Serie A Wishlist: One Player Each For Calcio’s Top Four

With the mercato closing in just under two week’s time, many of Italy’s top sides are scrambling to complete their sides. Inter have been linked with every striker remotely available, Roma desperately need a defender while Napoli are looking at a number of James Rodriguez alternatives. But who exactly should these sides be targeting before the window shuts? Let’s have a look starting with the Italian champions, Juventus.

1) Juventus

Juventus started the transfer window in swash-buckling fashion securing the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs de Ligt, but have recently taken a back seat focusing on player sales. While their roster is arguably the strongest in Italy, there’s no denying it still has a few holes. For one, Danilo has to come good or they’re without a top class right back. On the other hand, the bianconeri could really use another midfielder. That being said, both positions are extremely unlikely and Juventus seem intent on going into the season with what they have.

Otherwise, if Juve are able to sell Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic, and those remain big ifs, they should go all out for Inter’s Mauro Icardi. After all, they could use fresh legs in the final third and have recently sold Moise Kean. You just feel if the Italian champions don’t sign Icardi, they’d have sacrificed Kean for nothing. A player like Icardi, while he comes with personal baggage, is extremely hard to find. As a result, Fabio Paratici should do all he could to be in a position to sign the Inter man come the end of August.

2) Napoli

At the time of writing this, Napoli have reportedly signed PSV’s Hirving Lozano. The Mexican is a versatile forward capable of playing anywhere across the front-line but will likely feature on the wing. Despite his signing, the partenopei are still lacking something in the final third. All too often last season, they dropped points as a result of their own profligacy in front of goal, costing them on their ultimate Scudetto objective.

While Icardi would arguably do wonders under Carlo Ancelotti, the player Napoli should be looking at is James Rodriguez. The Colombian remains on Real Madrid’s chopping block and would add some much needed creativity in the final third. With Insigne and Lozano on either wing and Rodriguez in the hole, Napoli’s front-line would be truly devastating.

3) Roma 

Where to begin with Roma? The giallorossi could arguably use another winger and right back but for the time being will have to settle for a new central defender. Right now, Roma’s centre-backs consist of Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio, Gianluca Mancini and the newly-acquired Mert Cetin.

Out of them, Mancini is of starting quality, but none of the other three names inspire confidence as regular starters. While Cetin is reportedly a top talent, it would almost be too much to ask of the 22-year-old. As a result, Roma would be wise to secure another centre-half. Recently, it’s been reported they’ve been in the market for Daniele Rugani or Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren.

Either would frankly add some much-needed depth at the heart of defence, but what Roma need is a long-term solution. Someone like Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld would be ideal. Before the end of July, he was available for just under 30 million euros, yet the giallorossi refused to meet the Belgian’s release clause. A decision that might come back to haunt them.

4) Inter

The truth is Inter, much like Roma, could use a few players: a left-back to challenge Asamoah, a right back in case Valentino Lazaro flops and another striker for depth. While they could use all three and will likely make a push for three more players, their most pressing need remains a vice-Lukaku. Currently, Inter only possess Lautaro Martinez that they can rely on besides the Belgian.

As Conte typically deploys two strikers and Inter will be competing in three competitions, adding another striker is vastly important. Recently, they’ve been linked with Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik, Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez and Fernando Llorente among others.

Of the three names Inter would be wise to sign the Chilean. Despite his struggles since moving to Old Trafford, moving to Inter could revitalize his career. Under Conte, Sanchez will have new-found motivation and will find a familiar partner in Romelu Lukaku.

Bonus: 

Milan: Angel Correa

Lazio: Bas Dost

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Operation Departures: Paratici’s Dilemma

After securing the signing of Matthijs de Ligt, many lauded Juventus’ mercato and showered their sporting director, Fabio Paratici, with praise. After all, they had just signed one of Europe’s elite young defenders, fighting off Barcelona and a host of other clubs in the process.

However, in recent weeks, in an effort to balance the books, Juventus have looked to offload their high-prized assets on the cheap. First, Moise Kean left for Everton with no buy-back clause inserted in the deal. Then, Joao Cancelo was off to Manchester City for 30 million euros and Danilo, after just a season in Turin. Now, the bianconeri’s top brass are actively listening to offers for their jewel, Paulo Dybala. 

With Financial Fair Play restrictions in place, clubs, at the very least, must show they are spending as much as they’re making; generally speaking. Following the signature of Cristiano Ronaldo and de Ligt, sales were always going to be necessary.

Factor in that Juventus haven’t progressed deep into the Champions League since making the final in 2017 missing out on crucial revenue, it’s clear players were going to be sold. Let’s not forget, the Turin-based giants also reported a significant financial operating loss in their last fiscal year. Fabio Paratici is the man largely responsible with dealing with this, largely through high-profile sales. 

While, in an ideal world, Paratici would find buyers for Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi among others, reality is a different beast altogether. Currently, all of these players are on the wrong side of 30 and are on massive wages in comparison to their output.

Many of them have got a host of offers, but have regularly refused to leave the club. And why should they? Most, if not all, of the offers received for the bianconeri’s wantaways include lower salaries at less prestigious clubs. This has forced Paratici’s hand in his first mercato at the helm and has dictated which players he can and cannot sell. Simply put, there’s a bigger buying market for Dybala than there is for Higuain, for example.

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri recently alluded to this in a press conference.

As I said before, I can talk to Dybala all I like, but the market goes in a certain direction and my opinion counts for zero. We have to cut six players, that’s all there is to it,” said the former Napoli boss, as reported by Football Italia.

When thinking about Sarriball, you would expect Dybala to be one of the first names of the team-sheet. After a season in Massimiliano Allegri’s rigid setup, the Argentine could explode in a false-nine role. In Sarri’s first press conference at the club, the veteran tactician mentioned La Joya alongside Douglas Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo as players he was hoping to count on.

If Juventus are forced to sell Dybala this summer to balance the books, they will undoubtedly regret their decisions to hand Mandzukic and Khedira extensions while failing to definitively offload Higuain. Quite frankly, neither of these three players fit into Sarri’s tactics as well as Dybala does.

Sarri elaborated on this situation further and lashed out against Juventus’ current state.

It puts me in a difficult position. The last 20 days of the market will be difficult for us, it’s an embarrassing situation, because we risk having to leave out players of a very high level,” said Sarri.

It has also affected his pre-season preparation. Given the uncertainty surrounding the transfer window, Sarri has largely rotated between Higuain, Mandzukic and Dybala. Rather than sticking with one preferred front-line and implementing his mechanisms with them, Sarri has been forced to adapt. As a result, it may be long before we see Sarriball fully introduced in Turin.

With just over two weeks left to the mercato, it will be interesting to see who Juventus decide to move. Reports suggest Higuain will join Roma while Mandzukic favours a Bundesliga move. However, as we’ve seen, there are no guarantees and we can just as easily see, fan favourite, Dybala on his way out. Whether you like it or not, buckle your seat-belts Juventus fans, you’re in for a bumpy end to the summer transfer window.

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Petrachi’s vision for Roma is starting to take shape

roma

The first month of the summer transfer window was quite painful for Roma. While almost everyone expected to see Kostas Manolas leave because of his below market value exit clause, seeing him end up at Napoli was the worse case scenario, since not only did he stay in Serie A, he went on to improve a direct competitor for a Champions League spot. Then we had both De Rossi and Totti leave the top in controversial manner, followed by El Shaarawy’s decision to play in China.

The giallorossi’s new sporting director Gianluca Petrachi inherited a team that lost its captain, best defender and most consistent attacker after failing to qualify for the next edition of the Champions League. But the former Torino ds has made significant progress in rebuilding the giallorossi in the past few weeks.

Petrachi addressed the two positions with the most imminent needs by acquiring Pau Lopez and Gianluca Mancini. The former Real Betis player is the most expensive keeper in Roma’s history, his acquisition is a clear sign the club learned from the mistake of gambling Olsen to replace Alisson while the former Atalanta center back confirmed at the recent Under 21 Euro that he’s ready to become an important player for Mancini’s senior Azzurri squad.

mancini

The improvements shown by Bryan Cristante in the second half of last season, should give Roma fans hope that Mancini won’t be another example of Gasperini’s fool’s gold struggling at a bigger club. On top of his defensive prowess, Mancini also was the defender to score the most in Serie A last season.

Petrachi also rekindled an important relationship on the transfer market with Juventus. Following Miralem Pjanic’s move to Turin via his exit clause, the giallorossi had stopped doing business with the bianconeri- but the clubs rekindled their bond by consuming a deal that was mutually beneficial financially with Leonardo Spinazzola moving to Italy’s capital and Juventus acquiring the younger Luca Pellegrini (both clubs recorded a significant capital gain for this transaction).

To help replace De Rossi’s contributions on the pitch, Roma made significant investments in Amadou Diawara and Jordan Veretout. Both players have significant Serie A experience and could be the starters in front of the defense in Fonseca’s 4 2 3 1 with Lorenzo Pellegrini playing in his preferred role behind the central striker.

Petrachi’s first round of moves will likely have a domino effect on what we can expect next. After a disappointing first season in Serie A, Steven N’Zonzi will almost certainly be sold since there’s no longer a need with him with Diawara and Vertout on board- he’ll likely join either Marseille or Lyon. Spinazzola’s ability to play on both sides of the pitch will likely make Alessandro Florenzi expandable, his departure would continue the exodus of the “Romani” from the club and of the players with high salaries.

The deal for Spinazzola could be the appetizer to a bigger move between Juventus and Roma. The bianconeri are determined to move Gonzalo Higuain, and despite his brother’s public stance of not wanting to play for another Serie A team, the Argentine striker is warming up to the idea of being the focal point in Fonseca’s attack. But now the clubs have to find a suitable financial arrangement because Higuain enormous annual salary of 18 million euro before taxes isn’t sustainable for Roma.

higuain

Juventus are trying to convince Higuain to extend his contract which currently has two years remaining to add a third season while lowering his salary over the live of the contract. The bianconeri would likely have to sweeten the deal to ensure they don’t have his amortized value on the books for the current fiscal year. 

In addition to Higuain, Roma are also looking to add Suso to bolster their front line- but at the moment Petrachi would prefer to send a player to Milan in exchange rather than just pay his 40 million exit clause- but it’s hard to envision Boban and Maldini having any interest in the likes of Javier Pastore.

While Pau Lopez and Mancini are a nice start to the improvement of a subpar defense, Petrachi needs at least another starting caliber center back because of Fazio’s age and Marcano’s return to Porto. Landing Toby Alderweireld would be ideal since he would bring significant experience to help in Mancini’s growth- just like Higuain, it would be a substantial financial investment but at least Roma can count on Franco Baldini (who previously worked for Alderweireld’s current club Spurs) working as the intermediary in the negotiation.

Petrachi will also have to figure out what to do with Edin Dzeko, who would almost certainly join Inter should Gonzalo Higuain arrive, as well as Nicolo’ Zaniolo. The giallorossi have struggled to reach an agreement with his agent Vigorelli on an extension, and judging by Petrachi’s public quotes, there seems to be quite a bit of distance. Zaniolo could be used as an asset to unlock either the Higuain or Alderweireld deals while bringing in a significant plusvalenza.

While Petrachi inherited numerous challenges, he has started to rebuild a new Roma by addressing the biggest needs first- what he does in the coming weeks will now determine how ambitions the giallorossi can be next season.

 

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

deligt

All in all, it was a pretty quiet week in Serie A, but it still included some massive deals, as Juventus pulled off one of the transfers of the summer by acquiring Matthijs De Ligt from Ajax, while Roma have commenced re-building the back-line with Gianluca Mancini from Atalanta and won the race to sign Jordan Veretout from Fiorentina

The Orobici have signed Ruben Malinovskyi from Genk, who is somebody to keep an eye on fantasy-wise since he was extremely productive in Belgium, thanks to penalties and other set pieces. Continue reading

Roma win the Jordan Veretout sweepstakes

veretout

Jordan Veretout was one of the most heavily sought-after players in this start of transfer market window and, in the end, it was Roma which came out on top, edging Napoli, which was interested earlier but then focused on other targets, and especially Milan, which tried up until the last fewy days but ultimately could not reach agreement with Fiorentina. The Giallorossi paid €17M plus €2M add-ons to purchase him with the formula of a loan with obligation to buy.

The 26-year-old midfielder leaves La Viola after two positive seasons, where he accrued 75 caps and scored 15 times. In the most recent campaign, he was a little affected by the general blah state of the team, but  still managed to hit the mark five times, always on penalties. Continue reading

Roma acquire Mancini from Atalanta

mancini

Roma have signed Gianluca Mancini from Atalanta, their first addition to the back-line after losing Kostas Manolas and Ivan Marcano. The 23-year-old defender joins on a €2M season-long loan with a €13M obligation to buy from Atalanta (plus €8M add-ons) and inked a five-year deal.

Mancini took over the starting job in his second season with the Bergamaschi, after the departure of Mattia Caldara, collecting 30 appearances in 2018/2019. On top of showing considerable improvements and impressive muscularity in the back, he was a proper menace attacking on set pieces and found the target five times. He has been a regular in Roberto Mancini’s recent call-ups and featured twice with the Azzurri. The Goddess signed him from Perugia in the summer of 2017 after he displayed good promise in Serie B. Continue reading

Suso rumours gathering steam; should AC Milan sell their star?

As Milan prepare for the upcoming season, Boban and Maldini are trying to work out what the squad should be like. Along with Giampaolo, therefore, they will have to decide which players should leave this summer, with the pre-season acting as a trial for those who are in the danger zone. 

One of these players is Suso. The Spaniard is arguably one of the Rossoneri’s best players, some would even say that he is the best, but next season will most likely be different. Giampaolo is keen on using the 4-3-1-2 formation, playing with a trequartista behind the two strikers. As you can tell, it clashes with Suso’s best interest, as he is at his best when playing on the right flank. Continue reading

The Expandable players in Serie A

higuain

We are at the half way point of the summer transfer window in Serie A and while all the top clubs have already made some significant additions, the focus now needs to shift a bit on getting rid of some expandable players to lower the wage bill and raise funds to make some further acquisitions.

 

Let’s take a look at which players could be sold in the coming weeks for each of the top clubs, these aren’t top targets for other teams like Milinkovic Savic or Joao Cancelo, but rather players clubs would be more than happy to get rid of, but as they say one man’s trash can be another’s treasure 

 

Juventus

 

Gonzalo Higuain, Sami Khedira, Mario Mandzukic, Mattia Perin

Despite the arrival of the manager who got the most out of him in Maurizio Sarri, Juventus are determined to find a team willing to pay Higuain’s enormous salary and cover his amortized value for the 2019/20 season (even better if someone is willing to do that until the end of his contract in June of 2021). West Ham are interested and Roma would take him in a heart beat to replace Edin Dzeko.

Allegri’s departure ensured that two of his favorite players, Khedira and Mandzukic, would also be on their way out despite the fact they both signed extensions less than a year ago. Khedira has been linked to Fenerbahce while Mandzukic could return to the Bundesliga.

Buffon’s surprising return to Turin was the final blow on a devastating stretch for Mattia Perin. The former Genoa keeper never seriously challenged Woj Szczesny for the starting job, which also caused him to fall behind Cragno and even Meret in the pecking order for the Italian national team. With no logical destinations left in Serie A for him next season, Perin will likely try to get his career back on track at Benfica.

 verdi3

Napoli

 

Simone Verdi, Elseid Hysaj

 

The former Bologna attacker is coming off a disappointing first season under the Vesuvius. He had previously decided not to join the club when Maurizio Sarri was at the helm since he knew there would be a significant lack of rotation, but things didn’t go much better with Carlo Ancelotti. Verdi could find himself at Torino or another mid table club where he can play regularly.

Last season Hysaj fell behind Malcuit and even Maksimovic on the depth chart at right back and while he had been linked to Manchester United at the beginning of the transfer window, he will likely have to settle for a less glamorous destination.

 miranda2U

Inter

 

Miranda, Joao Mario, Borja Valero, Mauro Icardi

Miranda had already complained with his lack of consistent playing time last season and now with Diego Godin’s arrival, he’ll certainly leave Milano this summer. Now that Inter acquired Lazaro to be the starting right wing back, D’Ambrosio can be a backup that can also be used as a center back in Conte’s back line- plus we know Conte held Ranocchia in high regard when he was playing for Bari.

With Niccolo’ Barella and Stefano Sensi’s arrivals, Inter will look to shed both Joao Mario and Borja Valero which would save them significantly on salaries. The Portuguese international has been linked to Monaco while the Spaniard could head back to Fiorentina.

Icardi is such a complicated situation that he deserves his own article, but he was recently excused from the rest of Inter’s summer retreat.

 biglia

Milan

 

Diego Laxalt, Fabio Borini, Lucas Biglia

Even before Paolo Maldini returned to the club as a director, the rossoneri have had a fascination with left backs. So it was not completely surprising to see them make their first significant investment of the summer on Theo Hernandez which all but guarantees either Diego Laxalt, who would be a superb fit playing for Gasperini at Atalanta, or Ricardo Rodriguez who could bring in a decent plusvalenza.

Milan have repeatedly tried to include Lucas Biglia in a potential deal with Fiorentina for Jordan Veretout, but the Viola have balked at idea of taking over his substantial salary. Getting a team to pay him 3.5 million after taxes for the coming season won’t be easy and the same can be said with Borini’s 2.5 million figure. 

 nzonzi

Roma

 

Steven N’Zonzi, one out of Alessandro Florenzi, Nick Karsdorp or Aleksander Kolarov

The recent acquisitions of Amadou Diawara and Leonardo Spinazzola, who expect to have substantial roles under new manager Fonseca, have made a few players expandable- including a World Cup champion and the team’s captain.

N’Zonzi never really adapted to Serie A and could head back to France, while Florenzi’s significant salary makes him a prime candidate to leave. Kolarov has been heavily linked to a move to Turkey as well as Inter but could be used a center back next season following Manolas and Marcano’s departures.

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

barella

Another interesting transfer market week is in the books: Roma was the most active among the top teams, both acquiring and selling players. After three solid seasons, Stephan El Shaarawy was lured away by Chinese money, while Pau Lopez from Real Betis is their new starting goalkeeper. They let go two fringe players: Gerson joined Flamengo after the up-and-down loan spell to Fiorentina, while Ivan Marcano returned to Porto after failing to make an impression last season. After much wait, Inter finally concluded the negotiation to sign Nicolò Barella from Cagliari, while Milan announced Rade KrunicContinue reading

Underestimate Roma at your own risk

Over the years, Roma have consistently sold the side’s best performers due to constraints imposed by Financial Fair Play. This past summer has been no different in the nation’s capital. Kostas Manolas is already on his way to Napoli, while Edin Dzeko to Inter seems to be a mere formality. Despite the need to balance the books, the giallorossi have still managed to put together an impressive team, and frankly, are a few additions away from being a bonafide top four side next season.

After hiring Paulo Fonseca, a young and progressive tactician, Roma wasted no time and secured Napoli regista Amadou Diawara in the Manolas deal. For just under 20 million euros, the giallorossi signed one of Italy’s most promising young midfielders, and an ideal talent to play at the base of Fonseca’s 4-3-3. Diawara struggled for consistent playing time at Napoli, but will use this move as an opportunity to recreate his past form.

Alongside Diawara, two of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo and Bryan Cristante will likely feature. After an initial rough patch, Pellegrini has demonstrated he has what it takes to play for a top club, and has developed into a real menace between the lines in the final third. It also remains to be seen how Fonseca will fit Zaniolo in his setup, but he would compliment Diawara and Pellegrini nicely in a midfield three.

With newcomer Leonardo Spinazzola and club bandiera Alessandro Florenzi getting forward with regularity, expect free-flowing football at the Stadio Olimpico next season. However, for this to happen, Spinazzola will need to stay fit while Florenzi will need to up his game after a sub-par season.

In addition, young players like Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert will be given a new lease on life under Fonseca and will be encouraged to express themselves to the fullest. Under has displayed his talent in glimpses, but needs to maintain his form over the course of an entire season if he’s to be relied upon. Kluivert, by contrast, had an indifferent first season with Roma and will be looking to redeem himself, especially if Stephan El Shaarawy leaves for China as it’s being reported.

Patrik Schick is another player who could benefit from Fonseca’s appointment. Since arriving at the club, the Czech international has looked devoid of any confidence, and has struggled to impose himself. In his breakout season with Sampdoria, the striker netted 11 goals in just 14 starts; a pattern of form Roma will be eager for the 23-year-old to recreate.

While Roma fans will be feeling hard done by their recent sales, at the very least the club is moving forward with a clear direction in mind. At the moment, their squad is young, vibrant and full of Italian talents on the upswing. Given Fonseca’s past experience with Shakhtar, he seems to be the ideal candidate to lead the giallorossi in the next phase of their rebuild. If recent reports are to be believed and Roma add a quality centre-back, don’t be surprised to see the giallorossi high up the table challenging Italy’s elite. Underestimate them at your own peril.

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