Losers of the January Window in Serie A

Yesterday we looked at the winners of the January window, but who is worse off following the four weeks of transactions in Serie A? If some of them feel like they‘re a stretch, it’s because overall this was a good window for Calcio 

 

Way most perceive Fabio Paratici

Safe to say Juventus’ sporting director is viewed in a very different light compared to a year ago. While he was already considered to be one of the elite sporting directors in Europe prior to the transaction, the Cristiano Ronaldo acquisition, mainly financed by making plusvalenze on minor players not part of the long term project, made him into a bonafide star. 

But despite acquiring the highly coveted De Ligt and discovering Demiral, there has been a malaise surrounding Paratici since last summer. The disappointment over Sarri arriving instead of Guardiola, Dybala being essentially pushed out in the summer, a midfield that is still a work in progress and the extensions given to players who where then almost impossible to move have taken their toll on how most view Paratici. This negative perception continued in January when his former mentor Beppe Marotta landed Christian Eriksen, the type of signing that could have moved the needle in Juventus’ weakest unit.

While there is a dark cloud surrounding him, Paratici did some positive things in January by landing one of the most promising players in Serie A in Dejan Kulusevski, who will bring his iron lungs and dribbling ability to a squad in dire need of such attributes, setting up a potential future significant plusvalenza on Emre Can and shedding Mandzukic and Pjaca’s wages from a very bloated payroll. 

Lazio not going for it

Lazio were very quiet this window, their main moves were to loan out Berisha and Durmissi after a very disappointing season and a half in Rome, but they did pursue Olivier Giroud in the final days and could sign him on a Bosman deal for next season. The eliminations in both the Europa League and Coppa Italia certainly justify a reduction in squad size, but at the same time it would have been nice to give Simone Inzaghi a few extra chips to find out if the biancocelesti are scudetto contenders.

 

Roma just holding serve

The giallorossi went into the January window with the need for a right back and a strong backup for Edin Dzeko, who was starting to run out of gas after a strong start to the season. But injuries to Nicolo’ Zaniolo and Amadou Diawara, forced sporting director Petrachi on having to focus on replacing them rather than trying to elevate the squad in the needed roles.

Villar arrived from Elche to provide more options in the midfield while Perez joins from Barcelona to replace Zaniolo, at best this feels like a slight downgrade. While Ibanez should be an upgrade over Juan Jesus and Fazio’s replacement next season as the primary backup, Roma are even thinner at right back now that Florenzi joined Valencia in order to play regularly before the Euro.

Sampdoria still in danger

Going into the January transfer window, the situation wasn’t as dire as cross town rivals Genoa but Sampdoria had an opportunity to make some head way in the race to avoid relegation with a few good additions. Ferrero’s club replaced the very disappointing Murillo with both Lorenzo Tonelli, who had previously played at the club with mixed results, and Yoshida who surprisingly arrived from Southampton- while they will likely be upgrades over the version of Murillo we saw this season, the club has still to yet adequately replace Joaquin Andersen.

Unless new addition La Gumina exceeds expectations, Sampdoria will have to count on Quagliarella returning to form to provide goals after deciding to move on from Caprari who joined Parma and Rigoni who rejoined Zenit. On the bright side for Sampdoria, hiring Ranieri to replace Di Francesco has been an inspired choice and could suffice to avoid relegation. 

Brescia falling behind in race to avoid relegation

The January window likely brought a significant shit in the race to avoid relegation. We saw some teams bring in some potential difference makers, particularly Genoa with Iago’ Falque, Masiello and Soumaro, SPAL by bringing back center back Kevin Bonifazi and bolstering the midfield with Castro and Dabo, as well as Lecce with Saponara and Barak while others taking a more passive approach. Brescia feel particularly vulnerable when you consider their competition all improved, at least on paper, while their only significant addition was Skrabb who will have to adapt to Serie A after arriving from Norrkopping.

 

 

Winners of Summer Transfer Window in Serie A

With seventeen Serie A matches as well as the first phase of the Champions and Europa Leagues in the books, we have a large enough sample size to draw some conclusions on the summer transfer window. Some Italian teams benefitted tremendously by the moves they made in June, July and August and have been rewarded with the positions in the standings starting with:

 

Inter- the nerazzurri made the best of their Financial Fair Play restrictions coming to an end in June by breaking their transfer record not once (Barella) but twice (Lukaku) and being able to afford to ship out Icardi, Perisic and Nainggolan on loan rather than haggling over a transfer fee when their value had plummeted.

Barella and Lukaku have more than lived up to their price tag, the former Cagliari midfielder was eased into the starting lineup and has performed at the level we’ve seen on the Azzurri, while Lukaku has proven to be devastating against provinciali types, which used to be the types of teams Inter squandered the most points against- if that weren’t enough, the Belgian international has proven to be an ideal partner for Lautaro Martinez who has made a massive leap this season.

In addition to hits with Lukaku and Barella, Stefano Sensi was considered to be the best new addition on any Serie A club prior to his injury last October. While Diego Godin has struggled a bit to get used to a new formation and league, keeping Alessandro Bastoni after a successful summer retreat has proven to be a great move- he was vastly improved after spending a season on loan at Parma

 

Cagliari- the Sardinian club have so far been this season’s version of Atalanta despite selling their best player (Barella) and losing their starting keeper (Cragno) and best goal scorer (Pavoletti) to injuries. While Radja Nainggolan is rightfully getting a lot of praise for his strong comeback season after returning to his former club for mainly personal reasons, his midfield partner Nahitan Nandez has been just as impactful- the former Boca Juniors player looks ready to give president Giulini another massive plusvalenza down the road.

Giovanni Simeone has helped make up for Pavoletti’s production along side Joao Pedro, who ended up staying after being very close to joining Atalanta, but the real revelation has been Robin Olsen who arrived as a last second replacement for the injured Cragno, the former Roma keeper is arguably the most improved player in all of Serie A

 

Atalanta- many expressed concern over the Bergamaschi qualifying for the Champions League as their thinking was they would be embarrassed on the biggest stage after selling some of their best players. Instead Atalanta retained all of their starters except for Gianluca Mancini and miraculously qualified out of the group stage of the Champions League.

Last summer, president Percassi bolstered the team’s depth with some fairly significant signings in Luis Muriel, Ruslan Malinovsky and by trying to replace Mancini first with Skrtel, who ran back to Turkey after experiencing Gasperini’s brutal training sessions and later Kjaer.

The bets compliment you can give Muriel is that he’s played so well, you would barely notice Atalanta has been without Duvan Zapata for quite some time, while Malinovsky is just the latest excellent discovery from a secondary league after Freuler, Gosens and De Roon. Atalanta has also been rewarded for extending Pasalic’s loan and sending Kulusevski on loan to a team like Parma which was perfect for getting the most out of his talent.

 

Roma- in addition to hitting a home run with coach Paulo Fonseca, the giallorossi managed to make some significant improvements to the squad despite missing out on Champions League revenue. Chris Smalling has been one of the best center backs in all of Serie A this season, Gianluca Mancini has been an excellent partner for the English defender and also excelled as a midfielder when the team was ravaged by injuries.

Resigning Dzeko to a long term deal has risks considering his age, but for the first few months of the season he carried the team on his back. After a slow start because of an injury, Amadou Diawara has shown enough to remind people why he was so highly rated when he was at Bologna, his performances have so far given Roma a win over Napoli in the Manolas deal. While Olsen has had a resurgence at Cagliairi, his replacement Pau Lopez has lived up to the expectations of being the highest paid keeper in the club’s history.

 

Hellas Verona- even the biggest Calcio junkie would have had a hard time recognizing many of the names on the gialloblu’s squad at the start of the season, but the newly promoted club created a team in their manager’s image. Prior to his disastrous spells at Genoa, Juric was considered one of the best up and coming coaches in Italy following his time at Crotone, this summer he was given midfielder Miguel Veloso whom he previously managed, staunch defender Amir RRahmani and Sofyan Amrabat- these last two players are already linked to Napoli for substantially higher transfer fees than what Verona paid to acquire them.

 

PREVIEW: Fiorentina-Roma

A huge Friday night game awaits at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, AS Roma travelling north to take on a Fiorentina side in desperate need of a positive result. Having lost their four previous Serie A fixtures, La Viola bounced back with a stunning draw against Inter on Sunday, Dusan Vlahovic’s late strike securing a share of the points for Vincenzo Montella’s men.

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Smalling to Roma on a permanent basis- the case study for a perfect deal

Universities use case studies to illustrate the various aspects of a subject and sometimes we can use a single player’s situations to cover so many details that go into a transfer. With the winter window just a few weeks away, Chris Smalling’s situation at Roma allows us so to cover so many topics that will be relevant through the end of January.

After Roma’s sporting director Petrachi failed to sign his top targets at center back- on paper the weakest position on his squad despite Gainluca Mancini’s arrival- in the last days of the summer transfer window, he struck a deal with Manchester United for Chris Smalling.

Because Roma’s financial situation didn’t allow them to add another fairly substantial transfer fee on their books during the current fiscal year, they had no choice but to structure the deal on the basis of a loan. However their preference was to include an option to acquire the English defender on a permanent basis during the following fiscal year.

But because the closure of the summer transfer window was looming in Italy and Roma was desperate to reinforce their defense, they agreed to a dry loan for a fee of €3 million with no future option or obligation ( a formula Roma also used to acquire Mkhitaryan). The thinking was they would explore later on what to do if Smalling adapted well to Serie A. For his part, Smalling needed some convincing to accept the transfer on such short notice to a new league, but his conversation with the giallorossi’s manager, Paulo Fonseca, energized him.

While Smalling has his doubts on the move at first, many Manchester United fans were more than happy to see Smalling go (at least if you go by my Twitter feed) as a matter a fact they were disappointed it wasn’t already on a permanent basis since they felt it was almost inevitable Smalling would return to England.

But then something rather surprising happened, Smalling not only performed like one of the best players at his position this season by even exceeding the standards Kostas Manolas showed in his last season in Italy’s capital and upon joining Napoli, he also fully embraced living in his new city despite being a vegan in the carbonara capital of the world.

Fast forward to this week, besides the color of his skin, Smalling has played so well that he was one of the subjects of the extremely controversial “Black Friday” headline alongside his former teammate Lukaku (if he wasn’t considered a top player this season he wouldn’t have been on it) which prompted Manchester United’s current manager to say he expected him back at Old Trafford next June.

Now aside from the fact that Solksjaer won’t likely still be Manchester United’s manager by next summer, his statement is a great reminder that what is said publicly about transfers is very rarely important. One of his predecessors, Van Gaal, swore up and down that he would continue to be Manchester United’s manager and Paul Pogba started he was staying at Juventus a few days before boarding a plane to rejoin his former club.

Following Solksjaer’s press conference, Gianluca Di Marzio reported that talks between Roma and Manchester United were ongoing. The Italian club were willing to increase their initial offer of €15 million from a few weeks ago, with a deal likely to be completed around €20 million.

While this figure may seem low in light of Smalling’s performances in Serie A, he’s also a thirty year old player who will have little resale value down the road- a very important factor for a club like Roma who have to often sell before they buy.

You could make the case Manchester United could receive more should other clubs express interest in Smalling, but in this case the will of the player is key. Smalling has had a rebirth at Roma, enjoys the city and has let it be known he wants to stay- it also doesn’t hurt that Roma already paid €3 million just for a loan.

When you consider that Smalling has no amortized value remaining to offset for Manchester United because he’s been on the club’s books since 2010, the €20 million (or whatever figure they agree to) would be a pure capital gain. In addition, completing this deal without many hiccups could also likely garner some good will for all involved which could benefit Manchester United down the road if they tried to pursue one of Roma’s most exciting players like Zaniolo or Pellegrini.

They say that with the best deals everyone involved leaves the negotiation table slightly unhappy because it’s a give and a take, but in this case Smalling staying at Roma permanently would make everyone better off.

Which Serie A team has the most margin for improvement this season?

The second international break of the season is a good opportunity for Serie A teams to take stock of their strengths and weaknesses. Both Milan and Sampdoria went beyond a self appraisal and decided to use the two week window with no games as an opportunity to make a coaching change, but for the rest this break is the ideal time to find ways to improve.

With that in mind, which top Serie A teams have the most margins for improvement? let’s rank them

 

 

Atalanta 

While many, including yours truly, genuinely believed there would be some regression after a stellar season that saw most of their top players perform at the highest level of their careers, Atalanta have been just as devastating in Serie A where they find themselves in third place and with the second highest goal differential in the league.

But unlike the other teams listed in this article, there isn’t much margin for improvement. Duvan Zapata will be out for three weeks following an injury during the international break, the defense has performed better than expected with Kjaer seamlessly replacing Mancini and goalkeeper Gollini earning a selection to the Italian national team. Atalanta will however now be able to play their home matches in Bergamo again after their curva was rebuilt and new addition Malinovski can continue to improve while Ilicic has yet to be as consistently brilliant as last season. Atalanta will have to continue to prove they aren’t a fluke rather than looking for ways to get better.

 

Inter

 

The nerazzurri won their first six Serie A matches of the season before losing to Juventus in a close match at San Siro. They have the best goal differential in the league with plus 10, have received some strong contributions from almost all their new additions especially Godin, Barella and Sensi while Handanovic, De Vrij and Brozovic continue to be some of the best players at their respective position in all of Serie A.

While the nerazzurri have performed at almost their peak level in the domestic league, there’s still some margin for improvement once Romelu Lukaku develops more chemistry with Lautaro Martinez. With D’Ambrosio’s recent injury we’ll also likely see Valentino Lazaro make his debut- the Austrian international has the potential to be an upgrade from what we’ve seen from Candreva to so far this season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lazio 

 

No top Serie A team went through less changes than the biancocelesti who brought back manager Simone Inzaghi as well we as all of their core players. With that in mind, they have fallen short of expectations since they are in sixth place because they are unable to consistently win the matches in which they are the favorites.

Luis Alberto, Milinkovic Savic, Acerbi and especially Immobile have performed at their top level which doesn’t leave much room for growth beyond hoping new center back Vavro and wingback Lazzari can become the impactful additions they were expected to become. Lazzari had gotten off to a strong start but then struggled enough to lose playing time to Marusic.

 

Roma

The giallorossi are one of the most exciting team to watch in Serie A because of their free flowing offense and their leaky backline. Roma should be a bit concerned with the fact Dzeko and Kolarov have been their two best players, but they can also point to some significant margins for improvement once Pellegrini, Under and Mkhitaryan return from their injuries and once Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling can get more reps playing together.

 

 

Juventus 

 

Right before the international break, Inter were reminded of the saying “if you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ”. Juventus displayed their depth and ruthlessness at San Siro in the final Serie A match and reminded the rest of the league why they’ve won the last eight scudetti.

If that wasn’t frightening enough, the bianconeri have considerable margins for improvement- Sarri now has more time to implement his ideas and because of the depth of his squad, he can alternate between two formations. Douglas Costa is returning from an injury, Dybala has started to develop better chemistry with Cristiano Ronaldo, and speaking of the Portuguese striker, it’s only a matter of time until he goes on a scoring streak.

If that weren’t enough De Ligt can be considerably better than what he’s shown so far, Rabiot could eventually replace Matuidi and Chiellini will be back for the stretch run of the season.

 

Milan 

 

The rossoneri are three points away from relegation zone and four behind Napoli for the last Champions League spot so they have some clear margins for improvements while also having hope they can completely turn their season around. Their new manager Pioli has been in a similar situation when he took over at Inter a few years ago and it’s hard to imagine Paqueta’ and Piatek not turning things around in a new system.

Look for Pioli to get the most out of new additions Leao, Hernandez, Bennacer and Rebic while Caldara could be an upgrade over Musacchio as Romagnoli’s partner. A healthy Bonaventura would also feel like what Galliani would describe “as like a new addition”.

 

Napoli 

 

While the partenopei are in nowhere near as dire a situation as Milan, they have the most margin for improvement of any top team. Koulibaly has really struggled since missing the pre season because of the Africa Cup, Milik will finally be fully fit for the first time this season after rehabbing from a painful injury, while both Manolas and Lozano have yet to perform at the level expected from two of the most expensive additions in the club’s history. Ancelotti’s squad could also receive a significant boost from a return to form for Lorenzo Insigne and Faouzi Ghoulam.

 

Serie A’s Blue & Red Chip Players

Now that the transfer window is (FINALLY) over, we can fully assess the squads for the top Serie A teams. When ranking teams and breaking down their player personnel, I always use a method that NFL general manager Mike Lombardi employed both as an executive and analyst: name the blue and red chip players.

A blue chip player is a true difference maker, an elite player at his position who could start regularly for a title contender. A red chip player on the hand is someone who could be a significant contributor on a team that is competing for a Champions League spot. While putting together this year’s version of this column, I once again avoid putting players new to Serie A in the blue chip category because we don’t know how they will adapt to a new league.

 

So without further due, let’s take a look at how many blue chip and red chip players each top Serie A team has:

 

Juventus 

 

Blue Chip: Szczesny, Chiellini, Ronaldo, Douglas Costa 

Red Chip: De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro, Pjanic, Khedira, Ramsey, Rabiot, Dybala, Bernardeschi, Matuidi, Mandzukic, Can, Higuain, Buffon

The bianconeri are so deep that their main backups would likely contend for a Champions League spot if they had their own team so it’s not surprising to see a long list of blue chip players which could have also easily featured also Cuadrado and  Demiral. 

Douglas Costa’s speed and dribbling ability make him “fuori categoria” in Serie A (a player that is so unique there’s hardly any comparison in the league). Szczesny has been so good since arriving in Italy that those familiar with Serie A never thought for a second that Buffon was returning to Juventus to be the starter, while Ronaldo and Chiellini are still elite players at their positions despite their age. 

Last year many would have had Pjanic as a blue chip player (not me though), but his value is diminished since he doesn’t take as many free kicks with Ronaldo on the squad. Dybala went from being arguably the most valuable player on the transfer market in all of Serie A to someone who has to compete with Higuain for playing time while Khedira is a blue chip player in the eyes of pretty much any manager he ever had.

 

 

 

Napoli

 

Blue Chip: Koulibaly, Allan, Fabian Ruiz, Callejon

Red Chip: Mertens, Meret, Manolas, Zielinski, MIlik, Insigne, Lozano

Aside from Ronaldo, it’s hard to argue against Fabian Ruiz being the best player who joined Serie A from abroad last season. Napoli were able to hold on to Koulibaly and Allan who just like Fabian Ruiz could be starters on Juventus, while Callejon continues to reinvent himself and add to his game- Ancelotti has already used him a central midfielder during summer friendlies.

Aside from Dino Zoff, you can make a case that Meret has everything needed to be Napoli’s best keeper ever, while Manolas is a more than adequate replacement for Albiol. Milik is coming off a season in which he scored 18 goals in Serie A with no penalties, while Lozano looks like the perfect jolly for Ancelotti to use in different ways to compliment his front line. 

In order for the partenopei to truly contend with Juventus, they’ll need two out of Ghoulam (who was a red chip player before his injury), Malcuit and Di Lorenzo to exceed expectations this season.

 

Inter

 

Blue Chip: Handanovic, Skriniar, De Vrij, Brozovic

Red Chip: Lukaku, Godin, Barella, Sensi, Lautaro Martinez, Politano

Clearly Inter have a blue chip manager who will make players like Candreva look like red chip players most of the time, but let’s try not to be influenced too much by Conte. Inter have been able to won their first two games with Ranocchia and D’Ambrosio starting, but they’ll be even better with De Vrij- a Bosman signing who should get more praise as an incredible addition- and Godin are also starting (he was the one new addition from abroad I wanted to make a blue chip right away).

Brozovic was the nerazzurri’s most important player last season- when he performed well, they almost always won. He’ll now be joined by Sensi and Barella in a midfield with a lot of quality but very little size. Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are difference makers on their own, but also look to be a duo that compliments each other rather well. Conte insisted on holding on to Politano and he could be quite valuable as both a wing back and a second striker.

 

Milan

 

Blue Chip: Romagnoli, Donnarumma 

Red Chip: Paqueta, Piatek, Bennacer, Suso, Bonaventura 

Say what you will about Galliani but on his watch Milan acquired Romagnoli and launched Donnarumma, two elite players at their respective positions. Since then Fassone, Leonardo and now Massara/Maldini/Boban have acquired young players who have the potential to become blue chippers- especially Paqueta, Piatek and Bennacer. The good news is that new manager Marco Giampaolo has a great track record of taking players to the next level, but doing so at Milan is a bit more complicated than at Sampdoria where there is much more built in patience.

 

Roma

 

Blue Chip: Dzeko

Red Chip: Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Kolarov, Mkhitaryan, Florenzi, Pau Lopez

 

None of the teams mentioned so far lost as many quality players as the giallorossi with Manolas, De Rossi and El Shaarawy departing. Considering he’s coming off a season in which he scored nine goals, it’s probably generous to put Dzeko as a blue chipper, especially when you consider his age, but he does impact matches in many different ways. On the bright side for Roma, Zaniolo has a everything needed to become a top player and while I didn’t list Diawara and Veretout, they have the characteristics to be quite functional in Fonseca’s system plus Pau Lopez already looks like a massive upgrade to Olsen. 

 

Atalanta

 

Blue Chip: Papu Gomez

Red Chip: Freuler, Toloi, Ilicic, Zapata, Muriel, Castagne 

 

In many ways, Gasperini is a poor man’s version of Conte- not just because of the formation they use, but also because of their ability to make average players look like difference makers. Ilicic and Zapata had career seasons at Atalanta last season and it’s very likely Muriel will follow their path. Freuler is one of the most underrated midfielders in Serie A, he’s the player many think Diawara is to this day. Look for Castagne to take a leap this season and it will be interesting to see how the defense adapts to Mancini’s departure- if Kjaer or Palomino perform like red chippers then Atalanta can once again compete for a Champions League spot. 

Lazio

 

Blue Chip: Milinkovic Savic, Acerbi, Lucas Leiva

Red Chip: Immobile, Luis Alberto, Lazzari, Correa

I’ve been known for overrating the biancocelesti, but they have a more impressive core of players than Roma and Milan in my honest opinion. Acerbi made everyone forget how good De Vrij was at Lazio, Milinkovic Savic was able to win award for best midfielder in Serie A In objectively a down season while Immobile already has 3 seasons with 20+ goals in Italy. Lazzari was already devasting at SPAL but now has so much more talent in a system he knows like the back of his hand while Correa can build on his outstanding second half of last season.

 

Miscellaneous teams

 

Blue Chip: Quagliarella, Sirigu

Red Chip: Belotti, Chiesa, Izzo, Nkolou, Cragno, Pavoletti, Pezzela, Milenkovic, Gervinho, Schone   

 

Has Serie A improved after the summer transfer window?

Following Arturo Vidal’s transfer to Bayern Munich back in the summer of 2015, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli described Serie A as a transient league- a place where players improved before they moved on to clubs able to pay them more. 

Since then we have seen some improvements when it comes the Italian clubs being able to keep their best players. Juventus have been able to increase their revenues considerably, Inter now have significantly more financial resources with Suning taking over for Erick Thohir and now no longer have to worry about Financial Fair Play, Fiorentina look much more ambitious under Rocco Comisso, while both of Napoli and Lazio’s presidents have developed a well deserved reputation as tough negotiators.

So with another summer transfer window in the books, has this trend continued? Have Serie A teams been able to increase the overall talent in the league by keeping more top players and attracting new additions that can make a difference? Let’s first take a look at the players that left.

Interestingly two of the biggest players to depart Serie A- Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic- did so on loan and there’s a fairly good chance they will return (at least temporarily). Wanda Nara has already made it clear that ultimately she and her husband/client want to go back to Inter and that they see the move to PSG as a the kind of break a couple takes to calm things down, while with Perisic it remains to be seen if Bayern Munich see him as just a short term stop gap.

Juventus and Roma did end up selling two of their top performers to make some needed plusvalenze. Losing a player of Joao Cancelo’s caliber is always painful, but becomes even more problematic when you sell him to a team who has a legitimate chance to win the trophy your fan base is obsessed over and to a manager who can get the most out of him. Stephan El Shaarawy on the other accepted an offer you can’t refuse and moved to China following a great season in Italy’s capital (I have a feeling he’ll be back in a year or two).

It shouldn’t be particularly surprising to see Sampdoria off to a very slow start this season considering they sold two of their five best players in Dennis Praet and Joachim Andersen. While many assumed both would follow Marco Giampaolo, the manager that fully developed them, to Milan they ended up going abroad for significant profits- the Danish center back joined Lyon and the Belgian midfielder headed to Leicester.

We also had two home grown players bring significant profits to Milan and Juventus respectively because they had no amortized value to offset. Patrick Cutrone essentially financed most of Milan’s incoming moves for this fiscal year by joining Wolves, while Moise Kean landed at Everton when he had just one year left on his contract at Juventus.

The other significant outgoing moves outside of Italy involved numerous Monchi rejects at Roma- Coric, NZonzi, Karsdorp and Schick will all try to regain some value on the transfer market and jump start their careers outside of Italy.

So you could look at the fact there weren’t many top players that left as either a sign Italian teams are in a stronger position or that the talent overall in Serie A wasn’t very good last season since only Cancelo, Kean, Praet, Andersen and El Shaarawy fetched significant fees- I tend to think it’s more the former also because we have seen a good amount of players that in previous years would have gone abroad- Manolas, Barella, Bennacer, Mancini, Sensi, Demiral and Lazzari- ended up being transferred to other Serie A, in addition to players like Milinkovic Savic, Chiesa, De Paul, Donnarumma, Izzo and Suso who on paper looked fairly certain to leave just ended up staying at their respective clubs.

But how did Serie A fair on the incoming side overall? Juventus continued to demonstrate their ability with Bosman signings by snagging Rabiot, who was linked to Barcelona for a long time, and Ramsey who left a top Premier League team to come to Italy. But the bianconeri weren’t the only one flexing on the market for players with expiring contracts- Inter added one of the best defenders in the world in Diego Godin while Napoli signed Fernando Llorente to give Ancelotti another option up front.

Interestingly we had quite a few players return to Serie A after a stint abroad (although even the most fervent Calcio cheerleader would have a hard time characterizing other leagues being transient and improving these footballers) including Buffon, Higuain, Darmain, Kalinic, Zappacosta, Rebic, Alexis Sanchez, Obiang, Kjaer, Murillo and Balotelli.

We saw Inter break their transfer record by acquiring Romelu Lukaku, Napoli doing the same with Lozano, Juventus defeat Barcelona and PSG in the race for Mathis De Ligt, Milan landing some intriguing prospects in Leao and Theo Hernandez, Roma acquire their most expensive keeper ever with Pau Lopez, Genoa shock the world by convincing Schone to leave Ajax to play in Liguria and Commisso make a huge splash by signing Ribery. 

In addition to players, we have also seen Serie A bring back two great managers in Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri while Paul Fonseca brought his intriguing offensive mind to Italy. I think it’s safe to say the talent level in Italy has increased this summer, but I’ll let you decide by just listing the names

 

 

 

In- Muriel, Kjaer, Ribery, Ghezzal, Schone, Balotelli, Joronen, Vavro, Nandez, Lukaku, Godin, Lazaro, De Ligt, Ramsey, Rabiot, Higuain, Danilo, Buffon, Jony, Darmian, Smalling, Zappacosta, Mkhitaryan, Kalinic, Pau Lopez, Obiang, Murillo, Lozano, Elmas, Theo Hernandez, Duarte, Rebic, Leao

 

Out- Nagy, Helander, Donsah, Lafont, Kean, Cancelo, Perisic, Icardi, Joao Mario, Praet, Andersen, Nzonzi, El Shaarawy, Karsdorp, Schick

 

Previewing last week of transfer window in Serie A

 

Feels like every time Serie A takes a step forward, it’s immediately followed by a step back. After a successful first season, VAR now tends to create more drama and conspiracies, when it should be in place to accomplish exact opposite. 

The same can also be said about the dates for the transfer window. FIGC’s decision to close it before the first match of the season last summer was met with universal praise, but for an almost inexplicable reason (I can explain on my podcast), the league has gone back to the September 2nd deadline.

But regardless of how you feel about window still being open, the question remains- with a week to go what is on the plate for the top teams? 

 

Juventus

 

Needs: stability, wingback 

Excess players: Rugani, Mandzukic

X Factor: Dybala, Emre Can, Demiral

Right after the De Ligt signing, Juventus were once again seen as the masters of the transfer market- but since then things have gone as well for the bianconeri as it did for the hippies in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” when they showed up at Rick Dalton’s house. The Joao Cancelo and Kean sales followed by Dybala being shopped around made fans of the Old Lady livid. 

The decision to even consider moving three young players with so much talent has little to do with a sporting decision, it’s rather a financial necessity. Cancelo brought in a big plusvalenza and Dybala could fetch another 50 million in capital gains since he has 19 million left in amortized value, and there’s much more pressure to sell him because Juventus is still stuck with the Matuidi, Mandzukic (who is considering an offer from PSG) and Rugani’s off the world. 

Should Neymar not be sold, PSG would almost certainly avoid pursuing Dybala which could force sporting director Paratici to look to make a plusvalenza on someone like Emre Can who has a very low amortized value. By same token, Juventus would much rather sell Rugani, they maybe forced to consider cashing in on Demiral who is linked to Milan.

 

 

 

Napoli

 

Needs: cherry on top of sundae

Excess players:  Verdi, Ounas 

X Factor: James Rodriguez

Following the additions of Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Elmas and Lozano it’s safe to say Napoli are in great shape, especially when you consider the only starter they sold was Albiol who also missed considerable time with injuries last season. While Napoli is still waiting to see if they can sign Icardi or James Rodriguez on bargain deals at the end of the window, their main focus is on moving spare parts with Ounas set to join Nice and Verdi potentially joining Fiorentina.

 

 

Inter

 

Needs: left back

Excess players: Dalbert

X Factor: Icardi, Borja Valero

The nerazzurri have been extremely active recently and thanks to Lokomotiv Moscow picking up Joao Mario’s considerable salary for the season, they were able to slightly increase their contributions to Alexis Sanchez’ wages for this season. The Chilean international will return to Serie A and have the opportunity to get his career back on track playing in the formation that made him into a star at Udinese.

Inter are also set to welcome back Biraghi one of their former youth team products in exchange for Dalbert. Biraghi tailed off after a very strong start to last season that even earned him a selection to the Italian national team and should be a good alternative to Asamoah who can now also play more frequently in the midfield. Inter could also try to move Borja Valero’s considerable salary before the window closes with a return to Fiorentina as a potential solution. Icardi on the other hand will almost certainly stay at least until the January window. 

 

 

 

Lazio

 

Needs: keep what they have 

Excess players: Durmissi

X Factor: Berisha

Lazio were able to keep all of their top players while also finding a way to turn a profit on Milan Badelj a year after signing him on a Bosman deal. At this point the priority is signing Caicedo to an extension so he doesn’t play this season on an expiring deal while potentially cashing in on Durmissi who struggled in his first season in Serie A. Berisha has a better chance to stay, but he could also be expandable with Lazzari’s arrival.

 

Milan

Needs: offense

Excess players: Pepe Reina, Laxalt, Andre Silva

X Factor: Donnarumma

At least Juventus won their first game and already have a great squad, but man it has also been a rather confusing stretch for Milan fans. The rossoneri signed Duarte less than a month ago and are now once again linked to Demiral and Lovren, certainly not a good sign for the Brazilian center back. The inability to move Andre Silva and or Suso has made it harder to pull the trigger on the Angel Correa deal and now Everton Soares is being considered as an alternative (it won’t be any easier to sign him) to the Atletico Madrid striker.

Should PSG sell Neymar, don’t be surprised if they make another push to sign Gigio Donnarumma since they aren’t fully convinced by Areola. Should Donnarumma stay (which is very likely since he’s committed to the club) don’t be surprised if Milan tries hard to shed Pepe Reina’s salary since he’s the highest paid backup keeper in Serie A- Real Madrid could be a good solution should they move Navas.

 

 

Roma

 

Needs: center back, backup striker

Excess Players: Schick, Olsen

X Factor: n/a

Roma had a bad defense last season and then they lost their only above average center back in Manolas. While Gianluca Mancini is a promising player, the giallorossi desperately need another starting caliber defender to partner with Fazio. Mustafi is probably too expensive and Torino are very determined to hold on to Nkolou, leaving Rugani and Lovren (who is still demanding a high salary) as the most realistic alternatives.

Roma will also likely send Schick to the Bundesliga on a loan with option to buy deal while replacing him with Nikola Kalinic, who at least is very familiar with Serie A (I was trying hard to find something nice to say). Sporting director Petrachi has to also find a new home for keeper Olsen.

 

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

manolas

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.

Gianluigi-Donnarumma

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.

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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.