Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round Eight

Robin Olsen: he is putting together a nice bounce-back season after having a rough go with Roma in the previous campaign. He is not as good as Alessio Cragno, but he could take advantage of the fact that SPAL are still scoreless after three road games.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo: the move to a bigger club has not hurt him, on the contrary it has raised his profile and helped him earn an Azzurri call-up. He has scored once and provided one assist so far, entrenching himself as a valuable part of the offense. It does not hurt that Verona usually have trouble scoring. Continue reading

Ranking the reasons for concern with Milan

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Feels like Berlusconi is still motivating Milan players with the Hip Hip Hurra routine because the club simply hasn’t improved despite numerous changes at ownership, director, manager and squad level.

While you could say the loss to Inter in Saturday was rock bottom since they had no shots on goal and the gap with their cross town rivals was clearly evident, just a few weeks before Milan had lost to Udinese who since that performance has looked like the worst team in Serie A. The situation is clearly dire, but the you can only solve a problem If you admit there is one, so let’s rank the reasons for concerns at Milan from mildest to most severe:

So far Marco Giampaolo looks like a liability rather than an improvement over his predecessors

Like many others who cover the league, I pointed out numerous times that at bare minimum Giampaolo would be Milan’s best manager since Max Allegri from a tactical standpoint. The former Sampdoria skipper had previously replaced Maurizio Sarri at Empoli, a natural transition for the Tuscan club since both play similar styles- high press, building from the back without emphasizing long balls and building the team around an offensive mentality.

Well so far Milan’s game plan has looked exactly the same as it as under the previous two managers- get the ball to Suso and hope he creates something from nothing. While he was at Empoli and Sampdoria, Giampaolo also improved numerous young players- Torreira, Skriniar, Andersen, Praet- and got a career season out of Quagliarella. That is hard to replicate at Milan when we still see players like Biglia, Calhanoglu and Castillejo starting over the promising young studs Boban and Maldini acquired.

It’s also safe to say Milan played with much more intensity under Gattuso, who also handled the media in a much more proficient way. It’s not out of the question that see him return to replace Giampaolo before the end of the year.




Piatek and Paqueta’s regression

Milan’s summer transfer window was quite underwhelming in part because of the fact (now former) sporting director Leonardo rightfully decided to spend significantly last January to go all out to make a Champions League spot, which would have then given the club the revenues needed to continue the rebuild. While the decision made sense, the fact that Milan came up just short of making it back to Europe’s biggest competition has now put the club even more behind the eight ball.

To make things worse, the two players Leonardo invested significantly on last January- Paqueta’ and Piatek- performed very well for Gattuso but have regressed substantially under Giampaolo. Milan’s new manager is having a hard time figuring out where to use the Brazilian midfielder and Piatek is the latest victim of the curse of the number 9 jersey at Milan.

Best players are still Donnarumma and Romagnoli

First we had Mirabelli, then Leonardo and now we have the triumvirate of Boban/Maldini/Massara running Milan’s mercato since Adriano Galliani stepped aside once Berlusconi sold the club. Mirabelli spent a small fortune without acquiring a single building block while wasting valuable resources on numerous busts which is the root cause of the rossoneri’s current FFP problems, Leonardo swung and missed on the disastrous deal with Juventus for Higuain and Caldara.

This summer Milan targeted young players with a lot of potential and lower salaries, and while Bennacer, Hernandez, Leao and Rebic have significant upside, at this time it’s hard to argue against the fact Donnarumma and Romagnoli are the only players currently on Milan’s squad who could play a significant role on Juventus, Inter or Napoli. Certainly Giampaolo has been a letdown as manager, but there’s still a significant lack of talent on the team.

Serie A is getting better and Milan continues to fall behind, to make things worse they have to deal with Financial Fair Play parameters for the foreseeable future

Despite all the criticism he received for his tactical limitations, Rino Gattuso had the rossoneri competing for a Champions League spot going into the second half of the last match of the season. That outcome seems completely far fetched for this current campaign since we have 3 teams who clearly look in the top tier (Juventus, Napoli and Inter) while last season we had two spots for the Champions League up for grabs going into the final match day.

So with just one spot likely realistically available to qualify for the one competition who can bring the revenues Milan is desperate for to improve the squad, the margin is even smaller. If that wasn’t bad enough, Atalanta improved their squad this summer and will soon have a modern club owned stadium, Lazio kept all of their top players and added a difference maker in Manuel Lazzari while Roma seems to have found a manager who can get the most out of their talent in Paulo Fonseca.

While Inter was able to deal with their Financial Fair Play parameters in recent years by making substantial plusvalenze on their top youth team players, Milan’s Primavera team managed to get relegated last season.


Serie A Match of the Round – Milan Derby

The most anticipated match of the round had a clear winner, as Inter came out on top with a two-nil result, but it was still pretty intense and entertaining.

The Nerazzurri came into the game having won the three previous matches against Lecce, Cagliari and Udinese, but had to bounce back from lackadaisical and costly performance in Champions League against Slavia Prague. Milan had scraped by Verona and Brescia in the last two. Antonio Conte kept Antonio Candreva on the bench since he suffered a knock in the most recent fixture, picking Danilo D’Ambrosio to man right flank, while the rest of the XI was the standard one, with Lautaro Martinez partnering Romelu Lukaku up front and Nicolò Barella in the midfield. Marco Giampaolo changed his selection again as he fielded Rafael Leao up front, next to Krzysztof Piatek and Suso, while Andrea Conti filled in for the suspended Davide Calabria at right back. Lucas Paqueta and Ismael Bennacer were again left on the bench. Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Round – Milan vs Lazio


There was not really any proper cracker in this round, so let’s go with the most influential clash, Milan-Lazio, which had very heavy points on the line, as the two sides are right in the middle of the battle to secure a Champions League berth.

Both sides were looking to bounce back after unsatisfactory results, as the Rossoneri had not won in four rounds in a row, the Biancocelesti in the last two, which were quite feasible against SPAL and Sassuolo.

Coach Gennaro Gattuso trotted out the same XI used in the previous match, so with Fabio Borini completing the trident next to Suso and Krzysztof Piatek and Hakan Calhanoglu in the midfield. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 30


Samir Handanovic: the Inter defense has not been super stingy on the road, but this week they will tangle against Genoa that has scored just once in their last five fixtures. The veteran goalkeeper always gives his contribution.

Joao Cancelo: he could have a massive role on offense since Juventus will be down few attackers and they will also need a big performance out of their defense to topple Cagliari. Alex Sandro is in lesser form could be a good selection too.

Rogerio: Sassuolo are not very trustworthy defensively, but the date with Chievo is usually a good medicine for those problems. The young left back has sometimes done damage scurrying down the flank. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Report – Round 27


Standings implications: Juventus further extended their lead after pummeling Udinese as Napoli equalized in Sassuolo. Both Milan and Inter were successful against minnows in this round, the Rossoneri beat Chievo, the Beneamata did the same with SPAL, and therefore head into next week’s Derby separated by just one point, with the Devil on top. Roma sweated it out by bested Empoli and remain in pursuit. Atalanta recorded a big win in the Europa League race by besting Sampdoria on the road, but Torino staged a comeback in Frosinone and the two remain hand-in-hand, while Lazio lost some ground as they were held to a one-one tie in Florence. Waiting to see what Empoli will do, only Bologna took home the W in the rear: they stay in the 18th spot, but have closed a little the gap with Empoli, SPAL and Udinese.

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Winners of January Window in Serie A

Diego Godin

Serie A with Bosman Signings


For the second year in a row Juventus was able to sign a midfielder from the Premier League with Aaron Ramsey following in Emre Can’s footsteps. Whether both or even either of them proves to be effective enough to truly upgrade the bianconeri’s biggest weakness remains to be seen, but managing to sign both when there was significant competition to do so is still a sign of strength on the market.

While Juventus looked to expiring contract market to address a weakness, Inter doubled down on a significant strength by agreeing to terms with Diego Godin. The Uruguyan center back gives the nerazzurri significant flexibility- is he coming to form a formidable 3 man back line alongside Milan Skriniar and Stevan De Vrij with Antonio Conte looking like a heavy favorite to replace Luciano Spallerri next season, or is he coming to replace either Miranda or Skriniar who could break transfer fee record for a defender set by Virgil van Dijk? 




While there was disappointment that Leonardo and Maldini weren’t able to close the deal for either Carrasco or Deulofeu, the rossoneri are still the most improved team competing for a Champions League spot and despite the complaining by fans over the unfairness of FFP, no club in Europe spent more than the rossoneri during the January window.

Piatek and Paqueta fit in well with the request of their nucleus (Donnarumma, Romagnoli, Bakayoko and Suso) both for their age and characteristics on the pitch. Higuain’s departure could also end up being a significant addition by subtraction since he was becoming a substantial distraction.

 ACF Fiorentina v UC Sampdoria - Serie A

Pantaleo Corvino


When you look at Fiorentina’s sporting ability to discover talents, it’s really no surprise that Fabio Paratici refers to him as a “maestro”. During the January window Corvino leveraged his personal relationship with Luis Muriel which dates back to their time together at Lecce to convince him to join the viola over Milan. The Colombian striker is off to a flying start on Pioli’s squad and is giving the contributions many expected from Marko Pjaca.

While Muriel has made an immediate impact, Corvino also got a substantial head start on the summer window by signing Empoli’s Traore’ and Rasmussen who will finish the season on Iachini’s squad where they can play regularly as well as Polish talent Zurkowski. 




The blucerchiati brought Manolo Gabbiadini back to Serie A to offer Marco Giampaolo another option up front following Defrel’s production plummeting in recent months. Gabbiadini is versatile enough to be a good complimentary piece to Fabio Quagliarella this season while also having enough talent to have more of a role as a protagonist in coming season.

In addition to Gabbiadini, Sampdoria also redeemed the rights to stand out keeper Emil Audero from Juventus. The former Venezia backstop has been one of the best at his position in Serie A this season and considering his young age, they would be able to sell him for substantially more than the paid last week.




The felsinei started the season with one of the worst squads in Serie A following Simone Verdi’s departure and Mattia Destro becoming an expensive backup. The club acted quickly in the January window by signing both Sansone and Soriano, two above average offensive weapons to help support Santander and Palacio. Their early arrival gave Pippo Inzaghi a fair chance to try to turn things around, but the team continued to struggle as proven by the fact they haven’t won a match since late September.

After Sinisa Mihajlovic replaced Inzaghi, Bologna made two more additions with defender Lyanco and winger Edera who both arrive from Torino on loan. The team is now in much better position to avoid relegation since they have a battle tested manager with an improved squad.




The Sardinian club’s main accomplishment in January was to hold on to stand out midfielder Nicolo’ Barella who was heavily linked to Chelsea and Napoli. Roberto Mancini must also be happy with this development since Barella will finish the season in a system where he’s comfortable and also the star.

While it’s almost certain that Barella will leave in the summer, Cagliari already brought in his replacement for next season in Christian Oliva, who arrived from Nacional for 4 million plus bonuses. The Uruguayan midfielder will have a few months to get acclimated to Serie A before he’s acted to take on a substantial role. 

In addition, Cagliari added two veterans who have a lot of experience in the race to avoid relegation in Thereau, who can either start next to or replace Pavoletti and Valter Birsa who had his best season playing for the Sardinian club’s manager Maran when they were together at Chievo.




The newly promoted built on the strong momentum from their excellent first half of the season by adding defensive midfielder Kucka who has a lot of experience in Serie A. The former Milan player already made a big impact in the surprising draw against Juventus at Allianz Stadium on Saturday and could be an important player next season as well.

Parma were also able to retain their best defender Bruno Alves, who recently signed an extension, after he was linked to Juventus as a possible replacement for Benatia and Inter who were looking for insurance on Miranda’s potential departure.


Grading the recent transfer moves in Serie A





Juraj Kucka to Parma B+


After finishing the first half of the season closer to a Europa League spot than the relegation zone, Parma didn’t rest on their laurels during the January window. Following the brilliant Gervinho addition, the newly promoted club decided to bring back Kucka to Italy in order to give more muscle to D’Aversa’s midfield. The Slovakian international has six years of Serie A experience and can be an important player for Parma next season as well.


Krzyzsztof Piatek to Milan B


Granted it’s a very small sample size, but the rossoneri have looked like a different team since Gonzalo Higuain left. Gattuso’s team looked much more fluid in both games against Genoa and Napoli and it’s certainly possible the players are much looser now that all the questions on the Pipita’s future have ended. 

Piatek’s annual wages are about a quarter of what Higuain was earning, and considering how poor the Argentine striker had been in the past few weeks, the drop off (if any) shouldn’t be very substantial especially if Piatek keeps playing like he did in the last twenty minutes of the match against Napoli.

While Milan weren’t able to include any players in the deal for Genoa, they showed a lot of financial strength by paying the 35 million euro transfer fee in one installment. After Paqueta, Milan have now added another player in his early 20s to add to their young nucleus, they are still legitimate contenders for a Champions League spot now while also ensuring they have a squad with a lot of upside for next season.

There are however two questions marks that remain following this transaction- what is it about Milan that both Bonucci and Higuain, two players good enough to start for an elite team like Juventus, that they both wanted to leave so soon? Are Cutrone and Piatek compatible or mutually exclusive?

For Genoa the Piatek deal is a financial home run. They made a 30 million euro profit on a player they had acquired just last summer, and by selling him quickly, they ensured they won’t have any Belotti like regrets in case he can’t continue his impressive scoring streak from the first half of the season. But they are also losing a key player while still being in the middle of the relegation race, they’ll need Kouame to lead the line and hope that Sanabria adapts quickly to Serie A.


Stefano Sturaro to Genoa C+


Preziosi’s club is known for being very active In the January window, and this year was no exception. In addition to Sanabria and defender Pezzela who arrived from Udinese, they also brought back to Sturaro on loan for 1.5 million with a vested option to buy for 8.5 million. While the Italian international never lived up to expectations at Juventus, he should bring some much needed muscle to Prandelli’s midfield.  

The Sturaro deal fits into a larger picture between the two clubs, Juventus previously acquired Mattia Perin and are the clear favorites to land center back Cristian Romero, one of the revelations of the Serie A season, next summer.


Martin Caceres to Juventus C- 


Speaking of Juventus center backs, the Uruguayan international returned to Turin after two previous stints at the club. While Caceres is familiar with what to expect with the bianconeri, there’s no denying he’s a considerable downgrade from Mehdi Benatia, the player he’s going to help replace, at this stage of his career.

While some expected the policy of respecting the player’s will to end with Beppe Marotta’s departure, Juventus didn’t force Benatia to stay after he received a rich offer from Qatar. While the Moroccan international is injury prone and had a reduced role after Leonardo Bonucci’s return, he was arguably Allegri’s best pure defender after Giorgio Chiellini and hence a valuable piece of the puzzle in Juventus’ pursuit of the elusive Champions League cup. 

Benatia’s transfer is a great opportunity for Daniele Rugani, a player that has typically only started against the bottom table teams in Serie A this season. It will be interesting to see if Allegri trusts him in a big game over Barzagli (who is rehabbing from an injury) and newly arrived Caceres should Chiellini or Bonucci suffer an injury.


Cedric Soares to Inter B 


Following Sime Vrsaljko’s injury (and disappointing first half of the season), the nerazzurri acted quickly to give Luciano Spalletti a new starting caliber right back. Soares arrived from Southampton on a loan for 500k with an option to buy worth 11 million, considerably cheaper than what they would have had to pay Atletico Madrid to retain Vrsaljko permanently.

Soares was picked over Joao Cancelo to play for Portugal in the last World Cup and as Gazzetta dello Sport reported, no player had more crosses than him in the Premier League in the past four seasons. 

Alvaro Morata’s Atletico Madrid move stalls

alvaro morata chelsea

Alvaro Morata’s move to La Liga title challengers Atletico Madrid is yet to be completed, with both sides saying they are still some way off an agreement for the 26 year-old.

The Spanish international looks certain to end his stay in West London, but time is running out ahead of the closing of winter transfer window at the end of January.

Atletico have confirmed that they are interested in bringing Morata back to Madrid, where he spent five years at rivals Real Madrid, across two separate spells, however manager Diego Simeone confirmed that nothing is yet agreed between them.

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Piatek & Belotti- better the egg today than hen tomorrow


“Meglio l’uovo oggi che la gallina domani” is what Enrico Preziosi must have been thinking when pondering what to do with Krzysztof Piatek during the January window. The Italian saying which translates to “better an egg today than a hen tomorrow” could also be seen as a play on Andrea Belotti’s nickname “Il Gallo”- the rooster, whose dip in transfer value was likely a stark reminder to Genoa’s president that it’s better to sell a player a (half) season too soon than a full season too late.

After a meteoric start to his Serie A tenure in which his goal scoring streak saw him match records of players like Zico and Shevchenko, Piatek was already being linked to Premier League clubs. In addition, if you believe Preziosi and De Laurentiis’ public quotes, Napoli’s bid of around 40 million was rejected since Genoa wanted to see what the Polish striker could do over the course of a full season before establishing his transfer value.

Then came Preziosi’s stunning decision to sack Davide Ballardini, despite the fact that the manager had the team close to the Champions League zone and oversaw Piatek’s incredible start. The Polish scoring machine stalled under Ballardini’s replacement Juric and some wondered if the real gem on Genoa’s attack was actually Piatek’s partner Christian Kouame’.

So when Gonzalo Higuain pulled a Bonucci and pushed to leave Milan as soon as possible, Preziosi decided that he would not pass on another opportunity to turn a massive profit on Piatek after investing under 5 million euro to acquire him last summer from Cracovia. The framework of the deal with Milan was agreed to on Friday and the transaction is expected to be completed after the two teams face each other on Monday.

Piatek will try to end the striker curse at Milan which in just the past 18 months has seen the up an coming Mendes jewel Andre Silva, the functional to Montella’s system Kalinic and now the bona fide big name Higuain fail to live up to expectations. This is a daunting task to say the least, especially when arriving mid season. 

To get a better gauge of the odds on Piatek ending this curse for the rossoneri, I asked Marco Bovicelli- who covers Genoa for Sky Sport- how he would describe the Polish striker and this is what he told me “He’s like a bolt of lightning, very fast with his feet and mind. He gets the ball and if situation allows it within one two seconds he shoots. If he only gets three good balls in a match he’ll score at least once. He’s young, works hard and has significant margins for improvement”

While seeing Genoa sell their best players is nothing new and will continue in the summer when standout defender Cristian Romero and Kouame’ also move on, Torino tried to take a different approach with Andrea Belotti a few years ago. The granata rewarded their main striker with a significant raise, in exchange they were able to insert an exit clause worth 100 million euro in his contract- they also made it valid only outside of Italy to ensure Juventus wouldn’t try to weaken their cross town rivals.


Now many interpreted this as Torino setting his value at 100 million, but in reality the clause was there to ensure their best player would stay short of an indecent offer. While now it’s easy to mock Torino for over valuing Belotti, those who follow Serie A often complain that the level of the league would improve further if clubs tried harder to keep their best players- the problem is Torino may have picked the wrong one.

After receiving substantial profits for Darmian, Glik and Maksimovic, Torino’s president Urbano Cairo decided he would change course and try to elevate his team. Considering how hard it is for mid table teams to find consistent goal scorers, Cairo turned down substantial bids from Atletico Madrid and Milan to keep Belotti. While we can admire his ambition and desire to not be like many other Serie A clubs, a series of injuries to Belotti, followed by some poor performances, made that decision seem foolish.

Last summer Torino decided to go all in with Belotti. They kept Iago Falque and added Roberto Soriano and Simone Zaza to give him even more support, but so far the results haven’t lived up to expectations. Soriano already left while Zaza has yet to make a real impact.

You have to wonder if West Ham’s recent interest in Belotti to potentially replace Arnautovic who has been linked to a move to China, will make Cairo decide that an egg today is worth sacrificing his rooster over during the January window.