Jose Callejon – Serie A’s best signing of the last decade?

Recall the scene: Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne would receive the ball down on the left hand channel of the opponent’s half. Insigne would take several touches, cut inside and delicately float a beautifully weighted diagonal pass behind the opposition defence and into the stride of Jose Callejon on the right hand side, who’d timed his run impeccably.

Callejon would either take one of two options: he’d instantly kill the ball with his first touch and shoot at goal, or roll it across for Napoli’s central striker to tap it in. Throughout the Maurizio Sarri era, this scenario played out seemingly two or three times a game, with a goal usually the end result. Continue reading

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

Uncovering Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskyi

Cast your mind back to Atalanta’s third strike in their six-goal demolition of Brescia 10 days ago.

Ruslan Malinovskyi received the ball in the left hand channel of the Brescia half, some 35 yards from goal. The Ukrainian dropped the shoulder to sidestep Mattia Viviani, ran into a more central position, pulled back his traction engine of a left foot and unleashed a missile that flew into the bottom corner of Lorenzo Andrenacci’s goal.

It was yet another screamer for the Malinovskyi scrapbook. “I don’t have a bad left foot,” he joked in his first interview for Atalanta last summer. It’s safe to say that Malinovskyi was slightly understating things. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Gregory on Nedved, Buffon, Dybala & more Juve talk

Gregory Caltabanis is an established writer and reporter who covers extensively European football, but what matters for the purposes of this Q&A is Gregory’s unfaltering allegiance to Italian giants Juventus.

Gregory is part of the @FantaCalcioGame team as well! They run the most popular Fantasy Serie A Game, but for now let’s go straight to the Q&A with Gregory offering lots of interesting takes on legends such as Pavel Nedved and Gianluigi Buffon.

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Juve players (ranked by preference) and why?

Pavel Nedved: My all-time favorite Juve player is undoubtedly Nedved. One of the first games I saw as a kid was Juve against Milan in 2005 and all I remember seeing was a player with blonde locks run effortlessly down the left wing. Of course, it was Nedved. From that point forward, I always watched Juve and became a fan. The rest is history.

Gianluigi Buffon: After Nedved, I would have to say it’s Buffon. Buffon has been with the team since I’ve followed them and is the main reason I’m a goalkeeper to this day. Beyond saving countless goals, he’s a class act both on and off the field. I’ll never forget his save on Zidane’s header in 2006.

Paulo Dybala: The last one is a bit difficult, but I have to go with Dybala. I know he’s not up there yet with Alessandro Del Piero and other legends, but Dybala is one of the reasons I’m still passionate about the team today. He’s always respected the shirt and is arguably the first worthy number 10 we’ve had since Del Piero. I hope he stays with Juve for the long haul.

2) From active players, pick your favorite Juve player by position: one each from defense, midfield and attack. Why did you pick them?

DEF: My favorite defender is 100% Merih Demiral (Gregory says it emphatically!). Since he’s joined, I always thought he would be very important for our success. It’s a shame the serious injury halted his progress, but I’m confident he’ll come back stronger. Demiral embodies everything that Juve should seek in a player. He’s confident, plays with an edge and has that fighting spirit. I’ll be ordering my Demiral jersey very soon.

MID: It has to be Rodrigo Bentancur. I’ve had my doubts about him over the years, but he’s stepped up this season and looks to be evolving into an important player for us. Like Demiral, he plays with an edge to his game which I feel we lack sometimes. I’m looking forward to seeing him make further progress when play hopefully resumes.

STR: It’s an obvious one- Paulo Dybala. You really get the sense that he loves Juve and fights for the shirt every time he steps onto the pitch. It goes without saying, but his left foot is incredible. It’s just amazing to watch him play. Now, if only Fabio Paratici shared the same opinion, we’d be better off.

3) Your choice for most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Without a doubt, when we knocked out Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in 2015. While the win against Inter in 2018 was huge, for me the Real result announced Juve’s return on the world stage and showed the rest of Europe “we are back.” After all, we just took out Real Madrid. The final didn’t go our way, but I can’t recall a win I’ve celebrated more.

4) Choose your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

Against Inter and on their home turf just over two years ago. At times, it felt like the game and the title were slipping away but as soon as Dybala stepped onto the pitch, it changed everything. I’ll never forget Gonzalo Higuain’s goal to complete the comeback. Made it that much sweeter that it was against Inter at the San Siro.


5) Where do you rank Sarri among the current generation of Italian coaches? How about among coaches worldwide?

I’d put him in the top five, but I wouldn’t rank him in the top tier of Italian managers at the moment. Conte is in a class of his own, in my opinion. Other than last year, I’d put Allegri in the same tier as Conte. Beyond them, I rate Gasperini highly but it would be interesting to see how he does outside of Atalanta.

Worldwide, I think he’s a top ten manager. If I had to rank them, I’d say this is my top ten: Klopp, Guardiola, Simeone, Conte, Zidane, Allegri, Nagelsmann, Sarri, Tuchel, Gasperini.

6) What’s Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League, or both?

Definitely both. When you have Cristiano Ronaldo on your team, the objective always has to be the Champions League. While I don’t think the team is well equipped for a deep European run, a player like Ronaldo can make the difference in a big game. It would be a waste of his final years if Juve didn’t push for European glory.

7) Perhaps a tough one here but pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

I love Marchisio and it’ll be hard to leave him out, but I have to go with Pirlo and Vidal. Pirlo is the ultimate Regista and is needed to dictate play. Obviously, it helps he can score a free-kick from just about any angle. As for Vidal, he’s your classic box-to-box midfielder and is not afraid to jump into tackles. Few midfielders impressed me more than prime Vidal and let’s not forget, he could score, too. Juve’s current midfield is really lacking his type of profile.

8) Where are Juve’s weaknesses? Some say right-back, others say left-back, or many mention the midfield. Your take?

It has to be the midfield. This may anger some, but Miralem Pjanic is a complete liability both in and out of possession. Juve can do much better in his position and I think they’ll look to replace him this summer. Blaise Matuidi is necessary to press and offer defensive support, but ultimately he’s far too limited. Remember his turnover against Napoli?

I think this Juve side needs at least two signings in the middle of the park and should arguably offload two or three guys (Sami Khedira, Pjanic and perhaps Adrien Rabiot) As I said before, this midfield lacks fight and demonstrates zero Grinta.

Of course, our depth at full-back is worrisome particularly with Alex Sandro slowing down, but for now, I think Sandro and Juan Cuadrado can manage the situation. Hopefully, Pellegrini comes back in the summer and competes for the left-back position.

9) In your opinion who is the best player (not necessarily your favorite) to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It has to be Del Piero. Record goalscorer and record appearance holder, few match Del Piero’s resume with the club. He’s won it all with us and has inspired many to support Juve over the years. At the height of Italian football, he was one of the best and led Juve to many trophies.

Del Piero set the standard for our number ten jersey and raised the bar for everyone after him. Perhaps Buffon is in it with a shout, but I have to give this one to Pinturicchio.

Cristiano Ronaldo showing no let up at Juventus and he is still after breaking records

Cristiano Ronaldo just looks as good as new, forget that he is 35 this year. The Portuguese star has been a huge hit with Juventus and at the weekend he scored again making it 9 consecutive games, that hasn’t been done in Serie A for 15 years.

Ronaldo scored another two goals both were penalties as Juve beat Fiorentina 3-0. That tally raised his total for the season to 19 goals, and he is second to Ciro Immobile who has 25. Though 7 of Ronaldo’s goals have come from the penalty spot the player is proving to be a hit in Italy.

Ronaldo has already won the league title last season and Juventus are top again in this one and looking for their 8th straight title. Juve manager Maurizio Sarri was very happy for Ronaldo, expressing how the player needs to keep on scoring goals to feel psychologically happy.

At this moment he has now scored 40 goals in the league from just 50 games and in total he has 50 goals from 70 games including cups and European games. It might just be Europe that will ultimately matter for Ronaldo. The former Real Madrid player was brought into Juventus to help them win their first European Cup since 1996, and whilst domestic trophies are welcoming and his goals great, Juventus really want the Champions League trophy. If Ronaldo can help them win it it could be one of his career crowning moments, up there with Portugal winning Euro 2020.

Juventus have been paired with Lyon in the round of 16 and they will start as the favourites. Lyon have had a slow start to the league season but they are finding form and can hurt Juve, but one would believe that Juve over 2 legs and with the second one being at home will simply be too strong for the French team.

Ronaldo’s move was maybe being questioned by some, as he could well have seen out his remaining days at Madrid. However a falling out with club president Florentino Perez didn’t help. But it was perhaps a risky move for Ronaldo to play in Italy so famed for its defensive football, as someone who craves goals he was asking for trouble, and yet he has had little problems in getting goals.

As a side note he would surely love to cap off a successful season by topping the goalscoring charts in Italy, Immobile right now looks like he will get it though, but Ronaldo who is six goals behind him will not give up.

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


Serie A players to watch during January window

The end of the group stages in the Champions League, a better sense of who is a contender and who is a pretender in Serie A , a slew of injuries and some recent coaching changes have impacted clubs’ plans for the January window.

With that in mind, which players are now more likely to change teams during the upcoming winter market?


Ricardo Rodriguez/Frank Kessie’- with Theo Hernandez breaking out and Pioli favoring other midfielders, both are struggling to find playing time and could find a home with their former manager Rino Gattuso taking over at Napoli. The partenopei are looking at potential replacements for Allan who hasn’t been the same player since being heavily linked to Paris St Germain at the beginning of the year, Kessie’ would be a more natural defensive midfielder than Zielinski and was a Gattuso favorite at Milan while Rodriguez could replace either Mario Rui or Ghoulam.  

Allan- you have to wonder if De Laurentiis regrets not accepting Paris St Germain’s offer last January since the Brazilian midfielder’s form has dipped considerably and he was identified as one of the leaders of the player mutiny after the Salzburg match. Leonardo still holds Allan in high regard and De Laurentiis has previously sold Cavani and Lavezzi to the Ligue 1 champions.

Rodrigo de Paul- while we usually should take anything said publicly about transfers with a grain of salt, Udinese’s sporting director Marino recently stated that his club would be hard pressed to turn down a big offer for the Argentine international despite recently signing him to an extension. For his part, De Paul has used the Romelu Lukaku playbook and has stated his admiration for Conte in numerous occasions and even volunteered to play as a mezzala, a position Inter are looking to reinforce. De Paul is also a target for Napoli were he could be used as a replacement for either Mertens or Callejon.

Emre Can- the recent injury to Sami Khedira which will keep him out for about three months may have a significant impact on the former Liverpool midfielder who hasn’t hidden his displeasure from being kept off the Champions League squad. But Can has struggled to make an impact when getting an opportunity to play and with Sarri committed to giving Rabiot more opportunities after helping Bentancur develop significantly, he could still be sold which would net a significant plusvalenza for Juventus after signing him on a Bosman deal.

Can should at least take solace in the fact he has been linked to numerous big clubs including Barcelona in a potential swap deal for Ivan Rakitic, Paris St Germain who could offer Paratici favorite Leandro Paredes in exchange as well as Bayern Munich.

Matteo Politano- after thriving under Luciano Spalletti, the former Sassuolo winger has almost been an after thought for Antonio Conte. Fiorentina had pursued him last summer and can now offer him a chance for significant playing time to give Politano a chance to make the Azzurri’s squad at the upcoming Euros, he also could be used a sweetener to convince Parma to let Dejan Kulusevki go prior to his loan deal expiring next June.

Alessadro Florenzi- the giallorossi’s captain has found himself often behind Santon in Fonseca’s pecking order for the right back position and could leave in January to keep himself in shape for the upcoming Euro. Fiorentina are looking to make a significant statement during the January window and signing a starter on the Azzurri at a position of need would certainly fit Commisso’s modus operandi, Inter could also look to leverage their good relationship with Roma to give Conte a further reinforcement. You do have to wonder if however Roma, who are negotiating the potential sale of the club, are willing to let go of the last Roman institution on the squad following Totti and De Rossi’s departures.

Moise’ Kean- just like Mattia Caldara and Joao Cancelo, the promising striker struggled significantly after Juventus sold him. There has been already talk of Kean returning to Serie A on loan after a disastrous half of the season at Everton with Roma and Milan as potential destinations.  

Dejan Kulusevski- the new version of Milinkovic Savic has taken Serie A by storm after joining Parma on loan from Atalanta’s youth system. Kulusevski has made it clear he wants to keep playing regularly but his performances have been so convincing that he could do so at a top club like Inter immediately. In addition to the nerazzurri, the Swedish prospect has also been linked to Juventus as well as some top Premier League clubs.  

Mehdi Demiral- the Turkish defender struggled to find consistent playing time following a disastrous start against Hellas Verona at the start of the season, but during Juve’s recent Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen, he reminded everyone why he was so highly rated after a successful spell at Sassuolo.

Juventus would much rather sell Daniele Rugani, who also has a much lower amortized value remaining, but there is just much more demand for Demiral, from Premier League clubs as well as Milan, who maybe itching to play more often especially with Giorgio Chiellini expected back in March.  

Lazio are flying high again – but are they too dependent on Ciro Immobile?


It never ceases to amaze how quickly moods shift and narratives change in football.

This time last week, the critics were sharpening their knives as Lazio headed back from Glasgow, having thrown away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 for the third time this season against Celtic.

It extended the club’s winless run to three games and left the Biancocelesti with a fairly bleak outlook in Serie A and in the Europa League.

But a 2-1 win away to Fiorentina on Sunday was followed by the capital club’s best performance of the season on Wednesday, as they blew away Torino with a magnificent 4-0 victory in Rome. Continue reading

Winners and Losers of first (full) month in Serie A

The first full month of the Serie A season was filled with drama, starting with Mauro Icardi’s last minute transfer to Paris St Germain and ending with Montella’s Fiorentina playing champagne football at San Siro against his former team Milan. Over the course of the September we’ve seen numerous stand out performances, as well as some clunkers- so to recap it all, let’s name our Winners and Losers




Stefano Sensi- while Inter signed one of the best defenders in the game, Manchester United’s number nine and one of the starters on Mancini’s Azzurri, the former Sassuolo midfielder has so far been the best addition on any team in Serie A of the season. While on paper he’s very similar to Brozovic, he interprets the role with a completely different frame of mind than the Croatian who is far more eccentric.

Sensi has played both in front of the defense and in a more advanced position so far this season, and while he isn’t a box to box midfielder quite like Arturo Vidal, he has so far made the same type of impact the Chilean international gave Conte in his first season at Juventus- and I don’t write this lightly. 

Beppe Marotta/Antonio Conte- their Inter will be seriously tested against Barcelona and Juventus before the international break, but they couldn’t have gotten off to a better start- they eliminated all the cancers from the locker room and won their first six matches including the derby in a very decisive manner. While Inter has won the transfer window and September scudettos many times in recent years, the fact they have these two in charge should give their fans hope they can shed their “Pazza” ways.

Aaron Ramsey- it’s hard to pick a Juventus winner but since they are in second place and have won eight titles in a row, they deserve to have a representative. While the former Arsenal midfielder has not surprisingly missed time due to an injury, when he’s actually played, he’s made such an impact that Sarri went back to the 4 3 1 2 formation he used at Empoli and in his first few matches at Napoli. Ramsey has brought a spark to Juventus’ midfield which has been a weakness at the club for quite some time, he’s also developed good chemistry with Paulo Dybala who is looking to get his career back on track after a difficult past 18 months.

Atalanta- there have been a lot of prisoner of the moment takes on Atalanta because they lost their first two Champions League matches, but they did use the revenues that come from competing in Europe’s top competition the right way by extending Gasperini’s contract, keeping all of their stars and bolstering their depth with quality players (they are also renovating their stadium which is now team owned but that was planned before they finished in the top four).

While they have struggled in the Champions League, Atalanta have been brilliant in Serie A by showing their usual offensive flair and ability to come back in matches. With many teams improving in the league and because they had multiple players having career years in 2018/19, many expected Atalanta to regress, but so far they look even stronger.  

Frank Ribery/Rocco Commisso-while it was going to be very hard for Atalanta to repeat last season, for Fiorentina the only way was up after avoiding relegation in the final match of the 2018/19 campaign. New owner Rocco Commisso has brought a lot of enthusiasm to the team, he retained Federico Chiesa who was heavily linked to Juventus and bolstered positions of needs. But the cherry on top of the sundae, Ribery has been everything you could have asked for- dominating performances on the pitch, particularly at San Siro where he received a standing ovation, developing great chemistry with Chiesa to whom he can be a mentor and putting Fiorentina on the map globally with his arrival and the way he’s played.

Cristiano Giuntoli- Napoli came up short in races for Pepe and James Rodriguez but those may have been blessings in disguise based on what we saw from Lozano so far. Napoli’s sporting director also landed Elmas and Di Lorenzo, who have so far been revelations on the team at positions of need and at some point Kostas Manolas should become an upgrade to Albiol as Koulibaly’s center back partner.

Newly Promoted teams- if the season were to end today, all three newly promoted teams would avoid relegation, I know it’s very early but in recent seasons we’ve seen “neopromosse” look out of their element right away. Lecce have been very intriguing thanks to manager Liverani’s propensity for attacking regardless of who they are facing, Brescia have looked like this season’s version of Parma while Hellas Verona have made up for their lack of talent with gritty performances.

Paulo Fonseca- the former Shakhtar manager was first a great recruiter on the transfer market by convincing numerous players to join him in Italy’s capital and he re energized Dzeko who signed an extension at the end of the summer. Roma so far have played a very exciting and distinct brand of football offensively and certainly look in the mix for a Champions League spot despite losing their captain (De Rossi), best defender (Manolas) and top goal scorer (El Shaarawy) during the transfer window,




Roma defense- as great as Fonseca’s offense has looked so far this season, the backline has been a mess. The giallorossi had a bad defense last season and then they lost their best defender in Kostas Manolas and tried to replace him with inexperienced Gianluca Mancini and Manchester United reject Smalling. At least Roma finally has an above average keeper, but they also have clearly the worse defense of the teams competing for a Champions League spot.

Kalidou Koulibaly- shocking to see him listed here since along with Chiellini, he’s been the best defender in Serie A the past three years. Koulibaly struggled in numerous matches, highlighted by his own goal against Juventus and a red card that cost him a two game suspension and a fine. It’s just a matter of time until he turns it around and a slow start was to be somewhat expected since he had no pre season with his new defensive partners Manolas and Di Lorenzo because of the Africa Cup.

SPAL- the club from Ferrara lost their best player in the summer with Manuel Lazzari joining Lazio and are in serious jeopardy of being relegated because of the above average newly promoted teams to Serie A this season.

Marco Giampaolo- while there were concerns with his ability to handle the pressure of being the manager ay a top club, few doubted the fact that tactically he was supposed to be Milan’s best manager since Allegri. But we have yet to see any of the offensive identity we saw Giampaolo give Empoli when he replace Maurizio Sarri or Sampdoria where Quagliarella had a career season at an age most striker are already retired. Giampaolo has looked very confused with his lineups (remember Andre Silva starting the season opener before leaving the club a few days later?) and in press conference and is now acting like a dead man walking despite the fact Milan had a fairly easily schedule to start the season.


Sampdoria- Giampaolo’s former club have the worse goal differential in Serie A at minus ten and are dead last in the standings. The blucerchiati have been up for sale for awhile and will need whoever buys the club to make significant investments in January to avoid relegation.


Romelu Lukaku is the latest black player to be racially abused in Serie A

It was difficult this past week to know which was more shocking- the monkey chants being directed at Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku or the fans detailed statement to the player saying that thos very chants were not racist.

What is clear is that racism is rife in football and it seems when we zone in on the major European leagues that Italy’s Serie A heads them all.

There are so many stories here but if you did miss it Lukaku was racially abused by Cagliari fans who have a history of it, just ask Mario Balotelli. But in their defence came Inter’s fans, Lukaku’s own team fans who penned an open letter stating in more ways than one, that perhaps he doesn’t understand it but it wasn’t racist.

The penned letter said: We are really sorry you thought that what happened in Cagliari was racist. You have to understand that Italy is not like many other north European countries where racism is a REAL problem. We understand that it could have seemed racist to you but it is not like that. In Italy we use some ‘ways’ only to ‘help our teams’ and to try to make our opponents nervous, not for racism but to mess them up.

“We are a multiethnic fans organisation and we have always welcomed players from everywhere. However, we have always used that ‘way’ with other teams’ players in the past and we probably will in the future. We are not racist and so are not the Cagliari fans. You have to understand that in all Italian stadiums people cheer for their teams but at the same time they use to cheer against the opponents not for racism but to ‘help’ their own team.

“Please consider this attitude of Italian fans as a form of respect for the fact they are afraid of you for the goals you might score against their teams and not because they hate you or they are racist. True racism is a completely different story and all Italian football fans know it very well.”

If you got to the end of that statement with mouth still wide shut, well done. In effect then his own fans are telling him, not to mind that the monkey chants are directed to him, because of and only because he is black. It is this acceptance that is the reason that Italian football and possibly the wider culture is in decline.

Lukaku has not responded, he is now in an awkward situation where he even won’t get support from his own fans. Good luck to him because he will need all of the luck when racism is not seen as that big a deal. Could you imagine this happening in the Premier League, esspecially in this age?

There have been calls for black players to avoid playing in Serie A. That won’t help in any situation and is in fact playing into the so called fans hands. It’s basically what they want. Lukaku himself has said that the fight against racism in football is going backwards and he is partially right, because it has always been going backwards. UEFA has not helped at all. Dishing out meaningless fines does not work. Banning supporters and docking points would.

Lukaku had a fairly easy ride in England, now he will have to understand that even if he is a success in Italy he will be seen sadly as a second rate citizen.

Is VAR ruining football after Cristiano Ronaldo is ruled offside by millimeteres?

VAR is a wonderful invention because it is there to stop unjust goals and award penalties that otherwise wouldn’t be given. But take the case of so many footballers week in and week out now who are having goals ruled out because of offside.

The offside law is another great rule, let’s make no mistake of that, if you are in front of the defence, then you are goal hanging, not really playing the game and just waiting for the ball to appear. Great rule. However VAR has taken everything to a new level, where a goal is ruled offside even if it’s just your nose that is offside.

At the weekend it was the turn of Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored what looked like a fine goal to give Juventus the lead. But after a VAR review it was ruled as a no goal. In every other season Ronaldo would have been given the goal. So the argument is that it was correct to give Ronaldo’s goal offside. But let’s throw this in- Did Ronaldo being millimetres offside bring to fruition that he meant to cheat, by placing himself offside on purpose? Really? Most probably not.

VAR has gone overboard, where every tiny mistake is now taken from the game and anaylised and the result is taking the initial joy out of the game. VAR is welcomed but maybe some other rules need to be changed, and the offside rule is painfully stupid. Now if you are half a yard offside or a yard that makes sense to rule out a goal. If it’s an inch, a nose, a knee, its plain ridiculous, no player is willingly cheating by having his nose offside.

What VAR will do is produce less goals now. We won’t be seeing another generation of Messi’s and Ronaldo’s whacking in 50 goals per season. Not that their goals were offside, but some would have been very close and called on, breaking up play, making the player second guess and so on. VAR has incredibly changed football, not just by a small margin but by a massive one.

Ronaldo’s goal in the book of laws shouldn’t have counted, but in the book of common sense it should have. Offside means that the player has made a grave error or was trying to cheat to get a goal. Ronaldo’s offside wasn’t either, he was just trying to play the game he dearly loves and put his side in the lead.

Some rules need to be changed, we can only hope in the future it will be.

Join the most popular Serie A Fantasy game here: now!