Atalanta’s Progress: By the numbers

Last season, Atalanta sent shock-waves throughout Italian football and qualified for the Champions League, finishing ahead of Italy’s traditional giants Inter, Roma, and Milan among others. Along with European football comes the luxury of a pitfall of cash and unique opportunities for growth that Atalanta have taken full advantage of.

Beyond their Champions League cash, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have been extremely proactive on the transfer market, selling their players for incredible profits. Dejan Kulusevki, for example. The Swedish international has only played three times for them in his entire career and was sold for nearly forty-five million euros. Let’s take a deeper look at the numbers.

According to Calcio e Finanza, Atalanta have already cashed forty million euros from the Champions League and could make more depending on their two-legged affair with Valencia. Given recent form, it’s not entirely improbable they progress to the final eight.

While Champions League money is always welcomed, it’s not as sustainable as other sources of revenue for the club. After all, will they qualify for Europe’s elite competition every season? They’re hoping so, but probably not.

As a result, Atalanta have enacted a model wherein they sell their top-performing young players to Italy’s big clubs after breakout seasons. Kulusevski to Juve, Gagliardini to Inter, Cristante and Mancini to Roma, Conti and Kessie to Milan, and the list goes on. In this sense, they maximize their profits. While certain cases will have them thinking they moved on their players a season too early, that’s always better than feeling they sold a player a season too late.

Just ask Torino’s Urbano Cairo. After Andrea Belotti’s breakout season, Torino reportedly got offers ranging between 50 to 75 million euros for their hitman. Cairo played hard-ball, kept Belotti and has since missed out on a unique rebuilding opportunity by turning down those offers. Today, Belotti won’t fetch anywhere near the previously reported price-tags. Atalanta, on the other hand, have a knack for selling players at the right time. In fact, their track record speaks for itself.  Most of their departed players, bar a few, have struggled to recreate their past form at their new clubs.

According to Transfermarkt’s numbers, the Bergamo-based club are set to cash in a further 110 million euros this season, in addition to Musa Barrow’s reported sale of 20M. That’s 130M on players that have either already been replaced or have never featured regularly for them.

With their squad lacking a few additions to take the next step, it will be interesting to see what Atalanta does with that money. Will they abandon their current philosophy and go for more-experienced players in hopes of making the leap alongside Italy’s elite or will they continue with their own model that has worked wonders for them?

If last transfer window was anything to go by, it will arguably be a mix of both, with a particular focus on experienced players. See: Luis Muriel and Ruslan Malinovskyi. As another transfer window beckons, Atalanta’s activity will be worth monitoring. They have the money and a vision: but can they deliver on it?

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Sarri assesses few players in pre-game presser

Maurizio Sarri began the presser before the Cagliari tilt by detailing what they did during the break: “We worked on several mistakes we made. We focused on ourselves before studying the Sardinians late in the week. We need to improve our mentality, because in most game we made more error there than tactical or technical ones.”

On Matthijs De Ligt: “He had a complicate period because of a shoulder and adductor issues. He played a lot, he is super young, while Merih Demiral was in optimal shape, so we were in position to rest him. De Ligt is improving, we will see tomorrow.” Continue reading

Juventus acquire Kulusevski for next season

On the first official day of the Winter transfer market, Juventus have completed their first purchase of 2020, acquiring Dejan Kulusevki from Atalanta, who will finish the campaign at Parma as previously stipulated. The Bianconeri paid €35M for the 19-year-old standout, with €9M potential add-ons, tied to his appearances and the team’s achievements over the next few seasons. The attacker agreed to a four-and-a-half-year contract, with a reported starting salary of €2.5M, bound to incrementally increase during its duration. Continue reading

Dejan Kulusevski is Everything Juventus Need

Today it was reported that Juventus beat fierce rivals Inter to the signature of Atalanta’s highly-rated Dejan Kulusevski. After spending last season with gli Orobici’s youth setup, the 19-year-old was loaned out to Parma this season and has since broken onto the scene in Italy, with four goals and seven assists in 17 appearances.

Beyond his output, Kulusevski has established himself as one of the league’s rising stars and is a major reason behind Parma’s positive start to the season. The Swedish international will remain at the Tardini for the rest of the season to continue his development. But who exactly is Kulusevski?

Player Profile:

Position: Attacking midfielder/winger.

Age: 19.

Height: 6’1 (186cm)

Nationality: Sweden.

Preferred Foot: Left.

Since arriving in Italy, Kulusevski has proven to be an extremely versatile player, capable of playing through the middle or on the wing. Given Parma’s counter-attacking setup, the 19-year-old has often been deployed on the left-wing, making the most of his impressive pace. The former Atalanta man thrives when tasked with running behind opposition defences, however, is equally capable at picking the final ball.

In fact, only Lazio’s Luis Alberto has more assists (11) than him this season. Kulusevski’s departure next summer will leave a gaping hole in Parma’s attack as he has played a direct role in 11 of gli Crociati’s 24 goals this season thus far. Moreover, the 19-year-old is currently averaging 2.4 key passes per game and has registered over 30 shot assists on the season already.

For context, Juventus superstars Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo are averaging 1.8 and 1.7 key passes per game, respectively. Bar Pjanic, no Juventus midfielder comes close to Kulusevski’s production in the final third. And even then, the Bosnian international’s output still pales in comparison to the Parma man. While it remains to be seen if the Swedish international can translate his breakout season to a big team, one thing’s for sure: He will add some much-needed creativity, precision, and unpredictability to an otherwise machine-like and sloppy Juventus.

Given his creativity and versatility, it begs the question: Where exactly will Kulusevski fit in Sarri’s plans? The question itself raises more questions than answers. After all, the Parma man can play a multitude of roles and Sarri is yet to define his best formation with the bianconeri. Is it a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-3-3? Time will tell.

From a young age, the 19-year-old mainly featured as a trequartista, but has since evolved as a winger under Roberto D’Aversa’s watchful eye. He’s also played deeper in the midfield with Atalanta’s youth teams and has incredible progression numbers to match a mezz’ala role. As the season wears on and Kulusevski joins his new team in the summer, his role will undoubtedly become clearly defined. There is much uncertainty surrounding his position as of right now, but he will provide Sarri with valuable tactical flexibility.

Another factor to consider in this equation is Juventus’ future acquisitions: Will they finally splash the cash for a big name midfielder? The bianconeri are in dire need of a technical midfielder since Pogba’s departure, but appear to have addressed that with Kulusevski’s signing. While the two players couldn’t be more different in terms of what they bring to the table, the Swedish international has proven to be quite the creative force in the final third. The reality is Juventus wouldn’t drop nearly forty million euros on him if they didn’t believe he can play a significant role as early as next season.

Moving forward, Kulusevski will need to demonstrate his end-product on a more consistent basis. After all, it’s only his first season in the top flight. Regardless, the 19-year-old appears to have all the tools necessary to take the next step in his career and establish himself as an elite creator at the top level; as long as the bianconeri are ready to properly accommodate him and give him the playing time he requires to fully develop. If Kulusevski and Juve can do this, he’s exactly what the Italian champions have been missing all these years.

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Transfer Watch: One Player For Each of Italy’s Big Six

With the transfer window set to re-open, Serie A clubs are taking to the mercato with differing objectives. While some will be looking for that one missing piece of the puzzle, others are in need of significant retooling. In any case, the January window tends to be quiet, but may present unique opportunities; opportunities clubs simply can’t turn down. Zlatan to Milan, for example.

Here’s one player for each of Italy’s big six.

Juventus - Arturo Vidal: The Italian champions are off to a relatively good start in the Maurizio Sarri era and are looking primed for a deep European run. Despite this, their midfield options leave a lot to be desired and are in dire need of reinforcement. Sami Khedira will spend most of the season sidelined while his stunt-double Emre Can appears to be on his way out.

New signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey haven’t exactly hit the ground running and will need more time to adapt to their new surroundings. As a result, the Chilean midfielder is an ideal target as he is already familiar with the club and will add some much-needed industry in the middle of the park. Juventus, however, will have to stave off significant interest from Inter. After all, it was Giuseppe Marotta who initially brought Vidal to Italy in the first place.

Inter – Dejan Kulusevski: The Atalanta loanee has been in great form this season and has emerged as a significant creative threat in the final third. While Parma will be reluctant to terminate his loan and Atalanta will be looking for an inflated fee, the Swedish international is everything Antonio Conte needs. Industrious off the ball and creative on it.

Currently, the nerazzurri are running with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but will need to add depth if they want to compete with Juve’s deep squad. If he’s available, Inter should be all over it.

Roma – Andrea Petagna: Roma go into the New Year in a comfortable position, four points ahead of fifth-place Atalanta and into the knockouts of the Europa League. While Paulo Fonseca has done an incredible job with the tools at his disposal, the giallorossi could use some reinforcements in the January mercato, most notably at backup striker.

Nikola Kalinic frankly has not worked as Roma need someone more reliable in Dzeko’s absence. SPAL’s Andrea Petagna has demonstrated he’s worthy of a shot and has an abundance of experience in Serie A. Other options are Premier League newcomers Patrick Cutrone and Moise Kean. Both have struggled to adjust to life in England, but the latter is unlikely to move now with Ancelotti’s hiring. Cutrone, however, may be worth a punt.

Napoli – Sandro Tonali: While the Brescia midfielder is arguably on everyone’s Christmas wish-list, Napoli should do whatever it takes to acquire Tonali. Whether they secure him and loan him back directly to his parent club for the rest of the season, or slightly overpay to acquire him immediately, Tonali is exactly the type of player the partenopei need.

He is equally capable of dictating play as he is breaking it up and is a self-proclaimed Gattuso fan-boy. Many may liken him to Andrea Pirlo, but Tonali himself admits his style of play is closer to that of the Napoli tactician. Who knows if that plays into his decision? Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

Milan – Jeremie Boga: Milan have been crying out for a creative force down the left for years now and have yet to see anyone of note arrive. The Sassuolo midfielder is a constant menace in the final third and is regularly beating his man with ease, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. At just 22, Boga would fit in with Milan’s supposed youth movement and should be available for a decent price.

In addition to playing on the left, he can also slot in as a trequartista should a new manager arrive in the summer and shake up the system. Boga to Milan is a no-brainer.

Lazio – Daniele Rugani: This seems like a long-shot, but Lazio could use another defender, especially if they want to compete with Juve and Inter for the Scudetto. Rugani desperately needs a change of scenery and could benefit from playing under the inspiring Simone Inzaghi. The biancocelesti could use another ball-playing centre-back alongside Francesco Acerbi, something Rugani proved to be at Empoli.

The Juventus man is currently out-of-favour in Turin and could be available on a short-term loan with an option to buy. Under the right conditions, Rugani to Lazio may just make enough sense.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 17

A reduced pool this week with Juventus-Sampdoria taking place on Wednesday and Lazio and Verona not playing due to Sunday’s Supercoppa Italiana.

Salvatore Sirigu: SPAL broke out of their road drought and have found the target in the past three matches, but they remain one of the most anaemic offenses in Europe, with only Watford having scored less than them in the top five leagues. The veteran goalie has been as reliable as they come despite being behind an imperfect back-line.

Stefan De Vrij: Inter have re-started keeping clean sheets, two in the past four games, and the Dutch defender offers the most upside on the other end. Genoa have failed to hit the net in three of their past five matches. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 16

Gianluca Pegolo (7 points): the 38-year-old unseated the youngster Stefano Turati throughout the week and frustrated Milan time and time again with great saves on clear-cut attempts.

Jhon Chancellor (8 points): his goal could not have been any easier as he tucked it home with his knee from basically the goal-line and he was pretty good in the back as well against Lecce. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 16

Standings implications: Inter and Juventus are now tied atop of the table as the Nerazzurri suffered a late equalizer at the hands of Fiorentina, while the Old Lady breezed past Udinese. Lazio stay in the close proximity as they did to Cagliari what the Sardinians had done to other teams and mounted a late comeback. Roma got the job done at home over SPAL despite a poor first half. Napoli’s woes were not immediately solved by the coaching change since Parma toppled them late at home and the Ducali are right below the European zone, especially because an undermanned Atalanta team was torpedoed by Bologna away.

Torino and Verona shared the spoils in a super fun game, while Milan-Sassuolo ended in a nil-nil drew despite few chances for both sides. In the lower districts, second W in a row for Brescia, which creamed Lecce, while Sampdoria came out on top in the Derby della Lanterna.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 16

Napoli-Parma: there is great curiosity to see what immediate changes Gennaro Gattuso will bring to the table. In his introductory presser, he hinted that he is going to use 4-3-3, which would lead to few duels up front. The first order of business will have to be reviving Lorenzo Insigne, who has not fared well in a long time, while Dries Mertens is in a domestic slump but has done some damage in Europe. Arkadiusz Milik came back midweek and he looked like a million bucks and he was en fuego before getting injured. He should be front and center in the new project. The new tactic would see José Callejon and Hirving Lozano alternate and the Mexican winger has abated after a decent stretch. It would give Piotr Zielinski and Fabian Ruiz more freedom and the Polish midfielder finally broke through last week. Giovanni Di Lorenzo is trending back up after a period of lull.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 14

Thomas Strakosha: Lazio have one of the best statistical home defenses in the League and, in this round, they will host Udinese, which have instead scored the second-least goal thus far. The Albanian goalkeeper is not very talked about, but he is as reliable as they come.

Matthijs De Ligt: he is coming off his two best performances in black-and-white and could keep it rolling against Sassuolo, which are feisty but not indomitable. Juventus have allowed multiple goals at home just once. Continue reading