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

Can Gattuso make fallen Serie A giants AC Milan a force once again?

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There seems to be a buzz around the San Siro of late and that is due largely to AC Milan’s out going coach Gennaro Gattuso. Gattuso was always one to stuck on the field and that attitude hasn’t changed a bit as he intends to be outspoken outside of it. But you can only be that self confident and get away with it if you start producing results on the pitch and that is what Gattuso intends to do.

The past few years have been hard on AC Milan who were so used to dominating world football in the 80s and 90s and even in their declining years and the declining years of Serie A which gave up the great footballing names for La Liga in Spain, Milan were a force to be reckoned with. Witness their 2 Champions League titles in 2003 and 2007 as evidence of that.

But soon after the club were having to play in the Europa League and they haven’t won Serie A since 2011. Indeed apart from the Supercoppa Italiano in 2016, the clubs last major trophy was that Serie A title in 2011.

It is difficult to think that Milan who have won the European Cup (Champions League) on 7 different occasions are also rans in the competition now. They don’t even qualify for Europe’s premier competition and yet are one of the most successful teams to have ever competed in it. This is where Gattuso steps in and he wants to change the clubs losing mentality of the past few years and bring with it a new golden generation of players.

Gattuso is seen as a club legend having joined them in 1999 and stayed until 2012 making well over 300 appearances. He also has a lot of respect from the fans since after retiring he made his way up the managerial ranks, first as coach of the other 19 side and then took charge in winter of 2017 after the sacking of Vincenzo Montella.

His current win rate of 47% needs to be improved but he has still won 32 of the 67 games he has been in charge of and has impressed the Milan board so much that his contract has been extended until 2021. Gattuso could well be a success story at Milan, in short he is one of them which goes a long way.

This season Milan will not win the league and they are actually a whopping 24 points behind leaders Juventus. At the same time the club are in 4th place, which would be good enough to qualify for the play offs of the Champions League. But there are 3 clubs chasing them. Their next target is to overtake Inter, their fierce rivals in the league who have a 4 point advantage over them. Do that and Gattuso makes his statement to the club and fans that his team are going places. Next season could get very interesting for the old veterans of football.

Grading the early transfer moves in Serie A

 

Diego Godin

Diego Godin to Inter Grade A

For the second year in a row Inter have been able to close the deal for one of the top center backs on the market, especially impressive when you consider that just like Stefan de Vrij, Godin is also arriving on a Bosman transfer. Slowly but surely the nerazzurri are building a formidable backline which was arguably the biggest strength of their treble winning team.

Godin gives Inter a lot of flexibility and opens the door to two potential dominoes- one very positive and another that rightfully makes their fan base uncomfortable. Having Godin at San Siro makes the job more attractive for Diego Simeone while also giving Marotta and Paratici to ponder their options with Milan Skriniar, who has yet to agree to an extension, from a position of strength.

But aside from the potential ramifications of the deal, there’s no doubt that this is a statement signing for the nerazzurri- they are set to acquire one of the five best center backs in the world at time that he was linked to numerous top clubs outside of Italy.

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Aaron Ramsey to Juventus Grade B-

The Welsh midfielder is set to sign a multi year deal with the current Serie A champions after being linked to numerous top clubs in recent weeks, especially Paris St Germain. So for the second year in a row, the bianconeri have signed a midfielder still in his prime from the Premier League after completing the deal for Emre Can. But just like with the German midfielder, odds are Juventus will have to wait until next season to add him on a Bosman signing.

Ramsey will bring many of the attributes Juventus lost after Claudio Marchisio suffered his knee injury, but the question remains if he’ll be able to stay healthy and adapt to Serie A- which has been rather challenging for two previous British players at Juventus, Ian Rush and David Platt. Now granted that was a long time but there’s a no doubt, Ramsey will face a very different reality in Turin compared to London. Considering the high wages Ramsey is expected to receive, which will have a domino effect on the requests of some of his new teammates, this deal does come with some risk for the Old Lady.

Chievo-Birsa

Sebastian Walukievicz and Valter Birsa to Cagliari 5 million combined Grade B+

The Sardinian club have been quite active in the early stages of the January transfer window and have addressed both a long and short term need. After signing two veterans to bolster Maran’s defense in Ragnar Klavan and Darijo Srna last summer, Cagliari closed the deal for highly rated Polish center back Sebastian Walukievicz who had also been linked to Genoa (who has a knack for discovering up and coming players especially recently) and Borussia Dortmund- they now have time to get him used to Serie A before potentially cashing in on Filippo Romagna in the summer.

Birsa on the other hand will help immediately. The former Milan trequartista had been one of the most impactful players in the race to avoid relegation in previous years, he also had his best seasons playing for Cagliari’s current coach Maran at Chievo. If that weren’t enough, they weakened considerably a team who is also competing for salvation for a very reasonable transfer fee.

 

Luis Muriel to Fiorentina Grade B

The Colombian striker first arrived in Serie A back in 2010 so it’s rather wild to realize he’s still only 27. While he never fulfilled the potential that had drawn comparisons to the Brazilian Ronaldo during his stint at Udinese, he’s proven to be an above average striker in Serie A where his speed is particularly valuable- he’ll have an opportunity to play significantly considering that Giovanni Simeone and especially Marko Pjaca (who could leave in the coming weeks) have struggled this season.

Muriel was also linked to Milan, but Fiorentina was able to leverage his close relationship to sporting director Pantaleo Corvino who brought him to Lecce back in 2011. They acquired him on a low risk/high reward loan with option to buy deal.

Gabbiadini

Manolo Gabbiadini to Sampdoria 3 million loan plus 9 million for option to buy Grade B

After a strong start in the Premier League, the former Napoli striker struggled to find consistent playing time at Southampton. Gabbiadini had been itching to return to Serie A, but he must be particularly pleased to be rejoining to Sampdoria where he had the best half season of his career back in 2015.

Gabbiadini should be an intriguing option for manager Marco Giampaolo since his versatility should make him a more natural fit next to Fabio Quagliarella than Gregoire Defrel, a player who could be taking the opposite path and head to the Premier League before the January window closes.

Luciano Spalletti hoping to lure Diego Godin to Serie A

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Serie A giants are working on a deal to bring Atletico Madrid captain Diego Godin to Italy next season, with the Uruguayan’s contract set to expire in the Spanish capital this summer.

Godin, 32, was a transfer target for Manchester United in the summer of 2018, however he opted to remain in Spain – citing family reasons for his decision.

Media reports in both the UK and Spain have claimed that Godin is unhappy with the club’s delay in offering him a new contract, after eight and a half trophy laden years with Los Colchoneros.

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Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #28 – Mourinho Out, Solskjaer In

EuroFantasyPodCover700x300Dave and Jamie discuss Jose Mourinho, and consider whether the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is what Man Utd need right now. They also look at Inter Milan getting back to winning ways, Juventus’ cruising and SPAL’s potential worries.

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What is next for the special one, Jose Mourinho?

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The only news that has engulfed the world of football in the last 24 hours has been the sacking of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. United was supposed to be the dream move for the special one, one that would be filled with trophies, he did win 3 in the end but again just like at Chelsea his relationship with the players broke down and tactics went out the window.

Now Mourinho will be looking for a new job, and whilst major teams might initially hold back given that Mourinho doesn’t seem to be as special as once before we also have to remember that he has won 25 trophies in his career. With the major clubs that he has managed he has never dipped below a 54% win rate and so with this in mind he might just land another very big job, but where? Let’s look at the options.

Real Madrid:

Mourinho landed a few trophies here in his first spell including the league and started to reverse the impact that Barcelona had over Madrid. But his last season ended fruitless and he didn’t leave in the way he would have liked. Most fans of the club don’t want him back, but some of the long standing ones do. Sergio Ramos who voices the dressing room clearly doesn’t want to work with Mourinho again and that could be a sticking point. At the same time Florentino Perez the president of the club does admire him.

Right now Madrid are having a poor season by their standards and it is clear that Santiago Solari isn’t going to cut it long term at the club. Real Madrid could be an option.

Chelsea:

This seems very unlikely given that Maurizio Sarri has started well with the club and all of the other problems the club had with Mourinho near the end don’t make it worth it to pursue this idea. Sure there is some genuine romanticism going on here but a 3rd spell, really? Sarri seems here for at least another 2-3 years so this doesn’t look good for Mourinho, plus maybe he has had enough of the Premier League now.

Bayern Munich:

Just like Real Madrid, Bayern are having a strange season and Nico Kovac has not exactly kept the traditions of the powerhouse team. Kovac’s job is under threat and having Mourinho at the club could make sense. But Mourinho would demand a bigger budget than Bayern usually spend and that could be a sticking point. The other is, could these two entity’s really, truly get along?

PSG:

For Mourinho surely this would be a match made in heaven given that he would have a big transfer budget, and PSG are basically guaranteed trophies in the French league. However current coach Thomas Tuchel is doing a fantastic job. Even if PSG exit the Champions League surely he will be given another season at least. Tuchel has made a positive impact on the Paris club and this move at least now seems very unlikely.

Inter Milan:

Why not a return to the team that gave Mourinho his real legendary status? Plus the fans absolutely love him, even if the press don’t. Mourinho could play his way and not get criticised. And it would be a healthy challenge to break the dominance of Juventus. If Mourinho could get his players on his side this could be a very interesting project to consider.

Another option of course would be to go to China, who would snap up Mourinho like gold dust and make him an offer that would dwarf his reported £15m pay off from United. But why go now when Mourinho is still at an age where he can coach the very best teams. Knowing how Mourinho works this would be bad timing, and doesn’t look like a viable option. The choice looks either to coach Bayern Munich or Inter Milan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jose Mourinho’s 3rd season syndrome strikes again as he is sacked from Manchester United

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Jose Mourinho has been sacked as manager of Manchester United and it should come as no surprise that this has happened, especially as he had just begun his 3rd season in charge of the club.

That’s right 3rd season syndrome has hit the Portuguese manager once again just as it did with Chelsea and Real Madrid in the past and even at Inter Milan, where he won the treble in his 3rd season it still ended up being his last, as he jumped ship. This time just like his second nightmarish experience at Chelsea that ship came calling for him.

At the end of the day losing 3-1 to a great rival like Liverpool and then having it confirmed that your club is 19 points behind them was just too much for the Manchester United hierarchy. Let it be known when he could have been sacked as early as September that the board did seem to give ‘the special one’ more and more time to prove them wrong, but he couldn’t.

Mourinho is sadly now yesterdays man. He can’t seem to stand any confrontation, but players have changed in the past 10 years when he could do very little wrong. The likes of Paul Pogba for example will post things on social media and time and again Mourinho has taken something very innocent out of context, he is in fact like the school teacher who is set in his ways. The result is that he isn’t like Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp who can get the best out of their players. Truth is the new generation of manager also needs to be there for the players and act like a friend at least inside of work.

Mourinho is simply uncapable of that, in some ways he is  a devoted professional and sees the role of a football manager very differently, but it doesn’t work, and if he can’t change then Manchester United should be his last coaching job. Of course for someone who wants to be professional, two things strike to mind that let Mourinho down at his time in Old Trafford. The first was blaming players through the media- what does this do to a footballer? They will simply lack more confidence and not want to play for you. The second was showing no commitment to United. What other manager moves into a hotel for 3 years?

Mourinho’s signings were also  very questionable. Why bring back Pogba for £90m? His signing of Arsenal player Alexis Sanchez looked like a good one, but then he didn’t know how he was going to play him, result, Sanchez has looked like one of the poorest players to have ever graced the Premier League, and yet we know he isn’t. There was a battle to sign Fred, with the United board not wanting to spend, result, Mourinho gets his own way and then hardly plays him.

It will be fascinating where Mourinho ends up next, and one has to wonder if any major club in Europe will want to touch him, although Inter Milan must have fond memories of him. As for United it is expected they will take in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until the end of the season and then offer the job to Zinedine Zidane. Solskjaer is on a win -win situation if he takes the job for the next five months and the fans love and respect him.

Manchester United have not been the club we once knew, perhaps now with this change which was needed we will see a possible re-emergence.

 

Inconsistent Inter fail Roma test

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Inter Milan failed to put any distance between themselves and Napoli, in the race for second in Serie A, with a disappointing 2-2 draw against Roma.

Neither Luciano Spalletti’s side nor Carlo Ancelotti’s are in a position to challenge Juventus at the moment, with the Turin club already 11 points clear after 14 games of the season played.

Napoli can close that eight points, if they win against Atlanta on Monday night, and in turn put three points between them and Inter as the campaign approaches its half way stage.

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Can Juventus put Italy on the map once again and challenge for the Champions League?

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There was a time when Italy was the toast of Europe, regulary winning the Champions League and contesting in finals. From the inception of the competition in 1993, Italian teams featured in the final for 6 years in a row. Winning in 1994 with AC Milan and 1996 with Juventus.

In the 2000s despite the emergence and then the dominance of the Spanish La Liga, Italian football was still strong. There was an all Italian one in 2003 when AC Milan beat Juventus on penalties and Milan would go on to make the final in 2005 losing historically to Liverpool after being 3-0 up at half time and then getting their sweet revenge over the same club in 2007.

But it was around this time when Italy was hit by betting scandals that saw Juventus relegated to Serie B, teams banned and their league titles in the mid 2000s wiped out. And then came Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to put the nail in the hammer being in Spain and dominating with their clubs and end of year trophies.

Of course Inter Milan provided a speed bump by winning the Champions League in 2010 in incredible fashion but they remain the last Italian team to win Europe’s most sought after prize. Since then the flag has been solely flown by Juventus who have reached 2 finals in the past three seasons, losing to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

Now Juventus equipped with Cristiano Ronaldo who has won the competition an incredible 5 times will have their sights on lifting the trophy next year for the first time in 23 years. It would only be the clubs 3rd title if they did so, not so many considering that Juve remain the biggest team in Italy.

But can they do it? Former goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon who has never won the competition believes that they are one of three teams that will win this season alongside Barcelona and Manchester City. Buffon now plays for PSG in a last bid attempt to win it, the only major trophy missing from his resume.

Juventus have been strong this season and yet lost at home to a beleaguered Manchester United side, although they did beat them at Old Trafford. However if those two games had been a knock out one they would be knocked out now. As for Ronaldo he will be trying to win his 4th title in a row and 6 overall to equal the Real Madrid great Gento.

Juventus will be there and thereabouts and it would be a surprise if they didn’t at least reach the semi finals, and it will be fascinating if the old lady can finally rise to the challenge. They are in the last 16 now and have every chance to go as far as they believe in.

Galliani All Star, Players that feel like new purchases

I miss Adriano Galliani. I know many younger readers mainly associate him with the tail end of the Berlusconi era at Milan, where he had to try to work miracles with free transfers and loan deals, but to me few represent the rise and fall of Calcio as much as the Condor.

While it’s easy to associate him with some of the biggest deals in Serie A (Gullit/Van Basten/Rijkaard, Kaka’, Shevchenko, Pirlo etc) I always enjoyed his quotes and style. I’m sure some of you remember him standing outside Mattia Destro’s apartment, or his meetings in Sardegna during the summer transfer window, but in recent weeks Joao Mario’s resurgence made me think of Galliani’s famous saying about an injured player returning “He’s like a new purchase, we don’t need to make any transfer moves”

So in honor of Galliani, I looked at some Serie A players who could feel like new purchase- to be eligible you must have played in less than 300 minutes this season:

 Andrea Conti Milan

Andrea Conti

While most of Mirabelli’s purchases flopped because of poor performances, the former Atalanta wing back has yet to make an impact because of a series of injuries. But make no mistake about it, the 24 year old had made such an impact at Atalanta that he was viewed as a serious competitor to Florenzi for the starter’s role on the Azzurri.

There are however two lingering questions: is Conti another player who looked great playing for Gasperini only to flop on a bigger stage? Will he be the same player after two serious knee injuries? On the bright side, Milan is currently decimated by injuries, and while their current two right backs (Calabria and Abate) are healthy, Gattuso needs all the help he can get.

 

Leonardo Spinazzola

Another former Atalanta wing back is set to return after completing a long rehab, but will Allegri employ him at another position? I must say I expected Juventus to miss Asamoah more than they have so far, the Ghanaian was the bianconeri’s most consistent wing back last season, but Alex Sandro has been more effective this season and even Mattia De Sciglio has shown some encouraging signs in recent weeks.

While Allegri is known for rotating his wing backs often, there maybe a greater need in the midfield in the short term even though Emre Can appears to be getting closer to returning- this is where Spinazzola could make an impact.

 Lautaro-Martinez

 

Lautaro Martinez

While the former Racing striker hasn’t played very often (he’s so far been on the pitch for 263 minutes), he’s already made more of an impact than Gabigol, the player he was most often compared to by Milanisti. There has been some chatter that he could be loaned in January, but considering Keita Balde’s struggles and Spalletti’s propensity to employ different formations, there’s a good chance we’ll see a lot more of Martinez in second half of the season.

Spal - Perugia

 

Faouzi Ghoulam/Alex Meret

 

One of the trademarks of Sarri Ball at Napoli was the exciting run of play on the left wing featuring Ghoulam, Hamsik and Insigne- after numerous triangles to open space, we’d have the inevitable cross to the far post where Callejon was waiting. 

I think few could have imagined Insigne improving as much as he has under Ancelotti, so is it out of the question that Ghoulam will also have a revival?  Prior to his first knee injury, the Algerian international had established himself as the best player at his position in Serie A, and while Mario Rui has been more than adequate this season, Ghoulam even just at 75% would be a considerable upgrade.

Another Sarri trademark was the fact that Pepe Reina’s ability with his feet was deemed more important than the fact he was a below average shot stopper in Serie A. Just like the great Milan teams in 80s and 90s, the keeper position just didn’t feel very important to Napoli until this summer when they invested over 25 million in Meret, one of the most promising keepers in Italy.

Meret injured himself in the first day of the summer retreat, and his rehab has had a few setbacks. In the meantime Ospina has performed well enough that there’s talk of Napoli redeeming his rights well before the summer window, so you have to wonder if this will end up being a lost season for Meret.