Best Serie A-related Free Agents Still Available

The transfer market window is over, but there could still be some signings out of the free agent pool in the coming weeks and there are some decent names out there, especially for the mid-to-low table teams. Claudio Marchisio terminated his contract with Zenit to rehab from knee surgery, but he will not coming back to Serie A unless he changes his stance of playing only for Juventus in Italy. Likewise Keisuke Honda, that after spending time at Pachuca and Melbourne is now looking to move to his home country. Continue reading

Marotta and Conte Propelling Inter Forward With A Clear Vision

When Giuseppe Marotta was appointed as Inter’s sporting director after an abrupt departure from Juventus, the nerazzurri sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league.

Rather than being satisfied with vying for a place in the top four, Inter wanted to emerge as contenders once more. Gone are the days of Pazza Inter and they have since been replaced with stability and a particular focus on the team rather than the individual. Marotta’s track record is impressive within Italy, and he played a major role in Juventus’ ascent back to the top of Italian and European football.

However, much of this success couldn’t have been achieved without the initial groundwork laid down by Antonio Conte in 2011. In the tactician’s first season, Juve’s roster was nowhere near what it is today, and frankly was inferior to Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan that they were up against. Instilling this belief of ‘us v them’ and bringing back a sense of accountability to the side, Juventus won their first Scudetto in years against all the odds.

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To this day, It remains a mystery how the bianconeri would finish that season undefeated with the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic leading the line and Paolo De Ceglie featuring regularly. At the same time, however, Juve’s success with limited resources was a testament to Conte’s great work.

Now reunited with Marotta at Inter, expect no less from the veteran tactician. The duo have been together in Milan for a mere couple of months and have already banished notorious bad apples, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan from the club.

As per Bleacher Report, Marotta proclaimed neither player had a spot in Conte’s team. “Talent can win you games, but the squad wins you the league, which is the main objective we are setting out for,” said Marotta. “They are not part of our project, with all due respect.”

While both Icardi and Nainggolan have been among Inter’s top performers and are a major reason behind their recent Champions League qualification, their exclusions show that Conte and Marotta are ready to build a true team rather than a collection of talented individuals; something that the Inter brass have struggled with in the past. If the nerazzurri’s summer activity is anything to go by, you can already see the duo’s work slowly being put into place.

Much like it was the case at Juventus, Marotta turned to a free transfer to shore up a squad need, and brought in Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan is among the best defenders in the world and will fit like a glove in Conte’s back three alongside Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij. In many ways, this is Inter’s version of Juventus’ BBC, albeit with way more to prove.

Diego Godin

Outside of defence, Inter have secured Italian internationals Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi for their midfield. Both players are the archetypal Conte midfielders and possess the qualities the former Chelsea tactician demands. Determined, technical and team-oriented. In Inter’s new-look midfield, Barella will act as a mezz’ala (#8) making late runs into the box much like Marchisio did at Juve while Sensi will be used as the side’s regista. In this role, the former Sassuolo man will be able to make the most of his range of passing and in many ways, will be a poor man’s Andrea Pirlo for Conte.

Realizing that centre midfield wasn’t their only need, Marotta quickly concluded a deal for Valentino Lazaro. At just 23 years old, the fullback has demonstrated he’s a hard worker and is the prototypical two-way player. Lazaro will be a much welcomed addition down the right-hand side; think Stephan Lichtsteiner but with more upside and end-product.

To round off Conte’s 3-5-2, he has requested Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian has blown hot and cold for the Red Devils, finding the back of the net has never been an issue for the former Chelsea man. With his towering physique and keen eye for goal, expect the 26-year-old to slot in wonderfully alongside Lautaro Martinez. Martinez and Lukaku are the typical, hard-working, ‘small-big’ partnership Conte has turned to in the past. Think Vucinic-Giovinco, Tevez-Llorente, Eder-Pelle, and so on and so forth. Inter are reportedly tabling their first bid for the striker shortly and have prioritized the Belgian.

With both Conte and Marotta leaving Juventus on poor terms in their own way, the duo have now reconnected at their fiercest rivals and are well on their way at creating a Juventus 2.0, but this time, in Milano. Banishing drama-kings Icardi and Nainggolan was the first step, followed by the acquisitions of prototypical Conte players. It may not end the same way as the league is much stronger than it was in years past, but one thing’s for sure: Linking up Conte and Marotta is Inter’s best bet at silverware in nearly a decade.

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Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

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1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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Alex Sandro extends contract with Juventus & Marchisio speaks out on farewell

Alex Sandro and Juventus have agreed to a contract extension until 2023, the club announced on Thursday. The negotiation has been going on since the summer, when the Old Lady rebuffed some inquiries from PSG and Premier League giants, opting to keep the Brazilian left back on the roster. According to Sky Sport, he will earn €5M per year.

He commented to the official TV: “Today it is a very happy day for me, my family and my teammates. I can tell the fans that I will always give my 100 percent, like I have been doing so far, to get better and better. I learnt the mentality of the club over the last few years, we are always working to win and that will never change. Continue reading

Claudio Marchisio talks Juventus exit

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Former Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio spoke yesterday to Sky Sport and Mediaset just before departing for St. Petersburg to start his new chapter with Zenit and obviously talked about the unceremonious farewell just before the end of the transfer market after 25 years at the club. “Juventus has always been my family. I started in 1993. I have so many emotions inside of me, I can not forget them. I bring with me victories, experience and sacrifice.”

“I have been very lucky, because not only I achieved my dream of playing with Juventus, but I also had the opportunity to win a lot and break few records. Continue reading

David Trezeguet weighs in on Ronaldo, Champions League and more

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Juventus great and now club ambassador David Trezeguet talked to Sky yesterday at the opening ceremony of new store in Roma: “We got off to a great start with three wins in a row, proving that the team is focused and eager to achieve its goals, even though it is still early. The coach is doing a good job managing a deep roster, where everybody wants to play and contribute. He is the one calling the shots, as normal. The objectives are very clear and never changed in Juventus’ history: winning every competition they partake to.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo: “I do not need to give him any advice. He is fully aware that this is different league compared to what he saw in England or Spain. He is an incredible player who wants to showcase his skills, he is working with great determination. Continue reading

Juventus release Claudio Marchisio

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The deadline day always presents surprises and the first one this year come from Turin since Juventus and Claudio Marchisio agreed to part ways after 25 years together. The move allows the midfielder to sign with another Serie A in case he wants to, but it is being reported that he is more likely to go abroad, even though the final decision has not been made.

Marchisio spent basically his entire career at the Old Lady, joining the youth system when he was six. Other than a formative year on loan to Empoli, he played only with the black and white shirt, collecting 389 appearances and scoring 17 times. He also has 55 caps with Italy. Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Week – Round 31: Benevento vs Juventus

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There was a good amount of drama in the last round, particularly in Napoli’s late win and in a pair of clashes in the relegation zone, but the marquee game, Sampdoria-Genoa, was a dud, so the weekly shout-out goes to the highest scoring match: Benevento-Juventus.

The Sanniti were coming off a commanding win over Verona, where they confirmed their strength at home, but unfortunately they basically would have to win out to hope to avoid relegation, but they are too poor on the road. Juventus were looking to bounce back after a very disappointing result in the first leg against Real Madrid.

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Serie A Club of the Week – Round 23: Juventus

Soccer: Serie A; Juventus FC-Sassuolo

An inevitable choice for team of the week in the 23rd round of Serie A, as Juventus destroyed Sassuolo and put together the best performance by any side so far this season.

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A few valuable returns expected after the break

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The second international break, the first real one to be honest, arrives a month a half deep into the season and it usually allows some players to fully heal from early injuries, or even last year’s ones, giving the teams a small boost ahead of another busy stretch.

The most particular situation is Armando Izzo’s one: he was suspended for 18 months in April for match-fixing related charges from his time in Avellino, then the ban was cut short to 6 months because the allegations were substantially less severe. It looked like he could be pardoned with a month in advance, but he served the full sentence. Genoa’s defence has been shaky and could obviously use the help of a player who was on the edge of earning a call-up by Italy.

Juventus will have Claudio Marchisio back after a month-long specific program to strengthen the muscles around the knee he tore in April 2016: he has played only 62 minutes this season. Sami Khedira has featured a little more, but has been absent since late August: his status is a little murkier, but he is not that far from a full recovery. Their returns will give Massimiliano Allegri the option to use a three-man midfield. The Bianconeri will also soon welcome back Marko Pjaca from the ACL tear he suffered in late March: the attack is more crowded this season, but he will still be another weapon at their disposal.

Speaking of knee injuries, Inter’s Joao Cancelo sprained his MCL in late August: Danilo D’Ambrosio has been passable as right back, but the plan is to have two dynamic fullbacks like the former Valencia and Dalbert together to spice things up. Cancelo can also play as right winger, giving Luciano Spalletti more flexibility upfront. Emiliano Viviano is expected to be in full form pretty soon after a knee surgery in May: like most backup goalkeepers, Christian Puggioni is only reliable for short stints. Roma’s newcomer Rick Karsdorp went under the knife immediately after joining his new club to fix a meniscus injury and had some muscular setbacks afterwards: his availability will allow Eusebio Di Francesco to move Alessandro Florenzi around rather than using him only as a right back as Giallorossi are dealing with several absences in other areas. Bologna’s Cesar Falletti suffered a MCL and ankle sprain at the start of August: when he comes back, Roberto Donadoni could resume deploying the 4-2-3-1 he quickly abandoned because of lack of alternatives in the attacking midfielder position.

Roma are also awaiting the return of their prized summer acquisition: Patrick Schick, who has been on the shelf with hamstring problems. There is a lot of curiosity to see how the coach will integrate him in a tactic that has started to work very well, but does not include the striker’s natural role. Benevento anticipate having Amato Ciriretti back for the all-important game against Hellas Verona: he was their main creator last season and they have not got much from the right wingers they have used in his absence. They were able to use Marco D’Alessandro and Pietro Iemmello together for the first time against Inter and they showed some signs of life: they might actually be able to earn some points with the full frontline on the pitch.