The tale of De Ligt and Lukaku: the power of the player’s will

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During his tenure as Juventus’ executive director, Beppe Marotta was often mocked for being cheap since his favored way of completing deals was either through Bosman signings or by completing player acquisitions on loan with option to buy. This prudent approach, in addition to two deep runs in the Champions League which brought in significant revenues, allowed Juventus to eventually get to the point where they could afford to sign Cristiano Ronaldo as well as pay his enormous annual salary.

There were two key ingredients in Marotta’s success with Bosman signings: he was never afraid to pay substantial commissions to agents which added up to 80 million between 2014 and 2017 and was always willing to let the player’s will be the main factor in transaction. This strategy was heavily criticized by the club’s fans when the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez left Turin, but it is now starting to pay huge dividends.

While Marotta left the club to join Inter, Juventus have continued to be the king’s of the Bosman transfer by adding Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot this year and are now using “the player’s will paradigm” to their advantage. Ronaldo wanted to join Juventus last year and his agent Jorge Mendes made the deal happen with Real Madrid and now the same is happening with Matthijs De Ligt.

The uber talented Dutch defender looked to be on his way to Barcelona a few months ago, but while the blaugrana had leveraged their great relationship with Ajax to reach an agreement on the transfer fee, they couldn’t do the same with agent Mino Raiola on his commission as well as De Ligt’s salary. Paris St Germain then were in the driver’s seat but a change in the sporting director’s chair gave an opening to Juventus who are now set to close the deal.

The bianconeri have well established relationship with Raiola- in addition to Paul Pogba, they have also signed another of his clients in Moise Kean recently, they also weren’t afraid to pay him a hefty commission to get the deal done as well as pay De Ligt a huge salary of up to 12 million euro should all bonuses be met. This has been Juventus typical modus operandi- reach an agreement with the player first so they then have leverage when negotiating with his current club.

When the first report of Juventus’ offer to Ajax emerged- 50 million plus bonuses- they were almost universally mocked for making such a low ball proposal. But this is what happens when a club feels like they have no competition and refuse to bid against themselves- in Juventus’ mind, since they were the only club with an agreement on wages and the agent commission (a factor which really cannot be understated since there are big clubs who refuse to compensate Raiola at such a high rate), there was no reason to shot their load on their initial offer.

If that wasn’t enough, during an interview with Dutch paper Telegraph, Mino Raiola revealed that he had an agreement with Ajax that would allow De Ligt to be sold for an offer of 50 million since he had agreed to keep the defender in Amsterdam for the 2018/19 campaign- so all of a sudden Juventus’ offer doesn’t look that outrageous, especially since again they can bank on the player’s will.

Since joining Inter last fall, Beppe Marotta has continued to use the methods that made him so successful at Juventus. Inter signed Diego Godin on a Bosman deal and are now banking on the player’s will to acquire Romelu Lukaku, a striker the nerazzurri’s new manager Antonio Conte has been enamored with dating back to his time at Chelsea.

Lukaku has publicly stated a few times that he would like to play in Serie A and that he considers Conte to be the best manager in the world- verbally he could not have made his desire to join Inter more clear. But actions speak louder than words and Lukaku had already made a significant change by replacing his previous agent Mino Raiola with the more understated (but equally effective) Federico Pastorello.

Pastorello has developed a great relationship with Inter in recent years- Handanovic, Candreva, Asamoah and D’Ambrosio are his clients and he negotiated the deals that brought Antonio Conte and Valentino Lazaro to the nerazzurri. So now that Inter can bank on the player’s will they have to convince Manchester United to let Lukaku go on a deal they can afford- a factor that is complicated by the difficulty to sell Mauro Icardi and Inter’s rightful determination to not include a player like Milan Skriniar in the deal.

Inter’s initial offer to Manchester United involves a loan for 10 million euro and a forced option to buy the striker for an additional 60 million payable over two years. This is essentially a purchase in disguise, it just allows Inter to spread the payments over three fiscal years but obviously on paper it sounds like an almost insulting offer (Manchester United appear to be somewhat open to structuring the deal over multiple years but want 85 million euro).

Marotta’s right hand man Piero Ausilio travelled to London to meet with Manchester United in person to discuss these terms, which can be seen as a sign he thinks the deal can happen, because if not they could have just communicated these terms through intermediaries. Because just like De Ligt already has an agreement with Juventus, Inter felt confident enough to make this type of offer because they feel they have no direct competition- Manchester United would have to find a team willing to pay more but also one that Lukaku wants to join… 

Winners & Losers in the Transfer Window’s first month in Serie A

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The first month of the transfer window in Serie A was mainly an opportunity for clubs to get third financial houses in order. We saw a flurry of deals right before the fiscal year ended on June 30th and numerous new acquisitions announced right when the new year began.

Although there are still two full months of transfers ahead of us at least in Italy, we can still draw some conclusions on who is off to a fast start and who is falling more behind

 

Winners

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Atalanta- there was a lot of concern that the Bergamaschi qualifying for the Champions League over Milan and Roma was bad for the league since they would inevitably sell off their best players. At least so far the opposite has been true, Atalanta have no ongoing issues with Financial Fair Play (unlike Milan and Roma by the way) and have made some significant moves by extending Mario Pasalic’s loan and acquiring Luis Muriel- who could be the next talented striker to fully blossom under manager Gasperini.

Atalanta’s president Percassi has vowed to keep his best players, including Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic who has just one year remaining in his contract. The biggest challenge maybe to replace Gianluca Mancini who is heavily linked to Roma, but Atalanta have shown plenty of signs they want to build off of last season’s success.

Inter- right after the new fiscal year started, the nerazzurri announced Diego Godin’s arrival who will join the defense with the most clean sheets last season, Valentino Lazaro who looks like a right wing back tailor made for Conte and Stefano Sensi who in an ideal world is Borja Valero’s replacement and will end up following Politano’s trajectory at the club. Inter are also in the driver seat to acquire Nicolo’ Barella and are working on signing Romelu Lukaku and Edin Dzeko.

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Napoli- if a few months ago I told you Kostas Manolas was going to join the partenopei, you probably would have assumed Kalidou Koulibaly was on his way out- instead the Greek defender replaced Raul Albiol. Napoli also signed Empoli right wing back Giovanni Di Lorenzo who was one of the breakout players in the league during the second half of the season.

Lazio/Lazzari- while Juventus, Napoli and Inter look like the clear favorites to finish in the top three spots, Lazio are the club who right now can make the best case for being the favorites for the last Champions League spot. Lazio officially announced the signing of highly rated defender Denis Vavro, who was previously linked to Atalanta, and are set to welcome Manuel Lazzari to own the right wing.

Lazio is a perfect fit for Lazzari, who will slot in perfectly in Simone Inzaghi’s formation- the soon to be former SPAL winger is taking a big step forward in his career while still being guaranteed the playing time of a starter.

Bologna- in order to convince Sinisa Mihajlovic to stay at the club after his impressive work following Pippo Inzaghi’s sacking, Bologna’s ownership group promised him they would invest on the squad. Former Roma and Sampdoria director Walter Sabatini was brought in and the chain smoking director signed very impressive prospect Jordy Schouten as well as Brugge defender Stefano Denswil who is expected to be a starter. Bologna also exercised their option to buy Riccardo Orsolini from Juventus for a very reasonable 15 million and retained evergreen striker Rodrigo Palacio.

Sassuolo- for the second summer in a row Sassuolo sold one of their starters to Inter for a significant amount, they also are set to replace Stefano Sensi with Hamed Traore’ who is coming off a very impressive season at Empoli. The neroverdi were also able to retain ace manager Roberto De Zerbi and are set to add Empoli striker Francesco Caputo who scored 16 goals last season. 

 

 

Losers

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Roma- in the span of a month the giallorossi lost arguably their three best players performance wise last season in Stephan El Shaarawy, Kostas Manolas and Daniele De Rossi. If that wasn’t bad enough, Francesco Totti resigned and publicly attacked the Boston based ownership and they have failed to sign Nicolo’ Zaniolo to an extension, on top of that Lazio seem ready to overtake them as the best team in Italy’s capital. On the bright side, new sporting director Gianluca Petrachi is off to a good start since joining the club following the mass exodus.

Edin Dzeko- the Bosnian striker is determined to join Conte at Inter but after Roma was able to make significant plusvalenze on Manolas and Luca Pellegrini, they had no incentive to sell him at a discount. 

Mattia Perin- Gigi Buffon’s return to Juventus have ensured that the former Genoa keeper is on his way out- but there are no logical destinations left for him in Serie A unless Milan sell Gigio Donnarumma. 

Keita Balde set for Serie A exit

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With Inter Milan now on the lookout for a new manager following Luciano Spalletti’s exit, the Serie A side could also be in line to lose players before their new manager even arrives.

Former Italy and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is widely tipped to be the man coming in to replace Spalletti, and the fiery former midfielder could wield the axe in pre-season.

With talisman Mauro Icardi committing himself to the club prior to Spalletti’s departure, the incoming boss is unlikely to make Keita Balde’s loan move permanent.

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Assessing the market for wingbacks in Serie A

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After goal keepers and center backs, let’s assess the wing back market in Serie A. Let’s start by looking at the current depth chart for the top teams in the league:

Juventus- on paper the bianconeri are in great shape at the position after acquiring Cancelo last summer and signing Alex Sandro to an extension during the season. In addition, Spinazzola showed flashes of being a starting caliber wingback at a top club while De Sciglio is an adequate backup. However, should Allegri stay on at the club, it’s not out of the question Cancelo is sold and replaced with a more defensive right back.

Napoli- we witnessed a transition at the position for the partenopei. Hysaj and Ghoulam can no longer be considered the starters and while Malcuit is an intriguing option at least offensively, in order to take a leap forward Napoli simply can’t rely on Mario Rui as much. Napoli have been heavily linked with Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier.

Inter- it’s probably not a good sign that despite bringing in numerous new faces (Vrsaljko, Asamoah, Soares) the nerazzurri’s best wing back ended up being D’Ambrosio. Asamoah may be energized by Conte’s expected arrival but on the opposite side of the pitch, we’ll almost certainly see a new addition with Manchester City’s Danilo at the top of the list.

Atalanta- going into the season Gosens and Hateboer were the most underrated starting wingback duo in Serie A , but thanks to Atalanta’s great season they are no longer under the radar. Castagne has taken an extra step in his development and looks to be a star in the making. Even though they’ll be competing on multiple fronts, Atalanta will probably have to replace at least one of these three.

Milan- the rossoneri are so deep at this position that I had honestly forgotten they still had Strinic on the squad. Calabria and Conti are both starting caliber right backs and compliment each other quite well skill set wise, on the left side both Rodriguez and especially Laxalt have failed to live up to expectations.

Roma- the giallorossi invested heavily in Karsdorp two years ago and gave Florenzi a rich extension during the season. Kolarov continues to be one of their most important players at 33, while Santon can only be considered a backup. Luca Pellegrini could be the long term answer at left back.

Lazio- after Marusic took a substantial step compared to last season, sporting director Tare’ brought in Romulo in January. Just like Kolarov at cross town rivals Roma, the biancocelesti still heavily rely on a 33 year old in Lulic at the left wing.

 

Here are the wingbacks currently in Serie A who are expected to be in the transfer news headlines:

Joao Cancelo- could the talented Portuguese wingback leave Juventus after just one season same way he did at Inter? Should Allegri stay in Turin that is not out of the question and despite investing 40 million on him less than a year ago, Juventus could turn a profit when you consider how scarce the right wing back market. Joao Cancelo could be a great fit in the Premier League should he change teams once again.

Timothy Castagne- it will be interesting to see if Atalanta chooses to sell Gosens in the summer and give the starting job to Castagne or sell the most precious asset since Castagne has clearly higher upside and value. The 23 year old Belgian international has already scored 4 goals this season and has all the tools needed to be a starting left back on a top team in the near future. Castagne has already been linked to both Milan and Inter as well as teams abroad.

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Manuel Lazzari- it wasn’t particularly surprising to see SPAL turn their season around once the 25 year old wing back returned from an injury earlier this year. At times it felt like manager Semplici’s offensive game plan was to give the ball to Lazzari to see if he could make it down the flank for a pin point cross. Lazzari has been previously linked to Napoli but would also be a great fit at Inter playing for Conte or at Lazio where he would be a considerable upgrade over Marusic/Romulo.

Nicola Murru- the former Cagliari left back has been in our lives for so long that it’s hard to believe he’s only 24, He’s now ready to make the leap at a bigger club after completing the next phase in his development at Sampdoria. Murru could be an intriguing fit at Lazio, Napoli and Roma.

Diego Laxalt- obviously Higuain and Caldara ended up being massive disappointments for Milan this season for different reasons, but Laxalt isn’t that far behind in this ranking of underachievers. The Uruguayan performed very well in the World Cup last summer following a strong season at Genoa, he looked more than ready to take a leap at a club like Milan. Laxalt would be an ideal fit on a club that uses a 3 man center back defense so his own coverage liabilities can be minimized.

Ola Aina- Torino acquired him in the summer on loan with an option to buy set at 10 million euro and considering his strong performances, there’s no doubt Torino will exercise this right- but there maybe teams with deep pockets looking to pounce on opportunity to sign a left back with Serie A experience who won’t turn 23 until October of this year for an even higher amount.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo- the Empoli left back made the most of his first season in Serie A and will certainly remain in Italy’s top division even if his current club gets relegated. Di Lorenzo could be a great option for a team like Atalanta, Torino, Fiorentina and Sampdoria should they decide to sell their current starter.

Cristiano Biraghi- the former Inter youth team product had an excellent start to the season which culminated with making his debut on the senior Azzurri squad. But with Fiorentina collapsing in the second half of the season, there has been a lot less buzz surrounding Biraghi’s name.

Rogerio/Lirola- the two Sassuolo wingbacks have quite a bit of experience in Serie A despite being 21 years old. Squinzi’s club shrewdly acquired Lirola outright from Juventus for 7 million last year, while Rogerio has already been linked to Chelsea during the January window as a potential replacement for Emerson Palmieri. Look for at least one of them to move to a bigger club this summer.

 

 

Is Jose Mourinho nearing the PSG job?

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Love him or dislike him football doesn’t quite feel the same without the special one Jose Mourinho involved in it, and no Russian punditry doesn’t count. It is obviously only a matter of time before Mourinho is back in management, but with what club will it be for?

With the Premier League and La Liga seemingly ruled out for the time being it seems that Mourinho’s next move could either be to go Italy, he is loved at Inter Milan or perhaps a new fresh challenge in France’s Ligue 1.

A few weeks ago Mourinho was being linked to French giants Lyon, this made sense given that the PSG job looked like a total no- no given how strong the club had been under coach Thomas Tuchel in his debut season.

The problem with Lyon is that they have regularly been a good 20 points off of PSG’s pace. Could the presence of Mourinho and a fresh cheque book really make a difference and end PSG’s dominance in France? It would make for a great challenge for Mourinho, who has never really taken a risk in football since joining Inter Milan a decade ago.

But time is short and quick in football and now Tuchel at PSG is under pressure. Since news broke of Mourinho possibly going to Ligue 1 PSG were knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester United, a team in transition and a team PSG had beat in England in the 1st leg 2-0. PSG had bottled it once again ran the headlines and to be frank it felt like they did.

Then the club missed out on a domestic double by losing the Coupe de France final to unfancied Rennes, all of a sudden PSG won just one trophy this season and have lost countless times as the season comes to an end. It has been a bittersweet one for Tuchel even if PSG did win the league.

The cracks are there that weren’t a few months ago, indeed coming into the new year Tuchel and PSG seemed like the perfect fit. No body is talking about it but surely the threat of Mourinho lurks around the corner for Tuchel.

At the same time Mourinho has had two complete meltdowns in his last 2 jobs and PSG must be weary of that. Has Mourinho learned from those experiences and more importantly is he willing to learn. Just for the circus of it all having Mourinho in Paris seems great for football, but Tuchel may well still be the right man for the club if they give him time.

 

Assessing the run-in: Why Milan v Lazio is a true Champions League shoot-out

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Lazio’s last trip to San Siro raised their hopes of Champions League qualification to a new high.

Less than a fortnight ago, a superb 1-0 win over Inter made Simone Inzaghi’s side frontrunners to burst into the top four, but things change quickly in football.

The damaging week which followed, where they picked up just one point from games against SPAL and Sassuolo, means the Aquile return to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday needing another big win, this time against AC Milan, to revive their flagging form.

Despite the recent disappointments, the Biancocelesti remain firmly in the mix, with just three points separating them from the Rossoneri in fourth and a game in hand against Udinese to come next week. Continue reading

Where would Conte fit best next season?

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Everything is breaking his way. His successor at his former club gets routinely mocked at home matches making his previous tenure look better in retrospect and there are potentially many openings at the top clubs in his home country. In many ways it’s hard to imagine Antonio Conte’s sabbatical season going any better when it comes to how he’s perceived and where he could go next.

Conte certainly has the qualities that many of the top teams with an expected coaching vacancy are looking for- he has a long track record of getting clubs back on track dating back to his time before he became Juventus’ manager and he knows both Serie A and the Italian media very well. 

But where does it make more sense for him to go next should he decide to return to Italy? Let’s look at the potential fits and likelihood the job will be available in the first place

 

Juventus

 

The last two managers to win the Champions League with the bianconeri, Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi, both eventually returned to the club despite leaving Turin to go coach bitter rivals Inter. While Conte at least went to the national team and then abroad, it doesn’t feel like this is the right time for him to go back to Juventus. 

For one Max Allegri keeps saying he wants to be the Bianconeri’s version of Sir Alex Ferguson, and secondly the club seems more interested in keeping him after the impressive second leg against Atletico Madrid (but an elimination against underdog Ajax may change that). But even if Allegri leaves, it doesn’t feel like there’s much of an appetite for another defensive manager, especially one who unlike the current manager has yet to fully excel in the Champions League- the trophy the club is mainly focused on.

Likelihood job is available: 25 percent

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Inter

 

While having Beppe Marotta as the CEO isn’t necessarily a distinct advantage for the nerazzurri considering the rocky relationship between the two at Juventus, this is Conte’s likeliest destination. With Suning’s financial stability and the Financial Fair Play restrictions about to end, Conte would be able to count on the support in the transfer market he consistently craves.

Inter have already signed Diego Godin on a Bosman which would give Conte a new version of the BBC assuming Milan Skriniar stays alongside De Vrij- an outcome that seems rather likely. Should he follow in Trapattoni and Lippi’s footsteps, Conte wouldn’t have to go through a significant rebuild like at Roma and Milan or face huge expectations like winning the Champions League at Juventus. 

While Spalletti has a good chance of qualifying for the Champions League for a second season in a row and has a long term contract, he has openly clashed with Marotta over Icardi and Perisic and his hand picked addition Nainggolan has so far been a significant bust. Spalletti looks to have overstayed his welcome.

 

Likelihood job is available: 60 percent

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Milan

 

Before the derby against Inter, Gattuso looked to have earned the opportunity to start next season as Milan’s manager- but a recent streak of disappointing results, coupled with an uninspired offensive system have changed that perspective.

By joining the Rossoneri, Conte wouldn’t be able to expect significant additions via the transfer market because of Financial Fair Play and his style of play isn’t exactly in line with the club’s DNA. On the plus side, Conte is the master of taking clubs from A to B and he would have the opportunity to build the team in his image.

 

Likelihood job is available: 50 percent

Roma

 

The giallorossi are the likeliest to have a job opening as even if Claudio Ranieri were to able to get the team to the Champions League, there’s a chance he would step aside to give a chance to a younger manager to help his beloved Roma.

At Roma, regardless if they make the Champions League or not, Conte would face an even bigger rebuild than at Milan. As someone who has openly complained about the transfer moves of his employers, you don’t need much of an imagination to picture how he would react to the departure of players like Manolas. In addition Conte has become one of the highest paid managers at his recent jobs and it’s hard to envision Roma being able to pay him in line with his previous earnings.

Likelihood job is available: 85 percent

Jose Mourinho should avoid Ligue 1 and go back to Inter Milan where he is loved

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The Special One Jose Mourinho is still head hunting for a job after being sacked at Manchester United last December. Just a few weeks after his departure Mourinho was being linked to a return to his native Portugal, possibly with Benfica.

Of course the thought of Mourinho coaching Benfica after his success with Porto never looked like being a realistic option. That would be like Mourinho returning to Italy to coach AC Milan after his incredible success at rivals Inter. All you do in that process is tarnish fans memories of what had been before and it rarely works out with a smile on your face.

But let’s face it football misses Mourinho, even the negative side of Mourinho, glum face, no wins and arguments with players and officials. Modern day football has enough room for Mourinho and lets not forget his incredible successes. Say what you will about Mourinho, his presence does win trophies.

The latest news on Mourinho has come from left field and does feel like a surprise. Apparently he is interested in coaching in France’s Ligue 1. But with the PSG job unavailable, what other options does Mourinho have? Well there is Lyon who have always been a huge club and have had a solid season and have very decent players. They are currently in 3rd place trying to chase down 2nd placed Lille. But they are also 25 points behind PSG.

Lyon of course dominated French football in the 2000s winning 7 titles in a row but the money that PSG has now has changed the ball game in France. The other club he is being linked to is an even greater surprise- Monaco. Now of course Monaco did win Ligue 1 in 2017, but they are a selling club and much of that team has disappeared including the great Kylian Mbappe who was snapped up by PSG. Now Monaco are just trying to survive in Ligue 1.

Of course the destination of Monaco would greatly suit Mourinho but it is questionable whether he will be able to add to his trophy haul by going there. Plus how much disrespect can one man in Leonardo Jardim be shown? Sacked earlier in the season to make way for Thierry Henry. He was brought back in just a few months later when it was clear that Henry was not cut out for the job. Are we seriously suggesting he will be tossed aside once more to make way for Mourinho?

If the truth be told Mourinho should avoid Ligue 1 and go back to Inter Milan. Inter do have a lot of problems but at the same time they have shown great signs this season and if he was given a decent transfer budget together with the contacts he has maybe he could make something of it once again in Milan. Just think for a second how loved Mourinho is at Inter and love is what he really needs at this time.

It was evident again this past weekend when he was reunited with Inter when an all star team played an all star Tottenham side to open up Tottenham’s new season. Mourinho was the happiest that the public had seen him in quite a while.

The bottom line is that managing Inter and being back in Serie A would not be an easy job, and the club would have to challenge a Ronaldo led Juventus. But at the same time he would walk into  a city and club that 100% respect him.

Does he leave the memories as they are or does he come back for a second helping. In part when he did with Chelsea he got immediate success with another league title, but by the end of his reign there it had turned nightmarish and that is something that even after 3 years has not left Mourinho’s legacy.

Key Players in the race for a Champions League spot in Serie A

While last season Serie A had the most competitive title race of the major European leagues, this time around the scudetto race is as predictable as the ending of a Friends episode. But the competition for the last two Champions League spots is quite intriguing with 5 teams in the mix, the following players will likely have the biggest impact on how their squads fare in the final stretch of the season

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Mauro Icardi

 

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received goes like this “the best cure for negative thought, is taking positive action”. Considering the roller coaster the now former captain has been on in the past few weeks, he certainly could use a few decisive goals to get himself back in the good graces of his club’s fans and/or re establish his value on the market.

 

Inter find themselves in the same position in the standings as when Icardi left the squad to heal what the club essentially described as a phantom injury, so while they do need his contributions to nail down their second consecutive, the Argentine striker needs a strong end to the season even more than they do. He did catch a lucky break now that his replacement Lautaro Martinez suffered an injury while playing for Argentina during the international break, so Icardi could play a part in a big moment sooner rather than later.

 

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Paqueta

 

While Piatek has received more attention since joining Milan, the Brazilian midfielder has also been a tremendous addition to Gattuso’s squad. When the deal to acquire him from Flamengo  was completed, many pointed out that it was a gamble for Leonardo to invest over 30 million euro for a player with no experience in Europe, never mind Serie A,  at a time that Milan was dealing with Financial Fair Play issues.

Needless to say you don’t hear that criticism anymore because Paqueta’ has brought many of the attributes that have been lacking in Milan’s midfield for a few years- pace and ball skills. If that weren’t enough, Paqueta’ recently got to wear the iconic number ten jersey on the Selecao. While Calhanoglu has been a bit better recently, Suso continues to be in a slump- there’s no one on Milan beyond Paqueta’ who can create something from nothing at the moment.

PierLuigi Gollini

 

Atalanta find themselves in hanging on in the race for a Champions League spot in large part thanks to their offense. The devastating trio of Zapata, Ilicic and Gomez has to however offset a below average defense which has conceded 39 goals in 28 matches (as a frame of reference Lazio has conceded 29 with one less game played).

Gasperini recently gave the starting job to Gollini after Berisha was the starter in the first half of the season. The former Aston Villa keeper has a distinguished pedigree since he’s been part of the Azzurri’s youth teams since 2012, should Gollini live up to his potential Atalanta will still be in the mix for a Champions League spot for weeks to come.

Federico Fazio

 

During his second press conference as Roma’s manager, Claudio Ranieri described the Argentine defender as “un pezzo 90” (which loosely translates to an elite player). While you can certainly understand why a coach, especially one who was just appointed, would want to hype his players and help them get some confidence, Fazio has been a massive liability this season.

Should Ranieri decide to stick with a 4 man defense, he really doesn’t have many other alternatives, especially while Manolas is recovering from an injury, and Fazio is still a better option than Juan Jesus and Marcano. However the former Leicester manager could use a radical solution to his team’s defensive woes- move to a 3 man center back, the formation where Fazio had his best stretch in Serie A.

Ranieri could move De Rossi to the back line alongside Fazio and Manolas since he does have a deep midfield with the likes of NZonzi, Cristante, Zaniolo, Pellegrini and even Pastore. But regardless of the formation, Ranieri will need Fazio to step up in order to get Roma back to the Champions League next season.

Luis Alberto 

Luis Alberto 

 

While Miilinkovic Savic got torched by many for his very disappointing first half to the season, the former Liverpool striker struggled even more. Last season Luis Alberto was arguably the most improved player in Serie A,  but so far his 2018/19 campaign saw him regress to 3 goals- 8 less than his tally previous year.

But in the last match before the international break, Luis Alberto scored two goals to go with an assist- if he can keep these types of performances up, Lazio does have a chance to make up the 6 points they have less than Milan in the standings- especially when you consider they have to make up one match against Udinese.

Fiorentina’s Youngsters Face Tough Inter Test

Having earned another vital win last week, Fiorentina’s young side face a tough test this weekend as they welcome Inter to the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The Viola are undefeated since a 1-0 loss against Parma on December 26, recording four draws and four wins – over Torino, Chievo, AS Roma and SPAL – in the eight games since that date.  Continue reading