Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Three

Atalanta: Timothy Castagne will at least be called up after missing a month due to a torn meniscus, while Rafael Toloi and José-Luis Palomino both picked up a minor thigh injuries. There is more optimism about the Argentinian defender. 

Bologna: Danilo suffered a thigh strain and will miss at least a pair of matches.

Brescia: Ernesto Torregrossa hurt his quad against Milan and will likely miss few matches. Bruno Martella, who subbed early too, escaped without major calf complications but will still miss this one. Giangiacomo Magnani has not recovered from his thigh problem, while Andrea Cista is good to go after hurting his hand. Mario Balotelli is still suspended. Emanuel Ndoj needs to more time to return from ankle surgery.

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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Two

Results: Juventus emerged victorious in a wild bout with Napoli with a big assist from the opponents, while Roma and Lazio shared the spoils in an equally hard-fought Derby. Inter and Torino are the only two other teams at six points, as the Nerazzurri squeezed past Cagliari, while the Granata grabbed a quality victory against Atalanta. Milan found their first W scraping by Brescia. Genoa defeated Fiorentina, Sassuolo ragdolled Sampdoria, Bologna downed SPAL in the final minutes and Verona escaped Lecce with three valuable points.   Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round Two vs Napoli

Juventus threw away a stellar performance with a 15-minute black-out that allowed Napoli to mount an improbable three-goal comeback, but an ill-fated Kalidou Koulibaly touch still gifted them of the first major victory of the season.

Danilo (2 points): how about that for an introduction for the newcomer, who was thrown into the fire due to an injury to Mattia De Sciglio and scored on his second touch after initiating a killer counter and keeping up with Douglas Costa. He had a solid game throughout, making his presence known in both phases and displaying an impressive physical condition. Continue reading

Operation Departures: Paratici’s Dilemma

After securing the signing of Matthijs de Ligt, many lauded Juventus’ mercato and showered their sporting director, Fabio Paratici, with praise. After all, they had just signed one of Europe’s elite young defenders, fighting off Barcelona and a host of other clubs in the process.

However, in recent weeks, in an effort to balance the books, Juventus have looked to offload their high-prized assets on the cheap. First, Moise Kean left for Everton with no buy-back clause inserted in the deal. Then, Joao Cancelo was off to Manchester City for 30 million euros and Danilo, after just a season in Turin. Now, the bianconeri’s top brass are actively listening to offers for their jewel, Paulo Dybala. 

With Financial Fair Play restrictions in place, clubs, at the very least, must show they are spending as much as they’re making; generally speaking. Following the signature of Cristiano Ronaldo and de Ligt, sales were always going to be necessary.

Factor in that Juventus haven’t progressed deep into the Champions League since making the final in 2017 missing out on crucial revenue, it’s clear players were going to be sold. Let’s not forget, the Turin-based giants also reported a significant financial operating loss in their last fiscal year. Fabio Paratici is the man largely responsible with dealing with this, largely through high-profile sales. 

While, in an ideal world, Paratici would find buyers for Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi among others, reality is a different beast altogether. Currently, all of these players are on the wrong side of 30 and are on massive wages in comparison to their output.

Many of them have got a host of offers, but have regularly refused to leave the club. And why should they? Most, if not all, of the offers received for the bianconeri’s wantaways include lower salaries at less prestigious clubs. This has forced Paratici’s hand in his first mercato at the helm and has dictated which players he can and cannot sell. Simply put, there’s a bigger buying market for Dybala than there is for Higuain, for example.

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri recently alluded to this in a press conference.

As I said before, I can talk to Dybala all I like, but the market goes in a certain direction and my opinion counts for zero. We have to cut six players, that’s all there is to it,” said the former Napoli boss, as reported by Football Italia.

When thinking about Sarriball, you would expect Dybala to be one of the first names of the team-sheet. After a season in Massimiliano Allegri’s rigid setup, the Argentine could explode in a false-nine role. In Sarri’s first press conference at the club, the veteran tactician mentioned La Joya alongside Douglas Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo as players he was hoping to count on.

If Juventus are forced to sell Dybala this summer to balance the books, they will undoubtedly regret their decisions to hand Mandzukic and Khedira extensions while failing to definitively offload Higuain. Quite frankly, neither of these three players fit into Sarri’s tactics as well as Dybala does.

Sarri elaborated on this situation further and lashed out against Juventus’ current state.

It puts me in a difficult position. The last 20 days of the market will be difficult for us, it’s an embarrassing situation, because we risk having to leave out players of a very high level,” said Sarri.

It has also affected his pre-season preparation. Given the uncertainty surrounding the transfer window, Sarri has largely rotated between Higuain, Mandzukic and Dybala. Rather than sticking with one preferred front-line and implementing his mechanisms with them, Sarri has been forced to adapt. As a result, it may be long before we see Sarriball fully introduced in Turin.

With just over two weeks left to the mercato, it will be interesting to see who Juventus decide to move. Reports suggest Higuain will join Roma while Mandzukic favours a Bundesliga move. However, as we’ve seen, there are no guarantees and we can just as easily see, fan favourite, Dybala on his way out. Whether you like it or not, buckle your seat-belts Juventus fans, you’re in for a bumpy end to the summer transfer window.

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Danilo unveiled by Juventus

New right back Danilo, who joined from Manchester City in the Joao Cancelo deal, got introduced today by Juventus: “My first impressions were excellent, I was welcomed very warmly and I felt at ease right away. I want to give my best on the pitch.”

On Alex Sandro: “I talked to him several times during the process and it was very important to me, because he gave me positive indications about the day-to-day work here. It is nice to have a friend like him, we met ten years ago and we are very close. He will be helpful moving forward too.” Continue reading

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

After two sleepy weeks, Serie A teams have resumed dealing and wheeling with some very interesting purchases over the last few days. Inter finally landed Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United, while Juventus cashed in on Joao Cancelo in a swap with Manchester City, getting back Danilo in the deal. Cagliari pulled off an unexpected one by adding Radja Nainggolan from Inter, then successfully completed the chase for touted prospect Nahitan Nandez from Boca Juniors and, all of a sudden, they have a very crowded and well-assorted midfield despite losing Nicolò Barella.

Milan continue to work on the roster and acquired young centre-back Leo Duarte from Flamengo. He emerged over the last year and a half in Brazil and will contribute to holding down the fort until Mattia Caldara returns later in the year. He will compete with solid but unspectacular Mateo Musacchio to play next to Alessio Romagnoli to open the season.

The week was pretty much dominated by midfielders: a year after letting him go for free, the new Fiorentina management brought back Milan Badelj on loan with option to buy from Lazio, then they snatched Erick Pulgar away from Bologna by exercising the relatively low release clause. The Chilean international was a standout last season and was deadly on penalty, which will come in handy considering the departure of Jordan Veretout. Despite the age difference, the two are pretty similar, so it will be interesting to see whether Vincenzo Montella will tweak his system to accommodate both and perhaps deploy one more attacker.

Genoa have found their new technical leader in Lasse Schone from Ajax who, despite the rather defensive position as pivot, put up great numbers thanks to his ability on set pieces and therefore will be one to look out for in the fantasy game. The Griffon also signed Riccardo Saponara on loan from Fiorentina, whom coach Aurelio Andreazzoli will try to turn into an offensive box-to-box in the Rade Krunic mold, and Colombian youngster Kevin Agudelo from Atletico Huila.

For one brilliant midfielder joining Serie A, another one left as Sampdoria agreed to sell Dennis Praet to Leicester City, who has been a linchpin of their squad over the last three seasons and grew constantly year after year. They acquired Morten Thorsby from Heerenveen and could gamble on a Jakub Jankto resurgence on top of obviously reinvesting the funds on a newcomer.

For once, Atalanta decided to go with an experienced guy rather than bet on potential and brought in Martin Skrtel from Fenerbahce to fill in the gap after Gianluca Mancini left. Gian Piero Gasperini is now back to having five reliable centre-backs to rotate.

A decent coup for Verona, as they won the race for free agent Darko Lazovic, who was pretty good last year at Genoa, where he notched three goals and four assists. He reunites with coach Milan Juric and will be able to play in a number of positions on both flanks. They also grabbed two of the best Serie B players from last season: Gennaro Tutino, on loan from Napoli, who had a terrific year in Cosenza, and Valerio Verre from Sampdoria, who shined in Perugia. They both reached the double-digit threshold and could be significant parts of the 3-4-2-1 tactic Milan Juric is currently using.

Brescia got busy too and signed two presumptive starters in Jaromir Zmhral from Slavia Prague and Giangiacomo Magnani from Sassuolo. The midfielder could be a sneaky fantasy asset, while the centre-back started last season very well but was eventually overshadowed by more talented teammates. Lecce instead added Cristian Dell’Orco, who was serviceable as left centre-back at Empoli in 2018/2019 and will probably end up playing left back for them, alternating with other buzzed about newcomer Brayan Vera.

A pair of players departed from Serie A: Roma sent Rick Karsdorp back to Feyenoord on loan, while Bologna shipped Adam Nagy to Bristol City. The Dutch right back had some okay stretches and at times challenged Alessandro Florenzi, but ultimately he could not stay healthy, while Nagy had become merely a back-up. The Felsinei will have to address the midfield in a meaningful manner.

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Juventus send Cancelo to Man City for Danilo and cash

Joao Cancelo’s sojourn in Turin is over after just one season as Juventus agreed to sell him to Manchster City for a €65M package that includes Danilo, who was valued €37M. The Brazilian right back penned a five-year deal and took a pay cut.

Cancelo was acquired from Valencia for €40M after Inter did not pick up the option to sign him permanently following the loan spell. He had a blistering start of the campaign, but lost a bit of steam after tearing a meniscus and missing a month in December. He ended up compiling five assists, three of which in Champions League, and one goal in 34 appearances in all competitions.

Cancelo was often reprimanded by former coach Massimiliano Allegri for his defensive deficiencies and his freelancing style, although he often served as a formidable creator on offense and valuable initiator of the action and had a special connection with Cristiano Ronaldo, with whom he shares the agent.

The management probably did not see the progress they were looking for and accepted the lucrative bid, which obviously helps the balance sheets. New manager Maurizio Sarri does not rely much on fullbacks when attacking, which likely facilitated the decision.

Danilo has been mostly a back-up in his two years in England, especially last season, where he featured just 11 times in Premier League. He previously played at Real Madrid and had a similar trajectory, losing playing time in his second campaign.

Juventus have been following him since his Santos days and will be hoping he can recapture his Porto form, where he was teammate with Alex Sandro. He amassed 34 caps with the Citizens and 41 with Los Blancos. During his career, he has won domestic titles in four different countries and Champions League twice.

The 28-year-old defender can also be used on the left flank and in the midfield if necessary. The Bianconeri also have Mattia De Sciglio and Juan Cuadrado as options at right back.

The Portuguese international bid farewell on Instagram later on Wednesday: “In life we grow, live and learn. We cry and  rejoice. That is everything I have experienced with you, I have been able to play with the best players and I improved myself. I celebrated every cut, every shot, every assist and every goal. I will always carry with me the respect I have for all of you. It was a pleasure Old Lady, thank you for everything.”

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Serie A Transfer Market Weekly Recap

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The transfer market has yet to officially open, but the teams are free to announce the transfers if they reach agreement. Napoli made official the purchase of Giovanni Di Lorenzo from Empoli, who was a revelation in his rookie season in Serie A. The 25-year-old right back registered five goals and three assists, proving to have high motor and to be very capable on the offensive end. Carlo Ancelotti likes to rotate his fullbacks and he figures to fit in well tactically. Defensive staple Elseid Hysaj is likely to be on his way out as suggested by some of his recent words.

In the past few days, Fiorentina sold reserve midfielder Christian Norgaard to Brentford, while Sampdoria acquired the defensive prospect Julian Chabot from Groningen, whom is worth keeping an eye considering the centre-backs they launched in recent time. Continue reading

What Inter’s pursuit of Danilo says of market for wingbacks

In recent years we saw the value of center backs sky rocket on the market. The old adage that you should only spend significantly on goal scorer was turned over its head with the prices paid for David Luiz, John Stones and finally when Virgil Van Dijk’s transfer set the record for highest fee paid for a player at his position.

It has now become an expectation that above average center backs will go for very significant prices since they are now viewed as must haves for clubs that want to win. This same phenomenon is expected to now also start applying to a position that is even more scarce on the market, especially for Serie A clubs, with fullbacks/wingbacks becoming the “IT” position- everyone wants them but few have them.

The rule of supply and demand certainly also applies to football transfers. If there are very few quality players at a certain position and have multiple teams bidding on them, their price will increase faster than Salah flies down the pitch. The domino effect of this is that even lesser players will start going for fees that will surprise the average fan- I was thinking about all these factors when we first heard Inter are strongly pursuing Danilo.

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The nerazzurri have had a revolving door at the right back position. They would have liked to keep Cancelo last summer, but their Financial Fair Play restrictions made it next to impossible so they brought Sime Vrsaljko back to Serie A on a loan with option to buy deal but the former Sassuolo defender struggled after suffering an injury during Croatia’s impressive run in the World Cup.

To their credit, Inter acted quickly to fill the void during the January window by acquiring Cedric Soares in January (on you guessed it, a loan with option to buy deal) but the Portuguese international failed to impress leaving Danilo D’Ambrosio as Spalletti’s more reliable option at right back. Inter are already looking to the future and have identified Danilo as their top target.

The Brazilian failed to establish himself at Manchester City and is now looking for a new opportunity. But there’s an issue- his enormous wages. The scarcity at the right back position helped Danilo land a contract with annual wages of around 5 million euro net of taxes including substantial bonuses. To put things in perspective, that is more than Skriniar received on his recent extension and about what Inter’s top earners make.

Are Inter desperate enough to fill the void at the right back position that they’ll come close to offering Danilo his current wages to entice him to come? While Danilo does have serious defensive liabilities, you would probably get the most out of his offensive abilities by using him as a right wing back on a defense that features three stud center backs- something Inter will have once they announce the signing of Diego Godin. In addition, when Inter scan the market, they’ll see that there aren’t enough options to fill the needs of all the teams in the market for a right back- including many of their rivals in Serie A.

It wasn’t long ago that Napoli had one of the best wingback duos in Serie A in Hysaj and Ghoulam. While the Albanian right back’s struggles can be partly justified by the fact Sarri left (the two were together at Empoli before reuniting at Napoli), he went from being arguably the most complete player at his position in Serie A to a total liability. Ghoulam on the other hand has never been the same player since his second knee injury.

To replace Hysaj, Napoli are looking for a player to compliment Malcuit who has shown to be quite adept offensively. The partenopei’s first target is Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier, who would certainly be an intriguing option for Ancelotti- it remains to be seen if Napoli can convince him to leave the Premier League (where he’s also being pursued by Manchester United) and if they can meet Tottenham’s price. In addition to Napoli, bot Roma and Lazio could use upgrades at both wing back positions while Milan could consider looking to improve from Ricardo Rodriguez.

Juventus v AS Roma - Serie A

Considering how competitive the wing back market has become in recent years, it’s not surprisingly to have seen Juventus invest so much at the position. The bianconeri gave a substantial raise to Alex Sandro despite his fairly significant drop in performance in the past two season and then invested 40 million euro in Joao Cancelo. Juventus didn’t stop there since they also acquired De Sciglio last summer and decided to bring Spinazzola back to Turin.

Trying to bridge the gap with the bianconeri at the wing back position will be a priority for Serie A clubs this summer- considering the lack of quality options, one thing is for sure- it will be very expensive to try and make it happen.

 

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 32

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The round was rather meager in terms of scoring, but prolific for defenders.

Andrea Consigli (7 points): Sassuolo pulled the strings for most of the clash with Parma, but it was not for his save on Fabio Ceravolo’s penalty in the first half they could have found themselves in a very eerie situation.

Frank Kessié (9 points): the Milan powerhouse decided the seminal bout with Lazio with a penalty, which perhaps he should not have even taken, and went mano-a-mano with the talented opponents all night long. Continue reading