Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

After two sleepy weeks, Serie A teams have resumed dealing and wheeling with some very interesting purchases over the last few days. Inter finally landed Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United, while Juventus cashed in on Joao Cancelo in a swap with Manchester City, getting back Danilo in the deal. Cagliari pulled off an unexpected one by adding Radja Nainggolan from Inter, then successfully completed the chase for touted prospect Nahitan Nandez from Boca Juniors and, all of a sudden, they have a very crowded and well-assorted midfield despite losing Nicolò Barella.

Milan continue to work on the roster and acquired young centre-back Leo Duarte from Flamengo. He emerged over the last year and a half in Brazil and will contribute to holding down the fort until Mattia Caldara returns later in the year. He will compete with solid but unspectacular Mateo Musacchio to play next to Alessio Romagnoli to open the season.

The week was pretty much dominated by midfielders: a year after letting him go for free, the new Fiorentina management brought back Milan Badelj on loan with option to buy from Lazio, then they snatched Erick Pulgar away from Bologna by exercising the relatively low release clause. The Chilean international was a standout last season and was deadly on penalty, which will come in handy considering the departure of Jordan Veretout. Despite the age difference, the two are pretty similar, so it will be interesting to see whether Vincenzo Montella will tweak his system to accommodate both and perhaps deploy one more attacker.

Genoa have found their new technical leader in Lasse Schone from Ajax who, despite the rather defensive position as pivot, put up great numbers thanks to his ability on set pieces and therefore will be one to look out for in the fantasy game. The Griffon also signed Riccardo Saponara on loan from Fiorentina, whom coach Aurelio Andreazzoli will try to turn into an offensive box-to-box in the Rade Krunic mold, and Colombian youngster Kevin Agudelo from Atletico Huila.

For one brilliant midfielder joining Serie A, another one left as Sampdoria agreed to sell Dennis Praet to Leicester City, who has been a linchpin of their squad over the last three seasons and grew constantly year after year. They acquired Morten Thorsby from Heerenveen and could gamble on a Jakub Jankto resurgence on top of obviously reinvesting the funds on a newcomer.

For once, Atalanta decided to go with an experienced guy rather than bet on potential and brought in Martin Skrtel from Fenerbahce to fill in the gap after Gianluca Mancini left. Gian Piero Gasperini is now back to having five reliable centre-backs to rotate.

A decent coup for Verona, as they won the race for free agent Darko Lazovic, who was pretty good last year at Genoa, where he notched three goals and four assists. He reunites with coach Milan Juric and will be able to play in a number of positions on both flanks. They also grabbed two of the best Serie B players from last season: Gennaro Tutino, on loan from Napoli, who had a terrific year in Cosenza, and Valerio Verre from Sampdoria, who shined in Perugia. They both reached the double-digit threshold and could be significant parts of the 3-4-2-1 tactic Milan Juric is currently using.

Brescia got busy too and signed two presumptive starters in Jaromir Zmhral from Slavia Prague and Giangiacomo Magnani from Sassuolo. The midfielder could be a sneaky fantasy asset, while the centre-back started last season very well but was eventually overshadowed by more talented teammates. Lecce instead added Cristian Dell’Orco, who was serviceable as left centre-back at Empoli in 2018/2019 and will probably end up playing left back for them, alternating with other buzzed about newcomer Brayan Vera.

A pair of players departed from Serie A: Roma sent Rick Karsdorp back to Feyenoord on loan, while Bologna shipped Adam Nagy to Bristol City. The Dutch right back had some okay stretches and at times challenged Alessandro Florenzi, but ultimately he could not stay healthy, while Nagy had become merely a back-up. The Felsinei will have to address the midfield in a meaningful manner.

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Nainggolan returns to Cagliari

After just one year at Inter, Radja Nainggolan has left Inter to join Cagliari, the team that launched him in Italy, on a season-long loan. The midfielder lost a big supporter when Luciano Spalletti was axed and the new course led by Giuseppe Marotta and Antonio Conte decided to cut ties with players that have had behavioral issues in the past.

In reality, the 31-year-old Belgian did not have many issues of this kind in Milan. Last season, after an underwhelming first part where he was affected by muscular injuries and lack of conditioning, he got it going in the final months and ended up registering seven goals and three assists in 36 appearances in all competitions. He had moved to the Nerazzurri from Roma last summer for a €38M bid. Continue reading

Inter acquire Nicolò Barella from Cagliari

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After a lengthy negotiation, Inter managed to sign Nicolò Barella from Cagliari, with a strong assist by the player who refused other destinations even if the talks between the two teams stalled for a while. The formula chosen is season-long loan with obligation to buy and the total package, including some bonuses, will cost around €45M. The 22-year-old midfielder has penned a five-year contract.

Barella has had a steady rise over the last three years in Sardinia, to the point where he became a centre-piece of the Italian national team too. He accumulated 112 appearances with the Rossoblù, scoring seven times and collecting six assists. He had his most prolific campaign in 2017/2018, where he tallied six goals, three on penalties. Continue reading

Marotta and Conte Propelling Inter Forward With A Clear Vision

When Giuseppe Marotta was appointed as Inter’s sporting director after an abrupt departure from Juventus, the nerazzurri sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league.

Rather than being satisfied with vying for a place in the top four, Inter wanted to emerge as contenders once more. Gone are the days of Pazza Inter and they have since been replaced with stability and a particular focus on the team rather than the individual. Marotta’s track record is impressive within Italy, and he played a major role in Juventus’ ascent back to the top of Italian and European football.

However, much of this success couldn’t have been achieved without the initial groundwork laid down by Antonio Conte in 2011. In the tactician’s first season, Juve’s roster was nowhere near what it is today, and frankly was inferior to Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan that they were up against. Instilling this belief of ‘us v them’ and bringing back a sense of accountability to the side, Juventus won their first Scudetto in years against all the odds.

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To this day, It remains a mystery how the bianconeri would finish that season undefeated with the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic leading the line and Paolo De Ceglie featuring regularly. At the same time, however, Juve’s success with limited resources was a testament to Conte’s great work.

Now reunited with Marotta at Inter, expect no less from the veteran tactician. The duo have been together in Milan for a mere couple of months and have already banished notorious bad apples, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan from the club.

As per Bleacher Report, Marotta proclaimed neither player had a spot in Conte’s team. “Talent can win you games, but the squad wins you the league, which is the main objective we are setting out for,” said Marotta. “They are not part of our project, with all due respect.”

While both Icardi and Nainggolan have been among Inter’s top performers and are a major reason behind their recent Champions League qualification, their exclusions show that Conte and Marotta are ready to build a true team rather than a collection of talented individuals; something that the Inter brass have struggled with in the past. If the nerazzurri’s summer activity is anything to go by, you can already see the duo’s work slowly being put into place.

Much like it was the case at Juventus, Marotta turned to a free transfer to shore up a squad need, and brought in Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan is among the best defenders in the world and will fit like a glove in Conte’s back three alongside Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij. In many ways, this is Inter’s version of Juventus’ BBC, albeit with way more to prove.

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Outside of defence, Inter have secured Italian internationals Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi for their midfield. Both players are the archetypal Conte midfielders and possess the qualities the former Chelsea tactician demands. Determined, technical and team-oriented. In Inter’s new-look midfield, Barella will act as a mezz’ala (#8) making late runs into the box much like Marchisio did at Juve while Sensi will be used as the side’s regista. In this role, the former Sassuolo man will be able to make the most of his range of passing and in many ways, will be a poor man’s Andrea Pirlo for Conte.

Realizing that centre midfield wasn’t their only need, Marotta quickly concluded a deal for Valentino Lazaro. At just 23 years old, the fullback has demonstrated he’s a hard worker and is the prototypical two-way player. Lazaro will be a much welcomed addition down the right-hand side; think Stephan Lichtsteiner but with more upside and end-product.

To round off Conte’s 3-5-2, he has requested Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian has blown hot and cold for the Red Devils, finding the back of the net has never been an issue for the former Chelsea man. With his towering physique and keen eye for goal, expect the 26-year-old to slot in wonderfully alongside Lautaro Martinez. Martinez and Lukaku are the typical, hard-working, ‘small-big’ partnership Conte has turned to in the past. Think Vucinic-Giovinco, Tevez-Llorente, Eder-Pelle, and so on and so forth. Inter are reportedly tabling their first bid for the striker shortly and have prioritized the Belgian.

With both Conte and Marotta leaving Juventus on poor terms in their own way, the duo have now reconnected at their fiercest rivals and are well on their way at creating a Juventus 2.0, but this time, in Milano. Banishing drama-kings Icardi and Nainggolan was the first step, followed by the acquisitions of prototypical Conte players. It may not end the same way as the league is much stronger than it was in years past, but one thing’s for sure: Linking up Conte and Marotta is Inter’s best bet at silverware in nearly a decade.

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Serie A Top Six Fantasy Midfielders in 2018/2019

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Predictably, the top point-getters among those listed as midfielders fully play as strikers. Some have done it for few years now, like Dries Mertens, who unleashed holy hell on the opponents down the stretch and run away atop of the chart with his 111 points, and Gregoire Defrel, who had a strong start and a prolific finish and collected 74 points. Others, like Josip Ilicic (72) underwent the transformation mid-season with good profits.

However, as far as the column goes, the choices fell on those who actually feature either as no.10, as winger or as a central midfielder.

Alejandro Gomez (63): he did the opposite compared to his Slovenian teammate, as he commenced the year as second-striker, but moved his position way back as the games went along, featuring as pure attacking midfielder in the second half of the season. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 38

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Ionut Radu (7 points): the best goalkeepers of the round all ended up conceding at least a goal, so the nod goes to the Genoa one for his ordinary but diligent work in the Fiorentina game, where the Griffon came away with the point they needed.

Franck Kessie (9 points): he was a beast in the SPAL match, as he set up Hakan Calhanoglu’s goal with a pinpoint square ball, found the target with a scorcher and ultimately buried a penalty. He concluded an up-and-down season with his finest performance. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Inter vs Empoli

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Inter-Empoli was set to be the match that decided few teams’ destiny in the final round and it did not disappoint from an entertainment standpoint, with the result hanging in the balance up until the final whistle and great end-to-end stuff throughout the contest.

The Biscione went into the contest looking for a win that would have kept Milan behind in the standings no matter what. The Azzuri needed a win to stay in front of Genoa and therefore in Serie A, but also a tie would have sufficed in case the Rossoblù did not got the three points in Florence. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 38

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Standings implications: it was a rollercoaster because of the chronological order of the events, but the Champions League race finished in the same way it was entering the round, as Atalanta and Inter were successful and staved off Milan. The Nerazzurri sent Empoli to Serie B as Genoa’s grand plan to wait for the Beneamata to win worked out, as neither them or Fiorentina were interested in attacking in their match. Roma bid farewell to Daniele De Rossi with a W over Parma.

Among the meaningless games, Juventus got beat by Sampdoria, Napoli by Bologna, while Udinese bested Cagliari on the road and Frosinone and Chievo shared the spoils in a nil-nil tie. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 37

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Sassuolo-Roma: the Neroverdi were handed their first loss since April last week by Torino, even though they certainly put up a fight, despite not being in need of points. The Giallorossi defeated Juventus with a late surge, garnering their fourth win in the last six rounds, tying in the other two and staying close to the fourth spot. Sassuolo have found the target in five of the last six rounds and La Lupa have not been great defensively on the road: they have spread the wealth around since Domenico Berardi was the only one to bag one in multiple matches. Jeremie Boga, Stefano Sensi, Manuel Locatelli and all the defenders contributed scoring-wise: Boga and Sensi have been their most lively contributors in the last few fixtures. The Giallorossi are getting a lot from Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko, while the latest tactical change, if confirmed, would help the likes of Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert, as the last two would see more minutes. Lorenzo Pellegrini is iffy due to a thigh ailment and his absence could allow Bryan Cristante to have a big role.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 36

 

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Gianluigi Donnarumma: Milan have not been great when it comes to keeping clean sheets, but they had a decent shot this week against the short-circuiting Fiorentina, which have managed to score just once in their last five fixtures.

Erick Pulgar: Bologna have won five games in a row at home, giving up a goal in just two of them, and more importantly the Chilean metronome has been a force of destruction on set pieces and could help them put the finishing touches on their late-season run to avoid relegation. Continue reading