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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Losers of the summer transfer window

Last week we looked at the winners of the summer transfer window now that we have a fairly substantial sample size of games, while today we’ll look at the teams that so far have not received many positive returns from their summer acquisitions:

 

Juventus- the first summer window without Beppe Marotta was rather challenging for Fabio Paratici and Pavel Nedved. It’s bad enough that the team would likely be far worse off had they sold Gonzalo Higuain, who was so at the margins of the project that he changed numbers from 9 to 21, and Paulo Dybala who was very close to both Manchester United and Tottenham, but beyond that, so far you can question the decision of investing significantly on Mathijs De Ligt over a stud midfielder like Milinkovic Savic or Pogba.

One of the reasons you can question the De Ligt signing is however the emergence of Mehdi Demiral, but by the same token investing a ton in wages in both Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot has so far backfired even though they arrived on Bosman deals just like another player at the margins of the project in Emre Can.

Paratici has so however looked like a genius with the sales of Joao Cancelo and Moise’ Kean, who just like Caldara have yet to make an impact at their new clubs. While Danilo has failed to make an impact at wingback, Juan Cuadrado has reinvented himself as a well above average right winger and Rodrigo Bentancur has been the biggest beneficiary of the Sarri hire. Paratici has been able to move both Perin and Mandzukic. But he still has a bloated payroll and question marks in his midfield.

 

Milan- safe to say Marco Giampaolo was completely in over his head at Milan, but he also wasn’t set up to succeed since his squad wasn’t built for the (only) formation he was known to use. Now you can forgive a bit of chaos when you consider that Milan had four different sporting directors in four years and this summer had the inexperienced Boban, Maldini and Massara trio in charge, but the only new addition that clearly looks like a keeper is Theo Hernandez.

Leao showed some flashes but has also been described as immature off the pitch, Bennacer had as many dreadful performances as great matches (but at least does seem like a potential building block), Duarte and Krunic battled injuries, Rebic could return to Germany after just 6 months and the two big additions from last January Piatek and Paqueta’- who were brought in a bit early to try to clinch the last Champions League spot- could both leave in January.

While the Ibrahimovic signing shouldn’t be seen as a repudiation of the youth movement at the club, it also could be seen as a sign of desperation after another poor summer transfer window.

 

Genoa- I was very impressed with what Preziosi’s club did in the summer since they bolstered their defense by signing Zapata, who had his moments at Milan, and bringing back Barreca to Serie A where he used to be an above average left back. Landing Schone, who just a few months before was starting in a Champions League semifinal for Ajax, was quite the coup as well as adding highly rated Inter prospect Pinamonti to their front line.

But while things can look good on paper, in the end “decide il campo” (the pitch decides). Genoa never clicked under former Empoli manager Andreazzoli and hiring Thiago Motta as his replacement was a gamble that didn’t pay off. Genoa now already added Mattia Perin and Valon Behrami to try to avoid relegation in the second half of the season.

Sampdoria- while Genoa looked good on paper to me, you could see their cross town rivals were in big trouble going into the season. They banked on Quagliarella coming close to his standards from his previous, sold their best defender in Andersen and their best midfielder in Praet. With the club up for sale, president Ferrero wasn’t going to invest significantly but Andersen’s replacement Murillo and highly rated Argentine prospect Maroni have been busts.

 

Torino- going with continuity really paid off for Lazio so far this season, but the same cannot be said for the granata who brought back manager Mazzarri as well as essentially the same squad. Center back N’Kolou was essentially kept against his will rather than letting him reunite with Petrachi at Roma and Izzo, who signed a rich extension, hasn’t performed at the level of last season making the defense significantly worse than a year ago.

Torino invested significantly to acquire Ola Aina on a permanent basis, but the former Chelsea wing back was often benched in favor of Ansaldi and new addition Simone Verdi, who was expected to go back to his Bologna form after a difficult season at Napoli was called out publicly by both manager Mazzarri and president Cairo,

 

 

PREVIEW: Torino-Fiorentina

Two teams in poor form meet this Sunday, neither Torino nor Fiorentina pleased with the start they have made to the 2019/20 season. Both began the campaign with aspirations of returning to European action, but the Granata – who have won just twice since September – sit tenth, just one point and three league places above their next opponents.

Continue reading

Time for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to wake up from hibernation and join in the fun at Lazio

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Lazio passed their autumn test with flying colours.

A demanding run of league fixtures between the October and November international breaks, interspersed with Europa League outings, promised to be the make-or-break moment of the season for Simone Inzaghi’s side after a mixed start.

It’s safe to say that taking 13 points from a possible 15 in games against Atalanta, Fiorentina, Torino, Milan and Lecce exceeded expectations.

Not only that, but it left the Biancocelesti in third place, albeit on goal difference, restoring their Champions League dream. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Round – Torino

Cagliari fumbled away a glorious fantasy haul by giving away not one but two late cheap goals against Fiorentina. Therefore, the team that earned the best result in this round was Torino, which crushed Brescia on the road in the first game with Eugenio Corini at the helm. The Granata had not won in six rounds coming into the contest, but had fared decently in last week’s Derby with Juventus.

Walter Mazzarri picked Bremer over the other options in the back, selected Ola Aina as right wing-back, fielded both Sasa Lukic and Soualiho Meite with Daniele Baselli out of commission and trotted out Simone Verdi next to Andrea Belotti, as Simone Zaza and Iago Falque are both on the mend. Continue reading

Lazio are flying high again – but are they too dependent on Ciro Immobile?

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It never ceases to amaze how quickly moods shift and narratives change in football.

This time last week, the critics were sharpening their knives as Lazio headed back from Glasgow, having thrown away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 for the third time this season against Celtic.

It extended the club’s winless run to three games and left the Biancocelesti with a fairly bleak outlook in Serie A and in the Europa League.

But a 2-1 win away to Fiorentina on Sunday was followed by the capital club’s best performance of the season on Wednesday, as they blew away Torino with a magnificent 4-0 victory in Rome. Continue reading

What to Watch For: Torino vs Napoli

Round 7 of the still young 2019/20 Serie A season is highlighted by the Derby d’Italia between first place Inter and reigning 8-time champions Juventus for what has already been confirmed to be a record-setting gate attraction for the affair, generating €6,5 million.

However, there are plenty of intriguing matches taking place elsewhere across the continent, including Turin where Walter Mazzarri’s Torino will host Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli.

Here are five things to watch for on Sunday. Continue reading

Serie A Round 5 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

Match-day four brought just as much drama and stoppage time heroics as previous weeks and has now set up an intriguing slate of fixtures ahead. Inter look to remain atop the table against Lazio while Juventus will be locking horns with yet another newly-promoted side in Brescia. Otherwise, Roma will be taking on Atalanta in what promises goals and excitement. Napoli, on the other hand, take on the in-form Cagliari and will need to be careful not to slip up against the Sardinians.

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

Suso (ATT, Milan, Value 17.9) - The former Liverpool man had a performance to forget against Milan’s fierce rivals Inter and will be kicking himself for not passing the ball on the rossoneri’s most dangerous counter-attack in the first half. While Suso has arguably been Milan’s best performer and ther catalyst in the final third, his selfishness and poor decision-making on the ball will not go down well with Marco Giampaolo.

As Milan continue to struggle for an identity and look laborious in the final third, expect Suso to keep encountering issues. At 17.9M there are frankly better options. For the time being, you should seriously consider swapping him out of your lineup.

Nikola Milenkovic (DEF, Fiorentina, Value 18.2) - The Serbian international is among the most promising defenders in Serie A, yet, still has ways to go before establishing himself as a consistent performer in Italy. Despite an ambitious summer, Fiorentina’s struggles have continued from years past and they appear set for another indifferent season. They may have encountered a difficult schedule, but their defensive issues are worrying nonetheless.

Moreover, Montella’s men have already conceded eight goals this season, two of which came in their most-recent collapse against Atalanta. Up two goals, la viola fell asleep conceding two careless goals against Gian Piero Gasperini’s men. While Milenkovic has all the tools to take the next step in his career, at 18.2M it’s time to move on.

Ricardo Rodriguez (DEF, Milan, Value 17.9) - The Swiss international has maintained his spot in the eleven over Theo Hernandez to begin the season, however, has begun showing signs of slowing down. Against Inter, Rodriguez put in a horrid performance and was regularly beaten by his man. Whether he was being careless at the back or lackluster in the final third, it’s clear the former Wolfsburg man needs a spell on the bench.

Considering Hernandez‘ impressive cameo performance, don’t be surprised to see the Frenchman given the nod over Rodriguez this week. As a result, you should consider dropping the Milan man before his value drops too much.

Duvan Zapata (ATT, Atalanta, Value 21.8) The burgeoning forward has picked up where he left off last season scoring three goals in his first four appearances this season, however, simply put, he looked off the pace against Fiorentina.

Zapata is at his best when he imposes his physique on the opposition and plays off the defender. Against Fiorentina, the former Napoli man displayed signs of fatigue indicating some rest may be on the horizon for him. With Luis Muriel and Josip Ilicic in good form, expect Zapata to be rested in Atalanta’s upcoming game. After all, Gasperini can’t afford to burn him out.

Daniele Baselli (MID, Torino, Value 17.7) - The former Atalanta man has thrived since Walter Mazzarri has taken over and has established himself as a key player for I Granata. Despite his notable improvements over the years, Baselli’s game still lacks end-product in the final third as he proves to be often wasteful.

With Torino taking on Milan, expect Mazzarri’s men to sit deep and absorb the pressure. This type of game doesn’t exactly suit Baselli’s strengths. As a result, you’d be wise to temporarily drop the midfielder from your side.

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The facts behind the figures: What we’ve learned about Lazio from the Serie A salary report

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At the start of the week, La Gazzetta dello Sport published its annual breakdown of each Serie A club’s wage bill for the season ahead.

Much of the reaction to the article has focused on Juventus’ massive financial advantage over the rest of Italy and the impact the summer mercato has had on Inter’s spending.

But there were plenty of intriguing sub-plots to be found behind the figures, not least at Lazio. For example…

On paper, a top-four finish would be an over-achievement…

This is by no means a secret, but the gulf in wage spend between Lazio and the teams they are expected to compete with for a top four place this season is significant.  Continue reading

Lazio’s quest for Champions League football has been long and painful – but this could be their time

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Ahead of the opening weekend of the Serie A season, there is no doubt about Lazio’s objective.

Champions League football has proven infuriatingly elusive for the Roman club since they last graced the competition in 2007/08, as they’ve found just about every imaginable way of not quite getting there.

In 2010/11 they finished fifth, losing out on a play-off place to Udinese on goal difference. Continue reading