Summer Shopping: Serie A’s Top Five Targets

With the year winding down to a close, most Serie A sides already have one eye on the summer transfer window. While this past season may not have gone to plan for most of Serie A’s elite, a majority of them are just a couple of additions away from being serious competitors. Here’s one player for each of the league’s top five. For brevity, Atalanta and Lazio among others have been excluded.

1) Juventus: Tanguy NDombele (Lyon)

After yet another European failure, it’s time Juventus address their midfield issues once and for all. Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele is among world football’s hottest prospects in the middle of the park, and has demonstrated he’s ready to play for a bigger club. Just this season, NDombele went head-to-head with both Barcelona and Manchester City’s deep midfield ranks, and did not look one bit out of place.

Just recently, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas came out and said he’d willingly sell NDombele to Juventus ahead of other suitors, provided “his friend” Andrea Agnelli pays up. The Frenchman would slot in seamlessly alongside Ramsey and Pjanic, however, it remains to be seen if NDombele is a concrete target for Juventus.

2) Napoli: Donny van de Beek (Ajax) 

The Ajax midfielder may not get as much credit as his fellow compatriots Frenkie de Jong, and Matthijs de Ligt, but he’s proven to be just as important for them between the lines. van de Beek burst onto the scene this season, and emerged as a essential aspect to Erik ten Hag’s tactical schemes, roaming between the opposition’s lines at will, and getting himself into dangerous scoring positions. Outside of his crucial goals against Juventus and Tottenham, van de Beek is good with the ball at his feet like most Ajax graduates, and would slot in wonderfully into Napoli’s midfield.

Since Hamsik’s departure, the partenopei have lacked a driving force in the midfield, and van de Beek could prove to be exactly what’s needed. Alongside Fabian Ruiz, expect the Dutchman to wreck havoc. Napoli could also use a fullback, but that goes without saying.

3) Inter: Timothy Castagne (Atalanta)

Inter are one of the most well-rounded outfits in Serie A outside of Napoli and Juventus, and don’t require much tweaking this summer. With Mauro Icardi and Lautaro Martinez up top, and the trio of de Vrij, Skriniar and Godin at the back, Inter are simply lacking a manager to put it all together. Should Antonio Conte arrive as it’s being reported, he will undoubtedly field a back three, with his traditional wing-backs in a 3-5-2 setup.

With both the back-line and strike partnership more or less sorted as well as the midfield, Inter could use another wingback as they are unlikely to redeem Vrsaljko or Cedric. Here’s where Atalanta’s Timothy Castagne comes in. The Dutchman has been a key element to Gasperini’s side over the years as a wing-back, and is a traditional Conte player. Castagne’s play is eerily reminiscent of a prime Stephan Lichtsteiner, however, blessed with more end-product. As a result, I expect him to become a priority for Marotta, whether or not Conte arrives.

4) Roma: Juan Musso (Udinese)

This past summer Roma tried replacing Alisson with Swedish international Robin Olsen, and Serie A journeyman Antonio Mirante. Neither have proven to be a long-term solution to the departed Brazilian, leaving the giallorossi without a reliable number one going into next season. Luckily, there are a number of up and coming shot-stoppers in Serie A that Roma could turn to.

While Alessio Cragno and Alfred Gomis are interesting options, Roma should look no further than Udinese’s Juan Musso. The Argentine has gone from strength to strength this season, and has made the number one spot his own in Friuli with a string of impressive performances. In the past, Roma have shown a propensity to take a risk on goalkeepers on the cusp, and should do the same with Musso. They won’t regret it.

5) Milan: Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) 

Where to begin with Milan? The rossoneri could use a creative midfielder, a left winger and arguably another centre back. Ajax’s Ziyech checks off two of these boxes and should be made a priority in Milanello. With just a 25 million euro release clause, Ziyech is both cost-effective, and has the potential to become a world class player in the near future.

As he’s typically deployed as a ball dominating, out-and-out winger, his signing would take off some of the creative burden from the likes of Suso, Paqueta, and would even allow Calhanoglu to feature centrally more regularly. Not to mention, Ziyech has tormented elite opposition this season, be it in the Champions League or in the Eredivisie. Milan shouldn’t say no to his teammate David Neres either if Ziyech isn’t feasible.

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Recent rumours demonstrate the coherence of Man City’s transfer strategy

There’s a scene in the Amazon Prime docuseries ‘All or Nothing: Manchester City’ in which the curtain is pulled back on the club’s transfer methods. City Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain, is joined around a conference room table at the club’s Etihad Campus by various scouting and recruitment figures. In this setting they discuss the way forward in the transfer market.

A serious injury suffered by Benjamin Mendy has raised the prospect that a replacement might have to be signed in January. Begiristain and his staff, however, already have a shortlist of potential targets drawn up. This is the sort of holistic thinking that hasn’t just seen Man City spend big in recent years, but spend smart too.

Manchester City v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group C

Recent rumours linking them with Rodri, Tanguy Ndombele and Florentino Luis underline this. None of these players would be the kind of blockbuster signings to truly excite supporters, but Man City need a central midfielder to eventually succeed the ageing Fernandinho and these three certainly fit the bill.

When City need a certain type of player, a player to fill a position, they draw up a list that gives them different avenues to explore. It could be that they are priced out of a move for Rodri by Atletico Madrid this summer, with the Spanish side desperate to keep the young midfielder. In that case, they would move on to Ndombele, who might be more affordable, or even Luis, who would be the easiest of the trio to lure given Benfica’s status as a selling club.

This sort of strategising is in stark contrast to what we see from some of City’s Premier League rivals, most notably Manchester United. The Old Trafford outfit have the resources to compete with Man City in the transfer market, but they lack the structure and approach of their rivals. Even now, with a summer overhaul expected, there is no sense of a plan in place at United like there is at City.

It’s unlikely that this summer will be a blockbuster one for Manchester City in the transfer market. The core of their team will remain, as it should, with only a handful of signings, at most, made. But it’s this gradual replenishment of the team that has sustained City as a force for so long and it looks set to continue, at least on the basis of recent rumours.

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Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

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1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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Three Players Juventus Should Sign in The Summer

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With Juventus on the brink of Champions League elimination after a number of unimpressive performances, it’s time for a squad overhaul. While Aaron Ramsey is a good start at addressing their woeful midfield, the Welshman alone will not be enough to propel the bianconeri to European glory. In defence, Juventus’ core is getting old with Leonardo Bonucci showing signs of wear and tear. Daniele Rugani, by contrast, has frankly not lived up to the hype and has proven to be nothing more than a luxury option off the bench. Up top, on the other hand, it’s time Juventus sign a young, link-up target man, as Dybala, Ronaldo and Mandzukic have been an awkward fit for one another. Here are three players Paratici should have at the top of his wish-list.

1) Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

Matthijs de Ligt needs no introduction and is without a doubt Europe’s top young defender at the moment. If you look up the definition of leader in the dictionary, the young Dutchman’s face will pop up. After having won the Golden Boy award in 2018, becoming the first defender to ever win the award, de Ligt has gone from strength to strength.

Right now, de Ligt is Ajax’s rock at the back, and is captaining the side deep into the Champions League, past European supergiants and reigning champions Real Madrid. Just last month, the 19-year-old became the youngest ever player to captain his side in a Champions League knockout clash, and has not looked one bit out of place.

While competition for the defender’s signature will be at an all-time high, Paratici and co. must go all out and sign de Ligt. If it takes 80 million euros, then so be it. With Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli on the wrong side of 30, it’s time to refresh their backline, and what better place to start than with de Ligt. Despite his age, the Dutchman is arguably already in the top ten defenders in the world, and must emerge as a priority for the bianconeri. Otherwise, Juventus’ elite defence of the past will become nothing but a distant memory.

2) Tanguy NDombele (Lyon)

For the past two seasons, Juventus’ midfield has held the side back in Europe’s elite competition and cannot be ignored come summertime. With Ramsey already on his way on a bosman transfer, Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele would be an ideal fit alongside Juventus’ current options.

NDombele is a one-man midfield, and has consistently proven he can cut it at the highest level, especially in Lyon’s most recent clash against Barcelona. Much like de Ligt,the Lyon midfielder does not let his inexperience seep into his play, and largely dominates proceedings as if he’s a seasoned veteran in the middle of the park.

Alongside Ramsey and Pjanic, the Frenchman would be able to express himself freely and offer some much needed creativity without sacrificing industry. Right now, Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can have looked out of place in Allegri’s setup, and have proven to be far too limited for elite football.

Considering Paratici will have to deal with notorious negotiator, Lyon president and French businessman Jean-Michel Aulas, it won’t be easy. In any case, NDombele is Juventus’ best option to rebuild their midfield, both in the short-term and in the long-run.

3) Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) 

This one is a bit trickier for Paratici. Safe to say, Ronaldo hasn’t yet blended in with Mandzukic and Dybala, despite his impressive goalscoring record, and Juventus require an all-round support striker to get the best out of him. At Real Madrid, Benzema acted as the Portuguese superstar’s foil.

With Mandzukic showing signs of slowing down, it may be time for Juventus to start looking at younger options up top. Since making the switch to Germany, Jovic has improved all aspects of his game and has developed into a real force to be reckoned with, scoring 21 goals and registering five assists in all competitions.

With Jovic alongside Ronaldo and Dybala behind them, whoever’s at the helm of Juventus, could recreate Zidane’s blueprint at Real Madrid and get the side scoring freely again. While it may not be an immediate need, Juventus will not have Ronaldo forever and must make the most of his presence while he’s in Turin. Jovic would go a long way in this respect.

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Squad Overhaul on the Horizon at Juventus

With Juventus conceding six goals in their last two games, question marks have been raised about Massimiliano Allegri and his side’s ability to deliver the Champions League for the first time in 23 years. In just over two weeks time a clash against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid awaits where the stakes could not be higher. A round of sixteen exit would be a disastrous end to an indifferent campaign for the bianconeri; a campaign in which European success was stressed from day one at Villar Perosa. Despite signing Mr. Champions League himself – Cristiano Ronaldo – the Italian champions look no closer to winning Europe’s elite competition than they were last season. In fact, you could argue their chances at winning it all are lower. If Juventus’ recent woes are anything to go by, it means a squad overhaul is on the horizon.

After whimpering out of the Coppa Italia in embarrassing fashion against Atalanta, Juventus hosted newly-promoted Parma. For the first time since March 2012, the bianconeri lined up without one member of their famous ‘BBC’ trio and fielded a hardly inspiring centre-back partnership of Daniele Rugani and latest acquisition Martin Caceres. Since Mehdi Benatia’s departure, reports have surfaced that the Juventus brass would entrust Rugani with a bigger role moving forward, however, it’s safe to say, the defender failed in his first real test.

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