides to sack their current manager.

 

Davide Ballardini

 

Speaking of managers sacked during the season, arguably the most puzzling decision in recent months was Preziosi’s decision to sack Ballardini after he had launched Piatek on his way to the upper table in Serie A. Since then, Genoa have replaced Ballardini’s successor Juric with Prandelli, who is now also on the hot seat. Look for Genoa’s president to swallow his pride and bring back Ballardini sooner rather than later since he’s still under contract.