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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AC Milan 0-0 Sampdoria: Rossoneri fail to convert their chances in frustrating game

AC Milan failed to redeem themselves after the 5-0 defeat against Atalanta before the break, managing just a draw against Sampdoria at San Siro this afternoon. Certainly, taking their position in the standings into account, one point simply isn’t enough. 

The first half of the game was certainly drowsy, to say the least, as both sides had a lot of technical errors. As a result of this, they both failed to assert themselves and the tempo of the game really dropped. On a positive note, though, Milan had most of the possession in the first 45 minutes. Continue reading

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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Milan bring back Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Seven years later, Milan have reunited with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the club announced on Friday. The 38-year-old striker has penned a six-month contract with a conditional second season and will reportedly earn up to €8M over till June 2021.

Zlatan played at LA Galaxy over the last two campaigns, scoring 53 goals in 58 appearances. He was previously with the Rossoneri from 2010 to 2012, hitting the net 56 times in 85 matches, before leaving for PSG. It is his third stint in Italy after the ones with Juventus and Inter. Over his career he also played for Malmoe, Ajax, Barcelona and Manchester United. Continue reading

Atalanta 5-0 AC Milan: Pioli’s men humiliated by confident Gasperini side

After the goalless draw against Sassuolo, AC Milan were hoping to get back to winning ways against Atalanta this afternoon. At least, they were aiming for a good result ahead of the Christmas break. Instead, they got the complete opposite, as the home side put five goals past Donnarumma. 

Straight away, you could see where the game was heading, as Atalanta played with a very high-line to constantly win back the ball. Furthermore, it looked like Milan didn’t know what to do, which only increased confusion in defence as the home side were allowed to create chance after chance.

The right side, in particular, was complete chaos for Pioli’s side. Musacchio, Conti and Kessie all failed to properly shut down Gomez and Gosens, who continued to get past the defenders and create danger. As we all know, this resulted in the first goal after just ten minutes.

Analyzing the game with a bit of distance, now that the initial feelings have cooled down, it’s safe to say that Milan were rightfully beaten. Quite frankly, they were terrible from start to finish, and any neutral fan would say the same. In other words, Pioli’s men have a lot to work on ahead of the second half of the season.

Although they ‘only’ conceded one goal in the first half, the Rossoneri certainly crumbled once Atalanta added another in the second half, after a period where the game was a bit more balanced. From there on, they just couldn’t recover, while Atalanta continued to push on for more goals.

Fair play to the home side, who just didn’t sit back and defend the three points. However, this also resulted in some gaps in their defence, but Milan weren’t good enough to capitalize on this. On numerous occasions, the Rossoneri could have threatened the home side, but they lacked everything today.

In his post-match interview, Pioli made it clear that the approach was off, taking on responsibility for what he described as a ‘bad week’ leading up to the important game. Certainly, their performance was insufficient, which is a conclusion that anyone can make just by looking at the scoresheet.

For Boban and Maldini, an important task awaits as the January window will open very soon. There is no doubt that the Rossoneri need to reinforce the squad, but being under the observation of Financial Fair Play, the directors will have to be smart when making their business. Most likely, a few players will be sold to fund the signings.

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What to Watch for in Serie A: Round 16

In the wonderfully enthralling world of Serie A calcio, it can be incredibly difficult to keep up with the current news, developing storylines, team performances and individual efforts on a weekly basis. This is where we come in.

As we head into round 16 of play on Italian soil, and rapidly approach the midway point of the 2019/20 season, we will begin to establish what is worth keeping an eye on and what should be less of a priority.

Here are five things to watch for in Serie A this weekend. Continue reading

Bologna 2-3 AC Milan: Another three points in the bag after strong Rossoneri performance

Following the win against Parma last weekend, AC Milan continued on the same path this evening as they managed to beat Bologna away from home. Despite the scoreline, the San Siro side had control over the game, looking more confident than ever. 

The Rossoneri didn’t do much in the first ten minutes of the game, allowing Bologna to own most of the possession. Pioli’s men defended well and gradually saw more and more of the ball, although it seemed neither side managed to cement their play in the early stages of the game. Continue reading

Serie A Round 15 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

League leaders Inter will be looking to extend the gap at the top when they take on Roma in a few hour’s time. Juventus, on the other hand, will be traveling to Roma’s cross-town rivals Lazio and are eager to return to winning ways. However, Ciro Immobile and co. are in sensational form and will arguably have something to say about that. Otherwise, Napoli take on Udinese and Atalanta host Hellas Verona.

With match-day 15 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your elevens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Matthijs de Ligt (CB, Juventus, Value 14.21) – After a phenomenal performance against Atletico Madrid, the Dutchman got the nod against Sassuolo and put in a display to forget. Turkish international Merih Demiral will be wondering what he has to do to get into the side. While the former Ajax man is still young and growing pains are a part of the process, he’s proven to be error-prone this season, costing Juventus both goals and penalties.

With the Dutchman struggling for form and a high-powered Lazio coming up, I would temporarily swap de Ligt out of my fantacalcio side.

Krzysztof Piatek (FWD, Milan, Value 12.00) - When the side’s left-back is the joint top goalscorer on a whopping three goals, you know Milan currently have a striking problem. Since his breakthrough year, the Polish international has looked a shade of his former self and hasn’t found the back of the net since his strike against Lecce back in October. That’s six games without a goal.

At 12 million euros, you can do better and select a player who’s actually in-form. Whether it’s the number nine curse at Milan, a complete lack of service, or his own wastefulness, Piatek is not someone you want in your sides moving forward.

Cristiano Ronaldo (FWD, Juventus, Value 17.36) - Speaking on misfiring forwards, Ronaldo is yet another player who hasn’t exactly played his best football this season and has struggled to attain his typically lofty heights. While there are reports that the former Real Madrid man is nursing a knee injury, Ronaldo has looked a step behind the pace and often finds himself firing shots from unlikely ranges. As of right now, it’s Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain scoring the important goals for Juve and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.

His star-name and past experience may attract you but based on current form, there are better options for his 17.36 million euro price-tag. It may be difficult, but you probably need to drop Ronaldo.

Kostas Manolas (DEF, Napoli, Value 10.73) - When the Greek international joined Napoli, he was supposed to add defensive solidity and form a fearsome partnership with Kalidou Koulibaly. Fifteen match-days into the season and nothing of the sort has taken place. In fact, Napoli’s defence has taken a step-back if anything this season, conceding 18 goals already and only have one clean sheet in their last nine games in all competitions.

While Manolas is not the only one to blame, the former Roma man’s elevated price-tag means he’s a luxury not worth purchasing. Consider replacing him with high-flying fullbacks or the man who took his place in the nation’s capital, Chris Smalling.

Sandro Tonali (MID, Brescia, Value 12.00) - While the midfield maestro has been Brescia’s only bright-spot this season, he has struggled in recent weeks. Since Fabio Grosso’s appointment, Brescia have conceded ten goals, scoring none, and lost all three games. Grosso has since been replaced with the man he took over from, however, that arguably won’t change Brescia’s fortunes.

As a result, you would be wise to temporarily use the 12 million elsewhere and wait until Corini steadies the ship once more.

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Serie A Round 13 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Up

Another international break came and went. Italy made it a perfect 10 wins from 10 matches in 2020 UEFA Euro qualifying with a battering of Armenia 9-1 to put a bow on their campaign, while Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey scored a brace to ensure Wales’ spot next summer in a 2-0 win against Hungary.

While there are still nations battling it out for several remaining spots in the tournament, it is time to redirect our attention back on the club football scene we love so much and bring you those to consider adding to your fantacalcio roster ahead of this Serie A round.

Here are five players to consider this weekend. Continue reading