The impact of player wages on transfer market

Thirteen months ago, they both played in the World Cup final and they were expected to carry the positive momentum into the season at their respective clubs. But now both Inter and Roma were so desperate to shed their salaries that they were willing to let them go on a loan deal. I’m talking about Ivan Perisic who earlier this week officially joined Bayern Munich and Steven NZonzi who is on the verge of joining Galatasaray.

But they aren’t the only players who appeared in that match who could join new teams on loan or for a very low transfer fee- in fact Juventus is looking to offload both Blaise Matuidi and Mario Mandzukic as long as someone else is willing to pay their wages (Marko Pjaca is also technically on the market but not because of his wages). We all too often focus on the transfer fee when we look at deals this time of year, but the annual wages that the players agree to, often plays just as significant a role for the buying club’s bottom line down the road.

Once a player’s performances don’t match their salaries, it becomes very hard to move them- especially if they are at a top club where the pay scale is often much higher than the club they are trying to sell to. What often happens with these players is that if you wait a year too long to sell, the difference in the return can be substantial- just think of how much more Perisic was worth on the market the past two years compared to now. 

Inter were determined to rid the team of all distractions with Antonio Conte at the helm. Nainggolan and Icardi were publicly called out by Beppe Marotta and the writing was on the wall for Perisic after his new manager had stated he didn’t view him as a winger in his formation and the club signed Romelu Lukaku. So far Nainggolan and Perisic have been sent out on loan to not only remove distractions in the locker room but especially to remove the enormous cost of their wages before taxes.

Nzonzi is just the latest member of Monchi’s disastrous army of acquisitions at Roma who are on the market. Karsdorp returned to Feyenoord, on you guessed it a loan deal and Marcano returned to Porto. But for Nzonzi his substantial salary is the driver, in fact the giallorossi are so desperate to get him off their books that they are willing to give Galatasaray the option to extend the loan deal into a second deal just to ensure he doesn’t come back to Trigoria.

While we can expect some mistakes at clubs like Roma and Inter, for many years we have heard of how great Juventus is at planning on the transfer market. There’s no doubt the bianconeri have been one chess move ahead of their competitors on numerous occasions in recent years, but recently they have focused more on short term gains and rewarding loyal soldiers.

Mandzukic and Khedira received extensions during the last fiscal year which was as good a plan as the one the stoners who are getting ready to raid Area 51 baked up, while Matuidi now finds himself on the outside looking because of Ramsey and Rabiot’s arrivals as well as Bentancur’s developments. But finding clubs willing to pay the amortized value remaining on these players on top of their lofty wages is nearly impossible.

So next time you read a transfer report or the news of a big name player extending his contract with his current club, pay particular attention to the amount of the wages- that will likely have a more significant long term effect on your favorite team than you realize.

The Summer of the Plusvalenza

The first time I ever heard of the word was while reading Luciano Moggi’s autobiography “Il Pallone lo Porto io” which in many ways is so fitting. Juventus’s notorious former sporting director used the terms “plusvalenza da urlo” (a capital gain to scream about) in two different chapters to describe the substantial positive financial impacts of selling both Zinedine Zidane and Zlatan Ibrahimovic while he was running the bBianconeri’s mercato before the Calciopoli scandal.

Because he had acquired the two legendary players for a bargain fee before they broke out on the international stage and kept them a few seasons in Turin, there was a substantial gain to be made even with Ibrahimovic who left for Inter at a below market value when Juventus were abruptly relegated. As many remember, the Zidane sale to Real Madrid brought in such a big pluslvalenza that Moggi was able to acquire Lilian Thuram, Gianluigi Buffon and Pavel Nedved with the proceeds.

So while the term “plusvalenza”- which is the amount a selling club earns above the remaining amortized value for a player they are moving to another team- has been around for a long time, it feels that this is the summer where even a Serie A fan who has no interest in accounting has finally heard about it.

While a plusvalenza has a positive impact on clubs’ bottom line, this summer it has often been used with a negative connotation. As a matter a fact, Plusvalenza FC is now competing with Piemonte Calcio as the new ironic way to refer to Juventus while both Roma and especially Inter have been accused of using creative accounting with their sales in an effort to use plusvalenze to meet their Financial Fair Play parameters (this is even more relevant when you consider that Chievo received a point deduction at the start of last season as punishment for a series of questionable plusvalenze with Cesena).

Moggi certainly was the Godfather of the plusvalenza, but the prime of his management career came in Serie A’s glory days when almost all teams were flush with cash. Nowadays between Financial Fair Play and most Italian clubs carrying substantial debts, plusvalenza is becoming an essential tool when it comes to survival and fielding competitive teams.

Juventus fans have seen the good and bad sides of plusvalenze in past two years. The club was essentially able to cover the cost of the transfer fee to acquire Cristiano Ronaldo by selling likes of Audero, Sturaro, Cerri and Mandragora to mid-table teams in Serie A. These players had been previously bought more as future financial instruments than building blocks for the team and after owning them for a bit, Juventus flipped them for a considerably higher amount than their remaining amortized value.

Plusvalenze used to acquire an all time great like Cristiano Ronaldo are easy to digest, especially when they involve players that aren’t able part of the squad, but it then becomes much more painful to see the likes of Moise Kean, Leonardo Spinazzola and Joao Cancelo leave to generate the profits necessary to maintain a squad that features Ronaldo, newly acquired De Ligt and numerous veterans earning over 7 million after taxes a season.

Cancelo and Spinazzola generated a substantial profit despite spending just one season in Turin, as part of those deals Juventus also acquired Danilo and Luca Pellegrini. It’s hard to argue that the Bianconeri are considerably weaker at the wing back position as a result of the two transactions, but the financial gains on the transactions are what helped pay for acquiring the likes of De Ligt and Demiral. The same applies to Rabiot and Ramsey, who despite signing on a Bosman deal come with substantial annual salaries.

On top of paying for an expensive squad, Juventus posted a significant loss during their last fiscal year. There is the obvious spending to secure Ronaldo (and to pay for his salary), but also the Bianconeri didn’t make a very deep run in the Champions League thus limiting their revenue. To help compensate for the recent expenses and difficult financial outcome, Juventus had to also sacrifice Moise Kean who was sold for 30 million to Everton.

While some complained about the low return, Kean was also in the last deal of his year and at least his entire transfer fee was a plusvalenza since he had no amortized value as a home grown player. For the same reason, Milan strongly encouraged Patrick Cutrone to accept Wolvehampton’s offer- the plusvalenza generated by that transaction can essentially cover the annual cost of all of the Rossoneri’s new additions this summer.

On the other side of Milan, Inter have perfected the art of generating plusvalenze to help meet their Financial Fair Play parameters. While moving Nicolo Zaniolo in the Radja Nainggolan deal certainly came back to bite them, overall the Nerazzurri have done very well selling their Primavera players (who in almost all cases are pure plusvalenze when sold since they tend not to have amortized values to offset) to balance their budget, their most recent accounting masterpiece featured Zinho Vanheudsen joining Standard Liege for over 12 million.

It’s certainly understandable that fans mainly just care about seeing their squads improve in the summer, and someone who is Juventus’ sporting director has to accept that you can go from being a called a genius on the day you sign De Ligt to being called a bumbling fool for selling Cancelo on top of considering selling Dybala- but there are usually connections between the two things, as Moggi taught us a “plusvalenza da urlo” can also net you three champions like Buffon, Thuram and Nedved because you sold Zidane at the right time.


Last month of transfer window in Serie A

While the transfer window closes in the Premier League next Thursday, we have another four weeks of rumors, deals, plusvalenza calculations to go in Serie A. What do the top teams need to address in the final third of the Mercato? Let’s take a look by asking a key question for each


Do Lazio have to sell Milinkovic Savic?

Say what you will about Claudio Lotito, but he certainly likes to handle transfer business on his terms. Sending Milan Badelj back to Fiorentina after previously signing him on a Bosman after his contract with Tuscan club expired is just his latest coup. Lotito’s ability to sell well, and find cheap and outstanding replacements for his stars, have ensured that Lazio have no Financial Fair Play concerns or even any significant debt.

For this reason, Lazio would be happy to keep the Serbian international at least through next January. But even though Milinkovic Savic’s main suitor Manchester United have only 5 more days to sign him, he could also be a target for Paris St Germain who have until end of August to strike a deal. Should Lazio be able to retain the Sergeant, they would be in great position to challenge for a Champions League spot considering that Vavro should improve their defense and Lazzari has shown in preseason why so many saw him a perfect fit for Simone Inzaghi.

Should Juventus fans panic?

Although the Moise Kean sale would probably look a bit better had the De Ligt signing been completed after it since it was done partly to finance the enormous expense of acquiring the Dutch defender, losing the teenager is a tough blow on the pitch no matter how big the plusvalenza. Still, things could get considerably worse on Juventus Twitter should the Cancelo for Danilo + cash deal go through (which looks very likely) as well as the Dybala “sacrifice” to acquire Lukaku.

While there are off-field and financial issues behind the desire to move Cancelo, Juventus would not only lose one of their best performers from last season, they would also considerably improve another contender for the Champions League (which at least isn’t a concern with Dybala in the short term).

Certainly there are reasons for concern when you look at the considerable talent potentially leaving Turin this summer, but Fabio Paratici has also added significant talent with De Ligt, Demiral, Ramsey and Rabiot- ultimately Juventus will probably go as far as their two new midfielders can take them because -at least with Maurizio Sarri on the bench- Juve won’t have to rely so much on an attacking right back to bring most of the creativity.


Can Napoli and Inter finally bolster their attack?

So far the likes of Lukaku, Dzeko, James Rodriguez and Lozano have yet to arrive which has left a very sour taste in the team’s fan bases. But when you look at Inter’s and Napoli’s moves so far the teams are certainly improved, especially on defense since they acquired Godin (who did suffer a minor injury) and Manolas respectively.

Napoli went through a very stressful negotiation with Mino Raiola for Kostas Manolas so it remains to be seen if that will carry over in a potential move for Lozano, who is more likely to leave PSV after the Dutch club failed to qualify for the Champions League. De Laurentiis is also hoping he can convince Real Madrid and James Rodriguez to accept a loan with option to buy deal- a formula which at the moment neither party is excited by. While haven’t been any confirmations on the reports of Napoli offering Milik to Manchester United for Lukaku, could the Polish striker be in play for a potential swap deal should Mauro Icardi agree to play close to the Amalfi coast?

Inter are monitoring the Dybala/Lukaku situation- they want to be ready to bounce for either player should the Juventus striker fail to agree to terms with Manchester United. Lukaku would be more than happy to play for Conte and maybe Dybala would look at them in a more positive light now that Juventus has made it clear they do not see him as an important part of their futures.

The Nerazzurri continue to pursue both Edin Dzeko and Ante Rebic as alternatives to Lukaku- their acquisitions wouldn’t be mutually exclusive and would give Conte different options to play alongside Lautaro Martinez.


How will Atalanta replace Mancini?

The Bergamaschi have had an outstanding window by adding Luis Muriel, Malinovskyi and retaining Pasalic. While there were concerns they would move their top performers, the only starter they sold is center back Gianluca Mancini to Roma. 

Atalanta are considering some options abroad with Sevilla’s Sergi Gomez and Fortuna Dusseldorf’s Ayhan, they could go with an internal solution by moving Hateboer to center back or giving a chance Roger Ibanez (who arrived from Fluminese last January) or Marco Varnier who tore his ACL last summer after arriving from Cittadella as Caldara’s replacement.


Will Milan have to sacrifice Frank Kessie’?

Donnarumma’s decision to stay and potentially extend his contract and the inability to find a team willing to pay Suso’s exit clause of 40 million, may force Milan to sacrifice Kessie’. The Ivorian midfielder was a much more logical fit playing for Gattuso than in Giampaolo’s ball possession system and he could net a pretty big plusvalenza since he has suitors in the Premier League- particularly Wolverhampton. 

Time is a factor in this potential deal since the transfer window in the Premier League closes on Thursday, but Milan would at least have almost a full month to reinvest the Kessie funds on Angel Correa.


Is Milinkovic Savic’s time at Lazio coming to an end?

Let’s get it out of the way up front. No doubt the 2018-19 season was a disappointment for Sergej Milinkovic Savic and this was after a subpar World Cup where many expected him to fully break out on the biggest stage in world football. But despite not living up to expectations, the Serbian international still won the official league award given to the best midfielder in Serie A.

With his current club Lazio failing to qualify for the next edition of the Champions League there has been a lot of buzz on Milinkovic Savic leaving Italy’s capital this summer. Juventus reached an agreement with him on personal terms about a month ago, Paris St Germain have been monitoring him for over a year and now we have Manchester United identifying him as the ideal replacement for Paul Pogba.

Last summer Lazio’s president Claudio Lotito was able to convince Milinkovic Savic to stay for one season by promising him he would sell him in summer of 2019 for a big offer. Lotito confirmed this publicly when recently stated that he was running out of tools to keep his star, a sentiment confirmed on Saturday by manager Simone Inzaghi when he answered “I would like for him to stay, but I think the club should consider a significant offer should it arrive. Should he be sold, we know we’ll have to replace him” 

While last summer Milinkovic Savic had no problem answering that he was staying at the club when he arrived at the retreat, this year he has been much more vague. At this point, it feels very likely that he won’t stay in Italy to defend his title of Serie A’s best offer. Lazio are looking for an offer of at least 80 million euro to sell their star, while he’s come off an uneven season, he has over 100 games played in Serie A despite the fact he’s just entering his prime after turning 24 last February. 

Certainly Lazio must feel pressure after Lotitio’s promise last summer, but they are in a great position to handle his potential departure from a position of strength. They have no substantial debts, Financial Fair Play parameters to meet and are in overall strong financial shape, especially for an Italian club. Their president Claudio Lotito has mastered the art of selling, he received over 70 million combined for Hernanes, Antonio Candreva and Lucas Biglia who were all past their prime and with expiring contracts, so he will no doubt look for a huge return for his biggest asset.

On the bright side for Laziali, the club’s sporting director Igli Tare’ has replaced his departing stars quite well- Lucas Leiva has been an upgrade over Biglia, Luis Alberto has exceeded Felipe Anderson’s production while Acerbi has slotted in perfectly in De Vrij’s previous role. With a robust return for Milinkovic Savic, Lazio can more than adequately replace him after already improving the squad with Vavro and Lazzari’s arrivals. But where could Milinkovic Savic?

While Juventus identified him as the ideal addition to their midfield last June, their approach to transfers- go through the player’s agent first, get an agreement with them first and then try to force their target’s current club to sell- was never going to fly with Lotito, who was more than happy to state this publicly. Juventus decided to go after Adrien Rabiot, to go with Aaron Ramsey whom they had already signed on another Bosman deal and shoot their financial load on Matthijs De Ligt instead.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

While there have been some whispers of Inter potentially pursuing Milinkovic Savic, his future will almost certainly take place abroad. Paris St Germain’s sporting director Leonardo, pursued him last summer when he was at Milan- but now he has the bank roll to tempt Lotito without Lazio’s president having to also worry about massively improving a direct rival in the race for a Champions League spot.

Manchester United are certainly in the mix, but as I write this, there are no confirmations they are in concrete talks quite yet to get a deal done with Lazio. But with the window in the Premier League closing in less than two weeks, we could have some developments very soon.


Petrachi’s vision for Roma is starting to take shape


The first month of the summer transfer window was quite painful for Roma. While almost everyone expected to see Kostas Manolas leave because of his below market value exit clause, seeing him end up at Napoli was the worse case scenario, since not only did he stay in Serie A, he went on to improve a direct competitor for a Champions League spot. Then we had both De Rossi and Totti leave the top in controversial manner, followed by El Shaarawy’s decision to play in China.

The giallorossi’s new sporting director Gianluca Petrachi inherited a team that lost its captain, best defender and most consistent attacker after failing to qualify for the next edition of the Champions League. But the former Torino ds has made significant progress in rebuilding the giallorossi in the past few weeks.

Petrachi addressed the two positions with the most imminent needs by acquiring Pau Lopez and Gianluca Mancini. The former Real Betis player is the most expensive keeper in Roma’s history, his acquisition is a clear sign the club learned from the mistake of gambling Olsen to replace Alisson while the former Atalanta center back confirmed at the recent Under 21 Euro that he’s ready to become an important player for Mancini’s senior Azzurri squad.


The improvements shown by Bryan Cristante in the second half of last season, should give Roma fans hope that Mancini won’t be another example of Gasperini’s fool’s gold struggling at a bigger club. On top of his defensive prowess, Mancini also was the defender to score the most in Serie A last season.

Petrachi also rekindled an important relationship on the transfer market with Juventus. Following Miralem Pjanic’s move to Turin via his exit clause, the giallorossi had stopped doing business with the bianconeri- but the clubs rekindled their bond by consuming a deal that was mutually beneficial financially with Leonardo Spinazzola moving to Italy’s capital and Juventus acquiring the younger Luca Pellegrini (both clubs recorded a significant capital gain for this transaction).

To help replace De Rossi’s contributions on the pitch, Roma made significant investments in Amadou Diawara and Jordan Veretout. Both players have significant Serie A experience and could be the starters in front of the defense in Fonseca’s 4 2 3 1 with Lorenzo Pellegrini playing in his preferred role behind the central striker.

Petrachi’s first round of moves will likely have a domino effect on what we can expect next. After a disappointing first season in Serie A, Steven N’Zonzi will almost certainly be sold since there’s no longer a need with him with Diawara and Vertout on board- he’ll likely join either Marseille or Lyon. Spinazzola’s ability to play on both sides of the pitch will likely make Alessandro Florenzi expandable, his departure would continue the exodus of the “Romani” from the club and of the players with high salaries.

The deal for Spinazzola could be the appetizer to a bigger move between Juventus and Roma. The bianconeri are determined to move Gonzalo Higuain, and despite his brother’s public stance of not wanting to play for another Serie A team, the Argentine striker is warming up to the idea of being the focal point in Fonseca’s attack. But now the clubs have to find a suitable financial arrangement because Higuain enormous annual salary of 18 million euro before taxes isn’t sustainable for Roma.


Juventus are trying to convince Higuain to extend his contract which currently has two years remaining to add a third season while lowering his salary over the live of the contract. The bianconeri would likely have to sweeten the deal to ensure they don’t have his amortized value on the books for the current fiscal year. 

In addition to Higuain, Roma are also looking to add Suso to bolster their front line- but at the moment Petrachi would prefer to send a player to Milan in exchange rather than just pay his 40 million exit clause- but it’s hard to envision Boban and Maldini having any interest in the likes of Javier Pastore.

While Pau Lopez and Mancini are a nice start to the improvement of a subpar defense, Petrachi needs at least another starting caliber center back because of Fazio’s age and Marcano’s return to Porto. Landing Toby Alderweireld would be ideal since he would bring significant experience to help in Mancini’s growth- just like Higuain, it would be a substantial financial investment but at least Roma can count on Franco Baldini (who previously worked for Alderweireld’s current club Spurs) working as the intermediary in the negotiation.

Petrachi will also have to figure out what to do with Edin Dzeko, who would almost certainly join Inter should Gonzalo Higuain arrive, as well as Nicolo’ Zaniolo. The giallorossi have struggled to reach an agreement with his agent Vigorelli on an extension, and judging by Petrachi’s public quotes, there seems to be quite a bit of distance. Zaniolo could be used as an asset to unlock either the Higuain or Alderweireld deals while bringing in a significant plusvalenza.

While Petrachi inherited numerous challenges, he has started to rebuild a new Roma by addressing the biggest needs first- what he does in the coming weeks will now determine how ambitions the giallorossi can be next season.


Does De Ligt’s exit clause even matter?


Would the Toronto Raptors do the Kawhi Leonard trade again today? I’ve been thinking a lot about this question while pondering the reactions to Juventus signing Mathijs De Ligt to a contract that features an exit clause worth 150 million euro that is valid starting in 2022. For those not familiar with the NBA, the Raptors acquired Leonard from the Spurs at a pretty significant cost last year while knowing full well he could leave after just one season.

Leonard went on to deliver the city of Toronto their first major title in any sport since the mid 90s only to leave as a free agent a few weeks later. I have a hard time believing there isn’t anyone in the Raptors organization, or any of their fans, who wouldn’t do that trade again even while knowing he would leave a year later.

Obviously there’s no guarantee De Ligt will help deliver the elusive Champions League trophy that Juventus has been pursuing for over 20 years now, but we all too often worry about 2/3 years down the line when as Herm Edwards famously said “you play to win the game”. Considering that Chiellini and Ronaldo are now in their mid 30s, De Ligt is just as much an addition for the present as the future despite his young age.

When you factor that Koulibaly and Skriniar weren’t realistic targets, it’s hard to imagine Juventus signing a better center back than De Ligt this summer. Considering Bonucci’s defensive struggles, Chiellini’s penchant for picking up injuries and Rugani’s unreliability, De Ligt addresses a clear position of need while Juventus had already addressed the midfield by signing Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot on Bosman deals.

The fact that Juventus had the ability to offer an exit clause was one of the reasons they were even able to sign the Dutch defender. In fact, Paris St Germain were the runners up in the race, but because of league wide rules in France that forbid such clauses, they couldn’t offer De Ligt’s agent Raiola this as an option.

Speaking of PSG, another common reaction to the De Ligt signing was that he picked Juventus because of money. Certainly a base salary of 7.5 million euro after taxes with the possibility of getting to 12 million a season with all the bonuses being met is very tempting, but it’s also very unlikely that anyone would have written an article on how romantic it was that De Ligt choose PSG so he could play in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower (of course there are some who would say De Jong picked Barcelona just to play with Messi while denying the appeal of playing with Ronaldo on a Champions League contender for De Jong).

Worse case scenario for Juventus in 2022 the exit clause could become an issue. Either Raiola will use it as leverage to negotiate a new contract or another team will decide to spend 150 million euro to sign- assuming De Ligt accepts the destination, Juventus will make a capital gain of around 100 million when you factor amortization. Keep in mind this figure is close to double what the highest paid defender went for as of 2019, so you would assume De Ligt was a massive success in Turin if someone else is willing to fork over that amount.

But more importantly, considering Juventus’ policy of obliging their player’s wishes if they want to leave, the exit clause is even less significant. Vidal, Pogba, Tevez and Bonucci were all allowed to leave before their contracts expired because the Bianconeri simply don’t believe in holding a player hostage- so if De Ligt down the road wanted to join another club (as long as they made a significant offer) he would most likely be allowed to do so regardless of the exit clause.

De Ligt could end up being Juventus’ version of Kawhi Leonard, while there’s no guarantee he leaves at all, if he does at bare minimum he’ll deliver a huge profit to find his replacement.



The Expandable players in Serie A


We are at the half way point of the summer transfer window in Serie A and while all the top clubs have already made some significant additions, the focus now needs to shift a bit on getting rid of some expandable players to lower the wage bill and raise funds to make some further acquisitions.


Let’s take a look at which players could be sold in the coming weeks for each of the top clubs, these aren’t top targets for other teams like Milinkovic Savic or Joao Cancelo, but rather players clubs would be more than happy to get rid of, but as they say one man’s trash can be another’s treasure 




Gonzalo Higuain, Sami Khedira, Mario Mandzukic, Mattia Perin

Despite the arrival of the manager who got the most out of him in Maurizio Sarri, Juventus are determined to find a team willing to pay Higuain’s enormous salary and cover his amortized value for the 2019/20 season (even better if someone is willing to do that until the end of his contract in June of 2021). West Ham are interested and Roma would take him in a heart beat to replace Edin Dzeko.

Allegri’s departure ensured that two of his favorite players, Khedira and Mandzukic, would also be on their way out despite the fact they both signed extensions less than a year ago. Khedira has been linked to Fenerbahce while Mandzukic could return to the Bundesliga.

Buffon’s surprising return to Turin was the final blow on a devastating stretch for Mattia Perin. The former Genoa keeper never seriously challenged Woj Szczesny for the starting job, which also caused him to fall behind Cragno and even Meret in the pecking order for the Italian national team. With no logical destinations left in Serie A for him next season, Perin will likely try to get his career back on track at Benfica.




Simone Verdi, Elseid Hysaj


The former Bologna attacker is coming off a disappointing first season under the Vesuvius. He had previously decided not to join the club when Maurizio Sarri was at the helm since he knew there would be a significant lack of rotation, but things didn’t go much better with Carlo Ancelotti. Verdi could find himself at Torino or another mid table club where he can play regularly.

Last season Hysaj fell behind Malcuit and even Maksimovic on the depth chart at right back and while he had been linked to Manchester United at the beginning of the transfer window, he will likely have to settle for a less glamorous destination.




Miranda, Joao Mario, Borja Valero, Mauro Icardi

Miranda had already complained with his lack of consistent playing time last season and now with Diego Godin’s arrival, he’ll certainly leave Milano this summer. Now that Inter acquired Lazaro to be the starting right wing back, D’Ambrosio can be a backup that can also be used as a center back in Conte’s back line- plus we know Conte held Ranocchia in high regard when he was playing for Bari.

With Niccolo’ Barella and Stefano Sensi’s arrivals, Inter will look to shed both Joao Mario and Borja Valero which would save them significantly on salaries. The Portuguese international has been linked to Monaco while the Spaniard could head back to Fiorentina.

Icardi is such a complicated situation that he deserves his own article, but he was recently excused from the rest of Inter’s summer retreat.




Diego Laxalt, Fabio Borini, Lucas Biglia

Even before Paolo Maldini returned to the club as a director, the rossoneri have had a fascination with left backs. So it was not completely surprising to see them make their first significant investment of the summer on Theo Hernandez which all but guarantees either Diego Laxalt, who would be a superb fit playing for Gasperini at Atalanta, or Ricardo Rodriguez who could bring in a decent plusvalenza.

Milan have repeatedly tried to include Lucas Biglia in a potential deal with Fiorentina for Jordan Veretout, but the Viola have balked at idea of taking over his substantial salary. Getting a team to pay him 3.5 million after taxes for the coming season won’t be easy and the same can be said with Borini’s 2.5 million figure. 




Steven N’Zonzi, one out of Alessandro Florenzi, Nick Karsdorp or Aleksander Kolarov

The recent acquisitions of Amadou Diawara and Leonardo Spinazzola, who expect to have substantial roles under new manager Fonseca, have made a few players expandable- including a World Cup champion and the team’s captain.

N’Zonzi never really adapted to Serie A and could head back to France, while Florenzi’s significant salary makes him a prime candidate to leave. Kolarov has been heavily linked to a move to Turkey as well as Inter but could be used a center back next season following Manolas and Marcano’s departures.

The tale of De Ligt and Lukaku: the power of the player’s will


During his tenure as Juventus’ executive director, Beppe Marotta was often mocked for being cheap since his favored way of completing deals was either through Bosman signings or by completing player acquisitions on loan with option to buy. This prudent approach, in addition to two deep runs in the Champions League which brought in significant revenues, allowed Juventus to eventually get to the point where they could afford to sign Cristiano Ronaldo as well as pay his enormous annual salary.

There were two key ingredients in Marotta’s success with Bosman signings: he was never afraid to pay substantial commissions to agents which added up to 80 million between 2014 and 2017 and was always willing to let the player’s will be the main factor in transaction. This strategy was heavily criticized by the club’s fans when the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez left Turin, but it is now starting to pay huge dividends.

While Marotta left the club to join Inter, Juventus have continued to be the king’s of the Bosman transfer by adding Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot this year and are now using “the player’s will paradigm” to their advantage. Ronaldo wanted to join Juventus last year and his agent Jorge Mendes made the deal happen with Real Madrid and now the same is happening with Matthijs De Ligt.

The uber talented Dutch defender looked to be on his way to Barcelona a few months ago, but while the blaugrana had leveraged their great relationship with Ajax to reach an agreement on the transfer fee, they couldn’t do the same with agent Mino Raiola on his commission as well as De Ligt’s salary. Paris St Germain then were in the driver’s seat but a change in the sporting director’s chair gave an opening to Juventus who are now set to close the deal.

The bianconeri have well established relationship with Raiola- in addition to Paul Pogba, they have also signed another of his clients in Moise Kean recently, they also weren’t afraid to pay him a hefty commission to get the deal done as well as pay De Ligt a huge salary of up to 12 million euro should all bonuses be met. This has been Juventus typical modus operandi- reach an agreement with the player first so they then have leverage when negotiating with his current club.

When the first report of Juventus’ offer to Ajax emerged- 50 million plus bonuses- they were almost universally mocked for making such a low ball proposal. But this is what happens when a club feels like they have no competition and refuse to bid against themselves- in Juventus’ mind, since they were the only club with an agreement on wages and the agent commission (a factor which really cannot be understated since there are big clubs who refuse to compensate Raiola at such a high rate), there was no reason to shot their load on their initial offer.

If that wasn’t enough, during an interview with Dutch paper Telegraph, Mino Raiola revealed that he had an agreement with Ajax that would allow De Ligt to be sold for an offer of 50 million since he had agreed to keep the defender in Amsterdam for the 2018/19 campaign- so all of a sudden Juventus’ offer doesn’t look that outrageous, especially since again they can bank on the player’s will.

Since joining Inter last fall, Beppe Marotta has continued to use the methods that made him so successful at Juventus. Inter signed Diego Godin on a Bosman deal and are now banking on the player’s will to acquire Romelu Lukaku, a striker the nerazzurri’s new manager Antonio Conte has been enamored with dating back to his time at Chelsea.

Lukaku has publicly stated a few times that he would like to play in Serie A and that he considers Conte to be the best manager in the world- verbally he could not have made his desire to join Inter more clear. But actions speak louder than words and Lukaku had already made a significant change by replacing his previous agent Mino Raiola with the more understated (but equally effective) Federico Pastorello.

Pastorello has developed a great relationship with Inter in recent years- Handanovic, Candreva, Asamoah and D’Ambrosio are his clients and he negotiated the deals that brought Antonio Conte and Valentino Lazaro to the nerazzurri. So now that Inter can bank on the player’s will they have to convince Manchester United to let Lukaku go on a deal they can afford- a factor that is complicated by the difficulty to sell Mauro Icardi and Inter’s rightful determination to not include a player like Milan Skriniar in the deal.

Inter’s initial offer to Manchester United involves a loan for 10 million euro and a forced option to buy the striker for an additional 60 million payable over two years. This is essentially a purchase in disguise, it just allows Inter to spread the payments over three fiscal years but obviously on paper it sounds like an almost insulting offer (Manchester United appear to be somewhat open to structuring the deal over multiple years but want 85 million euro).

Marotta’s right hand man Piero Ausilio travelled to London to meet with Manchester United in person to discuss these terms, which can be seen as a sign he thinks the deal can happen, because if not they could have just communicated these terms through intermediaries. Because just like De Ligt already has an agreement with Juventus, Inter felt confident enough to make this type of offer because they feel they have no direct competition- Manchester United would have to find a team willing to pay more but also one that Lukaku wants to join… 

Winners & Losers in the Transfer Window’s first month in Serie A


The first month of the transfer window in Serie A was mainly an opportunity for clubs to get third financial houses in order. We saw a flurry of deals right before the fiscal year ended on June 30th and numerous new acquisitions announced right when the new year began.

Although there are still two full months of transfers ahead of us at least in Italy, we can still draw some conclusions on who is off to a fast start and who is falling more behind




Atalanta- there was a lot of concern that the Bergamaschi qualifying for the Champions League over Milan and Roma was bad for the league since they would inevitably sell off their best players. At least so far the opposite has been true, Atalanta have no ongoing issues with Financial Fair Play (unlike Milan and Roma by the way) and have made some significant moves by extending Mario Pasalic’s loan and acquiring Luis Muriel- who could be the next talented striker to fully blossom under manager Gasperini.

Atalanta’s president Percassi has vowed to keep his best players, including Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic who has just one year remaining in his contract. The biggest challenge maybe to replace Gianluca Mancini who is heavily linked to Roma, but Atalanta have shown plenty of signs they want to build off of last season’s success.

Inter- right after the new fiscal year started, the nerazzurri announced Diego Godin’s arrival who will join the defense with the most clean sheets last season, Valentino Lazaro who looks like a right wing back tailor made for Conte and Stefano Sensi who in an ideal world is Borja Valero’s replacement and will end up following Politano’s trajectory at the club. Inter are also in the driver seat to acquire Nicolo’ Barella and are working on signing Romelu Lukaku and Edin Dzeko.


Napoli- if a few months ago I told you Kostas Manolas was going to join the partenopei, you probably would have assumed Kalidou Koulibaly was on his way out- instead the Greek defender replaced Raul Albiol. Napoli also signed Empoli right wing back Giovanni Di Lorenzo who was one of the breakout players in the league during the second half of the season.

Lazio/Lazzari- while Juventus, Napoli and Inter look like the clear favorites to finish in the top three spots, Lazio are the club who right now can make the best case for being the favorites for the last Champions League spot. Lazio officially announced the signing of highly rated defender Denis Vavro, who was previously linked to Atalanta, and are set to welcome Manuel Lazzari to own the right wing.

Lazio is a perfect fit for Lazzari, who will slot in perfectly in Simone Inzaghi’s formation- the soon to be former SPAL winger is taking a big step forward in his career while still being guaranteed the playing time of a starter.

Bologna- in order to convince Sinisa Mihajlovic to stay at the club after his impressive work following Pippo Inzaghi’s sacking, Bologna’s ownership group promised him they would invest on the squad. Former Roma and Sampdoria director Walter Sabatini was brought in and the chain smoking director signed very impressive prospect Jordy Schouten as well as Brugge defender Stefano Denswil who is expected to be a starter. Bologna also exercised their option to buy Riccardo Orsolini from Juventus for a very reasonable 15 million and retained evergreen striker Rodrigo Palacio.

Sassuolo- for the second summer in a row Sassuolo sold one of their starters to Inter for a significant amount, they also are set to replace Stefano Sensi with Hamed Traore’ who is coming off a very impressive season at Empoli. The neroverdi were also able to retain ace manager Roberto De Zerbi and are set to add Empoli striker Francesco Caputo who scored 16 goals last season. 






Roma- in the span of a month the giallorossi lost arguably their three best players performance wise last season in Stephan El Shaarawy, Kostas Manolas and Daniele De Rossi. If that wasn’t bad enough, Francesco Totti resigned and publicly attacked the Boston based ownership and they have failed to sign Nicolo’ Zaniolo to an extension, on top of that Lazio seem ready to overtake them as the best team in Italy’s capital. On the bright side, new sporting director Gianluca Petrachi is off to a good start since joining the club following the mass exodus.

Edin Dzeko- the Bosnian striker is determined to join Conte at Inter but after Roma was able to make significant plusvalenze on Manolas and Luca Pellegrini, they had no incentive to sell him at a discount. 

Mattia Perin- Gigi Buffon’s return to Juventus have ensured that the former Genoa keeper is on his way out- but there are no logical destinations left for him in Serie A unless Milan sell Gigio Donnarumma. 

The different approaches Roma, Inter & Milan took to comply with FFP


In many ways June 30th is an even more significant deadline than the last day of the transfer window since that is when the fiscal year for many clubs ends. For the clubs who also have to meet Financial Fair parameters, or who want to avoid having FFP restrictions in the first place, it’s an especially important deadline to get their houses in order. We have seen Inter, Roma and Milan- three clubs who have FFP restrictions- and Juventus, who want to avoid having parameters set upon them, handle this deadline in very different ways. 

Let’s start with Inter who thanks to their very strong youth system have been able to remain complaint without having to sell any significant starters in recent years. This strategy has worked very well for the nerazzurri since the only time sacrificing a prospect has really come back to haunt them is with Nicolo’ Zaniolo, so despite that setback the club decided to continue with this approach.

This year they sold Andrea Pinamonti to Genoa for 18 million (with a gentleman’s agreement for a buy back), Zinho Vanheudsen to Standard Liege as well as Andrea Adorante to Parma and Marco Sala to Sassuolo as part of the Sensi deal- interesting only the Sala part of the transaction was announced on June 30th for fiscal reasons.

Roma on the other hand continued to sell established players in an effort to comply with Financial Fair Play, since they won’t be able to count on the Champions League revenues after failing to qualify for the next edition, they had even more urgency to shed some of their higher salaries. 

In addition to Kostas Manolas joining Napoli (a deal expected to be announced on June 30th) for his full exit clause and Gerson being sold to Dinamo Moscow for 10 million, the giallorossi also rekindled their relationship with Juventus, which had been rather frosty since the bianconeri exercised Miralem Pjanic’s exit clause a few years ago, with the interesting Leonardo Spinazzola for Luca Pellegrini swap.

Just like with Inter announcing the Sala transaction right before their fiscal year ended, Roma using timing to their advantage. As part of the deal for Manolas, the giallorossi will also acquire Amadou Diawara to replace Daniele De Rossi- but his acquisition for 18 million will be announced after the sale of the Greek defender so they can get the incoming plusvalenza at end of fiscal year 2019 and place the expense to acquire the Napoli midfielder in next year’s.


Let’s move on to Milan who recently struck a deal with UEFA to get more time to balance their financial books after the disastrous Chinese era. In exchange for sitting out this edition of the Europa League, the rossoneri have now an extra year to get their balance sheet in order, this will allow them to not have to rush the sale of some players who can bring in some significant plusvalenze, especially goal keeper Gigio Donnarumma, whose departure would also save Milan 24 million in wages before taxes the next two years.

In addition to Donnarumma, new sporting director Massara will work with Maldini and Boban on selling players who failed to live to expectations (Rodriguez, Laxalt, Biglia) and those who can bring in a big plusvalenza like Kessie, Cutrone and Suso (to be clear not all of the players listed in this paragraph will be sold)

While they failed to land promising Turkish defender Kabak, we can expect Milan to continue targeting players with significant upside who also have fairly low salaries like Theo Hernandez, Gianluca Mancini and Dani Ceballos- this will help Milan keep their payroll in check while also landing players who can either be an important part of their future or a candidate to net a big plusvalenza down the road.


Juventus continue to look for ways to avoid having Financial Fair Play parameters slapped on them to begin with by selling some of the prospects they had acquired in previous years. The end of the co ownership provision a few years ago, started the trend of young players being sold with options to buy and counter options to buy back like in the cases of Emil Audero (whom Sampdoria just kept) and Roberto Mandragora, whom Udinese bought for 20 million while Juventus had right to buy him back for 24 million.

While Juventus didn’t have to sell Dybala and/or Pjanic after acquiring Ronaldo, they ended up paying for the former Real Madrid striker by selling Audero, Mandragora, Orsolini, Cerri and Sturaro- they are starting to make a down payment for their next big addition (likely De Ligt) by selling Spinazzola to Roma- look for Paratici to continue this trend.