AC Milan right to focus on the midfield this summer

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According to the latest reports from Italy, AC Milan have decided to allocate a majority of their summer budget to reinforcing the midfield: an area which has been lacking true quality in the last few years. Therefore, it is only right that the Rossoneri are aiming to fix the issue. 

Thus far, various media outlets have linked them to several midfielders, with the new manager Giampaolo having a say in who would fit into his 4-3-1-2 system. In just a matter of days, concrete links with the likes of Pellegrini, Praet, Sensi, Torreira and Veretout have emerged, making it tough to separate the facts from fiction. Continue reading

Two scenarios behind AC Milan’s decision to keep Suso

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Just a few weeks ago, it seemed like Suso would be on his way out of AC Milan this summer. Instead, following a meeting between the Rossoneri and the player’s agent on Thursday, it looks like the Spaniard will remain. However, what is behind this sudden change in strategy?

Of course, no one can question the decision to keep Suso if you look at his quality. In recent years, he’s been one of the best players for the Rossoneri, getting good numbers despite his usual ups and downs during the course of a season. However, will he even be usable in Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 formation next season? Continue reading

Juventus announce Sarri as their new coach

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It took longer than anticipated, but Juventus finally have their new coach: former Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, who has reportedly penned a three-year, €18M contract. Sarri is coming off a third-placed finish with the Blues and recently won the first trophy of his career by beating Arsenal in the Europa League final. It took a small financial compensation in order to release him from his deal with the English club. Despite the relative success of his tenure, Sarri butted heads with the players and the management and was never embraced by the fans during his time in London and at some point was at risk of being axed mid-season. Continue reading

Bernardeschi opens up and Buffon weighs in on Juventus matters

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Federico Bernardeschi continues to be one of the most talkative players and his interview to Fashion Illustrated was published yesterday: “I became a man at Juventus, one that tries to learn and improve every day. The passion for football is innate. I was told that I was already chasing after the ball at three, it was love at first sight and I can consider myself lucky now since my job is my greatest passion and enjoyment. I am interested in fashion and music too.”

On his career: “When I was eight, I commuted almost every day to practice in the Empoli’s youth academy. My parents and I made big sacrifices. I saw it as something entertaining, but it was a lot of travel. Continue reading

AC Milan’s summer revolution: taking a look at the new management

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In the last few weeks, a lot has changed for AC Milan. After missing out on the Champions League once again, although this time they came really close, it was obvious that a revolution was needed.

To make a long story short, the decision of both Gattuso and Leonardo to leave the club had a significant impact on the outcome of the Rossoneri’s new management, which after weeks now seems to be as good as done. In addition to these departures, with UEFA and FFP bearing down their throat, a change in strategy was needed.

With CEO Ivan Gazidis at the helm, the new management was formed. Paolo Maldini, who during the past season worked alongside Leonardo, was officially named as the club’s new technical director yesterday. In addition to the former captain, yet another legend was appointed by the Rossoneri: Zvonimir Boban. The Croatian was favoured by Maldini, taking the role as the Chief Football Officer, leaving his job at FIFA.

In other words, Elliott (the owners) are not messing about, giving it a second go after their first season with the club nearly ended in glory. Obviously, the departure of Leonardo wasn’t ideal, especially with regards to the transfer market, though his honest approach will also be missed.

So, what can AC Milan expect from his replacement, Boban? Well, as it seems, he’s very straightforward and direct in his approach, which often reflects in his work. This is something that the San Siro side certainly needs: clarity. In addition to this, his friendship with Maldini will hopefully keep them on the same page, avoiding any internal conflicts.

Of course, the management is far from complete, with at least two important positions left to fill: the manager and the sporting director. As it seems, however, Milan have already found their men, and only the official announcement is missing. For the managerial role, it’s expected that Giampaolo will be revealed on Monday, as he was officially let go by Sampdoria today.

In regards to the sporting director role, former Roma director Frederic Massara is in pole position for the job, having left the Giallorossi earlier this month. Perhaps, as Milan decided to announce two new additions to the management in Boban and Maldini, they might do the same on Monday, thus revealing both Giampaolo and Massara.

For once, the entire Rossoneri management seems to be on the same page, which is a huge relief, to say the least. Furthermore, it consists of qualified people, something which Milan have lacked over the years. Given how things are developing on the transfer market, which will be looked at in a separate piece, one can only hope that the San Siro side are actually on their way back.

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Matthaus links Rodriguez to Juventus and Higuain’s future update

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Lothar Matthaus revealed in an interview to AS Colombia that he believes James Rodriguez will move to Old Lady after chatting with the player: “I met him during the celebration for the last Bayern title and talked about everything, from Colombia to the history of football. I think he will join Juventus: he is very close with Cristiano Ronaldo, they are in touch and the Portuguese would like to bring him to Turin. James is a great assist man and they do brilliant things together.” Rodriguez will leave Bundesliga as the club did not pick the €45M option to buy him, so it will be up to Real Madrid to decide his future. He has often been linked to the Madama in the past, but in recent weeks he appeared way closer to Napoli, which is helmed by his former coach Carlo Ancelotti. He scored 15 times and provided 20 helpers in 67 apperances in the last two years in Germany. Continue reading

Genoa choose Andreazzoli

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After a dismal finish that brought them to the brink of relegation, Genoa have decided to move on from Cesare Prandelli, who took over midseason, and hired Empoli’s coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, the one they sent to Serie B thank to a better head-to-head record.

The former Italy coach had an okay start in December after replacing Milan Juric, losing just a pair of times in the first two months, but then his side plunged into a long crisis and failed to win from the start of April on. Few ties down the stretch proved to be just enough to avoid going down. He had a year left on his contract. Continue reading

Allegri takes a sabbatical, Rugani eyes extension and Barzagli talks

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Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri confirmed yesterday that he will have a sabbatical during an event in Milan: “I will take a break for a year because I need to regain control of my personal life. I have been in the whirlwind for the last 16 years, so I neglected a little my family, my kids and my friends. I will use this opportunity to recharge ahead of next season.” He had a year left on his contract and so far there have been no news about its conclusion with a severance package.

Daniele Rugani’s agent Davide Torchia spoke to Radio Bianconera about a potential new extension for his client that appears to be in the works: “We had the last one in March, but it was just a technicality, we had discussed it way back. Continue reading

Empoli Trio Set for Big Moves

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Despite being relegated to Serie B in heart-breaking fashion, Empoli’s roster contained many up and coming talents. Following their relegation many Serie A side are looking to claim their best players on the cheap.

Just last week, Napoli signed Giovanni Di Lorenzo – who had his best season yet, scoring five goals and registering three assists – while Empoli’s underrated midfield trio has since been dismantled.

Today, it was reported that Juventus signed Hamed Traore for 12 million euros and will loan him out immediately to Sassuolo. Fiorentina reportedly signed him in the January transfer window, but forgot to deposit his contract with the league. Juventus took full advantage of their mistake, and snapped up the midfielder immediately.

The 19-year-old had a phenomenal season under Aurelio Andreazzoli, and established himself as one of the league’s most enticing midfield prospects. Equally capable of defending as he is attacking, Traore looks to be a complete midfielder, and will undoubtedly make the move to Juventus in the near future if he keeps developing.

At Sassuolo, Traore finds himself in an ideal situation and will play under yet another progressive manager in Roberto De Zerbi. As a result, expect Traore to continue his progression next season.

Outside of Traore, Rade Krunic also made the move to one of Italy’s elite. Milan signed the Bosnian midfielder for 8 million euros, and will reunite with his former manager Marco Giampaolo. While Krunic isn’t exactly the big-money move Milan fans wanted in the midfield, he will offer some much needed depth and creativity to the side. Capable of playing as a mezz’ala or behind the striker, if need be, Krunic will get plenty of minutes to prove himself.

In his 33 appearances this season, the midfielder scored five goals – two of which were wonder-strikes against Sassuolo and SPAL. Other than his ability to find the back of the net, the former Empoli midfielder registered seven assists, highlighting his directness and ability to pick a defence apart at will. At just 25 years old, and given he’s already familiar with Giampaolo, expect Krunic to only improve from here, and make the most of his move to Milan.

Ismael Bennacer, on the other hand, is still at the club for the time being, but it’s only a matter of time before the midfielder leaves. Currently, Genoa are favourites for his signature, however, it’s important to note that Arsenal hold the right to match any accepted offer. In the past, a number of English and French clubs have been linked with the Algerian midfielder, therefore don’t rule out foreign interference yet.

Playing at the base of the midfield, Bennacer dictated tempo at will for Empoli. His five assists are but one indicator of his immense talent, and range of passing. While signing with Genoa would represent a lateral move, it’s only a matter of time before the 21-year-old makes the leap to a big club. In addition, reuniting with Andreazzoli, would give him a sense of familiarity he’ll need to keep developing.

With Krunic and Traore already gone, it hasn’t taken long for Empoli to cash in on their talents. As the summer transfer window rolls on, expect the Tuscan-based outfit to continue profiting on their scouting exploits.

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Roberto Mancini Puts Italy on the Right Track

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Since being appointed as Italy boss, Roberto Mancini has set Gli Azzurri on the right path, and has guided them to four wins out of four in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign thus far. 

In their most recent clashes, Italy travelled to Athens to take on Greece, and dispatched their European counterparts within thirty-three minutes, by a score of 3-0.

In their next game against Bosnia, Mancini’s men fell behind early, but mounted a second half comeback to prevail by a score of 2-1. Under Gian Piero Ventura, the side lacked character, and would have likely dropped points in a game like this. With these two wins, Italy now find themselves comfortably in first place, scoring 13 goals, and conceding one in the process. In addition to getting results, this is the best football Italy have played in recent memory, and have demonstrated an identity.

Once again, Mancini was rewarded for sticking with the highly technical midfield of Nicolo Barella, Jorginho, and Marco Verratti, and now has his side well on their way to the upcoming Euros. Together, the trio provide a blend of youth, experience and quality on the ball, and offer the national team some much needed creativity in the final third.

While many initially doubted the midfield’s defensive awareness given their smaller frames, Verratti, Jorginho and Barella have demonstrated they are capable of offering solidity to their back four. Given their similar profiles, Verratti and Jorginho often interchange roles at the base of the midfield, and don’t give their opponents a reference point.

With Barella making late, unmarked, runs into the box, it makes for a truly malleable midfield; something the Azzurri have sorely lacked over the past four years. The Cagliari captain’s drive has been rewarded, and already has two goals on the qualifying campaign.

Much like it’s the case in the midfield, Mancini has not shied away from taking risks with his front three. Since his appointment, the former Inter tactician has called up a number of up and coming talents, including the likes of Moise Kean and Federico Chiesa among others.

In the past, Ventura was afraid to take risks, and typically stuck with Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti up front, despite their struggles. When both strikers were misfiring, Italy did not have a plan B, and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. Rather than having set starters, like his predecessor, Mancini has mixed and matched at will, and has used a plethora of forwards across the front line. This keeps the Italian forwards on their toes, and ensures no one gets complacent. Moreover, if Italy are struggling in the final third, Mancini is able to turn to different solutions.

One player that has benefitted immensely from Mancini’s reign has been Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne. The diminutive forward was reduced to a bit-part role under Ventura, and largely struggled to make an impact on the pitch when called upon. Under Mancini, Insigne has established himself as a crucial player, and has scored two goals in his last two games. In addition, his assist to Verratti against Bosnia helped Gli Azzurri seal all three points.

On the defensive end, on the other hand, Mancini has decided to maintain the status quo and has typically gone with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. However, the Italian tactician has tinkered with his fullbacks, alternating between Leonardo Spinazzola, Emerson and Gianluca Mancini. While Mancini is a centre-back, he offers the Azzurri tactical flexibility from the right-hand side of defence, and often drops as a third centre-back when in possession. With the Atalanta man dropping centrally, it allows the left-back to get forward and overload with his winger.

While it’s still early days for Gli Azzurri, the future looks bright under Roberto Mancini. Using a blend of experience, and youth, the Italian tactician has demonstrated character both in his selections, and tactical setups. With no one’s place in the team secured, Italy have – for the first time in a while – shown hunger, and a desire to return to the top.

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