A few years ago, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli described Serie A as a “transient league” where players came to develop before going abroad for huge fees. We have seen this trend change recently with more Italian teams holding on to their best players, and in some cases sell them to another Serie A team.
I was thinking about this trend as I was putting together my list of players to watch this season, rather than this being a shopping list for fans of other leagues, there’s now hope the below players won’t be destined to leave for greener pastures if they take their game to the next level.
But enough foreplay, here are some players poised to break out in the coming season:
The former Ajax striker was poised to be Gonzalo Higuain’s replacement prior to his first knee injury and Dries Mertens excelling in the false 9 role. At this point the only thing holding Milik back is his health, he sadly suffered two anterior cruciate ligament injuries in the span of 12 months but now finds himself set up to succeed after Napoli failed to sign a big name striker like Benzema or Cavani.
Milik is much more suited to play as a center forward in Ancelotti’s formation than Sarri’s- he’s more similar to the main strikers featured on Carletto’s previous squads than Mertens and he could benefit by playing alongside Insigne/Callejon and in front of a combination of Zielinski, Fabian Ruiz, Diawara, Hamsik and Allan.
Juventus’ decision to let go of Claudio Marchisio following the deal with Sporting for Stefano Sturaro could give the Uruguyan international more opportunities this season. Bentancur’s performances with the bianconeri have radically changed the way the Carlos Tevez deal is now perceived, what looked like a heist for Boca Juniors could end up being another homerun for Paratici and Marotta.
Despite only being 21 years old, Bentancur has experience on the biggest stages after appearing in multiple Champions League matches last season and representing his country at the recent World Cup. Bentancur’s versatility will allow him to be a valuable backup for Allegri and he could establish himself as a starter by season’s end.
It’s rather surprising to see him still representing his hometown team Cagliari this season considering that he’s been linked to Juventus, Inter and Napoli for the past few months, but another season as a guaranteed starter will likely benefit him long term. Barella has been featured on Italy’s Under 21 team and has won the award for best Italian midfielder born in ’97 twice.
Like Bentancur, Barella is a modern player who can cover pretty much any role in the midfield, and while he maybe small in stature, he packs a big punch with his shot from the outside and tenacity on the ball. Barella is also a dead ball specialist and it’s only a matter of time until we see him on a big club and playing for Mancini’s Azzurri.
The former winner of the Belgian league player of the year award has further honed his skills playing for Giampaolo at the Marassi stadium, so much so that Juventus saw him as a better fit for their club than his former teammate Lucas Torreira, who is now playing for Arsenal.
Praet is an offensive midfielder known for his passing ability and fact he’s equally comfortable with his right and left foot. While he did start the season with an injury, he’s expected to use the coming months as a spring board for a move to a bigger club in the upcoming transfer windows.
The former Atalanta center back will certainly have more immediate opportunities at Milan rather than Juventus, the club he left as part of the deal involving Bonucci and Higuain. Caldara will join a defense that could become the backline of the Azzurri in the near future since he’ll play alongside Donnarumma, Caldara and his former teammate Conti.
Considering that Gattuso is starting the season with a classic four man defense, Caldara will have to adjust a bit since he’s coming off back to back seasons playing in Gasperini’s 3 center back formation. But considering that Caldara combines strong physical tools with above average technique for a defender, on top of a penchant for scoring goals, he should get up to speed rather quickly. Caldara has excelled on the biggest stages at Atalanta, some of his best performances came in the Europa League against Borussia Dortmund and Everton as well as versus Napoli in Serie A.
If Adriano Galliani was running Roma he would be bragging about fact the Dutch international is like a new purchase for Di Francesco’s squad. Karsdorp suffered multiple knee injuries last season after becoming the most expensive player ever sold by Feyenoord (19 million including bonuses)- he ended up only playing 80 minutes, but now a lot is expected from him. Considering his speed and crossing ability, he should be able to form a dynamic partnership with Edin Dzeko- during the 2015-16 season he ended up with ten assists, and now he’ll have a massive target to set up. Should Karsdorp establish himself as the starting right back, Roma would be able to move Florenzi to a more advanced role therefore upgrading at two positions.