Man Utd 6-2 AS Roma: Three things we learnt from the first leg of the Europa League Semi-finals

Manchester United continued their dominant and ruthless showing in the Europa League, as they demolished a Roma side, who were forced to make three substitutes in the first half of the game due to unfortunate injuries. With this 6-2 victory at Old Trafford, it leaves the Red Devils with one foot into the Europa League finals and not much to worry about for the second leg in Italy next week.

The hosts got off to the perfect start with a goal in the ninth minute through Bruno Fernandes, who was smartly found by Edinson Cavani before chipping the ball over Pau Lopez. However, the team conceded two cheap goals through individual errors and poor defensive awareness as the Italian side were able to achieve two away goals and most importantly the lead, ten minutes before the break.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men meant business and came out with the right mindset after the half-time break, leading to a crucial equaliser from Cavani three minutes into the second half, who produced a world-class finish. From there onwards, it was all Manchester United as Roma found it too difficult to keep up with them and handle them, with the English team scoring four goals in the last 25 minutes of the match, as the goals came from Cavani again, Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest Europa League fixture…

One foot into the Europa League finals

Despite failing to get past the semi-finals of three competitions during the 2019-20 season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United are 90 minutes away from finally experiencing their first final under the 48-year-old Norwegian international. It may seem like a long time coming, but the manager and the players have shown the maturity and understanding to comeback from the downfall they had suffered from last season, resulting in a campaign ending with zero silverware.

With one foot in the Europa League final, both the manager and the players will still have a lot to takeaway from the first leg against Roma, as a number of individuals had lost their heads once the opposition took the lead, and the coach is always criticised for his in-game management skills. Though, on this occasion, Solskjaer did not change the line-up after trailing to Roma, as the team managed to turn things around in the second half as they showed their pure brilliance and quality.

The big characters in midfield and attack stepped up

After Edin Dzeko had given the visitors the lead in the 34th minute of the game, nothing was going right for United, who were failing to string a couple of passes together and were not making the clear effort on both sides of the pitch. However, with the half-time break arriving at the perfect time for the side, the huge characters in the team in Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba effectively stepped up in the second half, leaving Roma with no chance of defending their 2-1 lead.

With experienced players who have played at the highest level of football for quite some time like the above trio, they are the type of individuals who are able to create a chance or score a goal from half a moment. When a manager has born winners and players who step up when the side need them the most, it leaves Solskjaer with very little to do or to change in order to turn the game around, as individuals such as Cavani, Fernandes and Pogba are able to do this single-handedly.

Man Utd remain favourites to win the Europa League

For sure, Manchester United were seen as the clear favourites to win the Europa League after they were knocked out of the Champions League group stages, though, the side had to take their performance levels and results up a notch in order to prevent themselves from being regarded as bottlers. As the club have not won a trophy since May 2017, which was the Europa League under Jose Mourinho, everyone at the club will want to re-write history by becoming two-time winners.

With the opposition for the final yet to be confirmed between Arsenal and Villarreal, the Red Devils should have more than enough class and individual brilliance to see out either of the sides in the Europa League final. Not only that, but the side also have one of the best form away from home in Europe, as the team have shown their pure class of elite mentality and intelligence to win games. In the end, it would be seen as a huge shock if the Red Devils fail to win the competition and a lot of questions and doubts will be raised on whether the manager/players are good enough for the club.

Roma lose touch with Milan and let Juventus into 3rd place

The clash of this past weekend in Serie A was Roma against Juventus, it was also 3rd vs 4th and Roma came off as second best. Had Roma won the favour for both Milan teams at the top would have been immeasurable. Instead champions Juventus found a way to win and Roma fell 9 points behind league leaders Milan.

Juventus won 2-0 through an early Cristiano Ronaldo goal (that was his 16th of the season in the league) and then later on in the second half there was an unfortunate own goal by Ibanez which wrapped up the game for the old lady.

Alvaro Morata set up Ronaldo for the games first goal as he passed the ball to Ronaldo who was on the edge of the box and with a trademark shot Ronaldo had scored yet again. It is very clear in everyone’s minds that the Portuguese star wants to be top scorer this season so he can have claimed that feat in England, Spain and now Italy, and what a record that would be.

As for Roma, Paulo Fonseca’s team had plenty of possession in the first half but didn’t do anything with the ball in the final third and Juventus defended very well. By half time it didn’t feel like a surprise to see that Roma had not registered any shots on target, Juve ended the half with 3 shots.

In the second half it was quite a dire affair mostly because of the excellent Giorgio Chiellini who was like a rock in the Juventus defence and even if Roma did start to create some chances they never looked like coming back.

The usual match winners for Roma Borja Mayoral and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had bad games but at the same time that only happened because they were marked out of it. Juventus showed their superiority in every way and this was most probably the weekend that confirmed that Roma will not be winning this league this season.

Paulo Fonseca had this to say after the game, “We did well for most of the game and mustn’t forget we were up against Juve. They defended well the numbers are numbers, but the team that scored the goals ended up winning. If you look at the statistics, we had more shots, more corners, more possession, more passing, but Juventus scored the goals.”

Roma are now in 4th place and have 40 points and that was the Giallorossi’s 5th loss of the season, they are 9 points behind league leaders Milan. Roma will play Udinese at home this Sunday.

Robin Olsen set to leave Roma?

Robin Olsen is hoping to leave Roma and says he is even crossing his fingers about a move away to Premier League team Everton. This has followed his impressive performances with the Merseyside club and he looks to have ousted Jordan Pickford for the time being. Olsen is having a great time with Everton and of course getting game time. At Roma that doesn’t look like a possibility and the player is hoping for a full transfer at the end of the season.

Are you a Serie A expert? Can you defeat the top Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you think so, play!




Federico Bernardeschi’s time at Juve is up

It was a rare sight on a night that has become routine over the last decade. In the 66th minute Cristiano Ronaldo bore down on the Sampdoria goal from his usual left hand position of the field, nearing the periphery of the penalty area, the Portuguese cut inside before lashing a shot that was spilled by Samp stopper Emil Audero.

Audero desperately tried to regain the loose ball before Federico Bernardeschi, with all the anticipatory instincts of a modern-day Pippo Inzaghi, steamed towards the ball ahead of opposition left-back Tommaso Augello and fired home Juve’s second, sealing not just the victory, but their ninth straight title. It was the winger’s first league goal since September 2018, a collector’s item. Continue reading

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




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.




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.










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.



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.





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.




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”.




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:




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.






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.




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.




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.




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. 




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. 



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