Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21

Brescia-Milan: the Rondinelle will not have Mario Balotelli for a couple of matches, but Ernesto Torregrossa has actually carried the load scoring-wise recently and he and Alfredo Donnarumma formed a formidable partnership last season in Serie B, so they might be able to survive the blow. They have added two intriguing pieces in January in Birkir Bjarnason, who was very dangerous for a midfielder in his time in Pescara, and Simon Skrabb: they should both have their chances because Nikolas Spalek at no.10 has been pretty inconsistent. Sandro Tonali is coming off a two-assist performance and also Stefano Sabelli and Romulo have been decently proficient in a supporting role. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Milan vs Udinese

The most dramatic match of the round was quite decisively Milan-Udinese, which was back and forth throughout the ninety minutes and was decided in the final moments.

The Rossoneri came into the game looking to build onto a convincing win over Cagliari last week and to get closer to the top six, while the Zebrette had won three in a row, putting the relegation zone in the rear-view mirror. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 20

Thomas Strakosha: the Biancocelesti held up against Napoli’s attack, confirming their solidity at home, and the goalie answered the bell when he was required. It is not a particularly great round for defences on paper, so it is better to stick with safe picks.

Matthijs De Ligt: the injury of Merih Demiral will allow him to return to the XI on a consistent basis and he did look good against Roma and in Coppa Italia. Juventus have allowed nine goals at home (second-best in Serie A), so their defenders can be deployed even though Parma are the quintessential sneaky team. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 19

Thomas Strakosha (7 points): there were some high-quality goalkeeping in this round, where six teams managed to keep a clean sheet. Udinese’s Juan Musso and Fiorentina’s Bartlomiej Dragowski were fine, but nod goes to Lazio’s goalie for a pair of sure-handed saves on threatening attempts by Lorenzo Insigne.

Simone Iacoponi (9 points): he untangled a game that was starting to become pretty complicated for Parma with a well directed header on a corner kick. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 19

Standings implications: Juventus leapfrogged Inter atop of the table as the Bianconeri squeezed past Roma, while the Beneamata equalized with Atalanta. Lazio keep finding ways to prevail and got their tenth win a row, downing Napoli. Cagliari continue to spiral and they were handed their fourth straight loss by a surprisingly convincing Milan. Torino held on despite Bologna’s game-long assault, bringing home three quality points and closing in on the sixth spot. Udinese keep surging and rattled off the third W in a row against Sassuolo. Fiorentina finally returned to winning ways by nipping SPAL. Sampdoria distanced themselves from the danger zone with a dominating display against Brescia. The rough day for the bottom three clubs was capped by Genoa suffering a comeback at the hands of Verona.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19

Cagliari-Milan: the Rossoblù played their worst game of the season against Juventus and will be eager to bounce back here and snap out of a three-game losing streak. Their last two goals were scored by Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone and obviously the Brazilian forward, who has tallied 11 in the season, remains their most appealing player, while the ex-Fiorentina man is more inconsistent, but has his moments in the sun. Radja Nainggolan has not been done a lot in the past four games and that has caused a decline in their offensive efficiency. They lack reliable fantasy option behind those because Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog are not involved in the offense on a regular basis and their yield there is spotty. Their fullbacks, Luca Pellegrini in particular, have picked up few assists. Continue reading

How far have Milan fallen when they are resigned to signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic at 38?

Even though AC Milan won the Serie A title in 2011 they have had a poor decade in football where they have seen major stars leave the team and Juventus take over their mantle as the strongest side in Italy.

Indeed whilst not as quite bad this Milan team is very near how poor the club were back in the 1970s. You used to look at Milan teams and your jaw would drop in the quality that was on the field; Ruud Gullit, Carlo Ancelotti, Paolo Maldini, Marco van Basten, Andriy Shevechenko, Andrea Pirlo the list is endless because Milan of the 80s and 90s and even into the 2000s were as strong and brimming of quality like Barcelona and Real Madrid.

But the 2010s were not kind to the team, football seemed to leave them behind and apart from the odd special result Milan have been quite forgetable on the European stage. They haven’t even played in the Champions League now for several years, even though that competition was supposed to be ingrained into their DNA, after all they have won it 7 times.

Currently the club are in 11th place and 21 points behind the league leaders and we are only at the half way stage of the new season. What will be even more grinding is that the club in front are their arch rivals, Inter Milan, a club where they share the same ground. Indeed everyone seems to have moved into Milan’s territory, even Inter who have, for long periods, been in Milan’s shadow and yet of course out of the two Milan’s they are the last to have won the Champions League when they triumphed in 2010.

As January announces itself Milan have hit back, well kind of. They have signed one of the great strikers of the modern game in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now let’s not dot around here, Ibrahimovic is a superb player, the clubs he plays for win games, win titles, win trophies and he always scores lots of goals, most of them contenders for the season. But Ibra as he is fondly known is 38 years old.

When his signing was announced there were no groans or media backlash, even at 38 the fans have got behind the player and their club. From the moment he has arrived in Milan he has been treated like a superstar, crowded by fans, with his name chanted. At 38 the Swedish player is expected to be the messiah and save the club.

His goal scoring instinct will ensure that he scores goals for the club though it is questionable how many he will be able to get. Surely the objective this season will be a European finish, the club are 8 points adrift of a Europa League position, so it isn’t impossible, But being 14 points behind a Champions League position seems a little too far this season.

One wonders if Ibrahimovic’s transfer isn’t something different? Firstly to become the voice and guide in the dressing room and then possibly get into management and for this first job to be with Milan. If his advancing years takes away his goals, we still have an incredible character, a true leader who may well be able to shape Milan’s future like he did with his goal scoring boots when he first signed for the club more than a decade ago.

The jury is out but not in Italy where the player simply can’t fail with the fans. If anything the very fact he is back at the San Siro will give this very average Milan side a boost. But how far have the club fallen getting excited over a veteran Ibrahimovic? Maybe they know something we don’t?

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The 10 best strikers in world football 2010-2019

There have been some truly fantastic strikers this decade, that have helped their clubs to win countless trophies and score some beautiful goals. That have helped changed the landscape of football and created history and tore up those same books. So which players are amongst the best and who has made the top 10 best goal scorers based on goals scored this decade running through 2010-2019?

10. Radamel Falcao

A goal machine and the Colombian proved his worth in different leagues including France, Spain and England. But it was his time at Monaco where he will be remembered the best. Falcao always seemed to be on the score sheet when Monaco won games and he scored over 160 goals in this decade alone.

9. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

A brilliant centre forward who made his name at Borussia Dortmund and done so well there that Premier League side Arsenal called on his services. He has become the main player at Arsenal now and even in difficult times for them is able to score goals.

8. Neymar

Started this decade off in Brazilian football and then made the successful switch to Barcelona and once he hooked up with the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez a real dream team of a front three was established. In a shock transfer Neymar was sold to PSG for a world record of 220m euros and continued to score goals at ease in the French league and win even more titles. Neymar has over 200 goals this decade.

7. Sergio Aguero

Aguero has been the outstanding striker in the Premier League this decade for Manchester City and the best striker the country of England has seen. He just keeps scoring goals and creating chances and got into this list after netting 205 this decade.

6. Edinson Cavani

Cavani has done the business for both Napoli in Serie A and PSG in France. His move to PSG made perfect sense as he has scored so many goals for the French champions which has led to title after title and when he eventually leaves the club he leaves as a club legend.

5. Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski has been a Bayern man through and through and won countless league titles and the Champions League he has scored an incredible 239 goals and is far and away the best striker in German football this decade.

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

What a player, so intelligent and he got better with age too. Has played for so many teams including Milan, Manchester United, PSG and went to America and played for LA Galaxy too. One thing throughout all of that time with Zlatan is that he has scored goals, not poor ones too but beautiful and amazing ones. A true star of football.

3. Luis Suarez

Suarez changed Liverpool’s way of thinking when he joined and scored so many goals and did so for his club before them Ajax too. Then he joined Barcelona and was simply electric and in one of his seasons notched 40 league goals scoring more than Messi himself. Scored over 250 goals. A true talent with a lot of bite.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

One of the best players in history, he changed the landscape for both Manchester United and Real Madrid and has won 5 Champions Leagues. Always consistent and scored so many goals, almost 100 more than 3rd placed Suarez. Now winning titles in Italy with Juventus, one of the greats.

1. Lionel Messi

Who else? The Argentinian and Barcelona great has scored 378 goals in this decade alone. He just keeps scoring and keeps getting hat tricks and keeps getting goals against the very best teams and players. The greatest player ever to have graced the game? That is up to you to decide but surely the best in his generation. The one and only Lionel Messi

- Please note all goals quoted are league goals only.

 

Milan bring back Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Seven years later, Milan have reunited with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the club announced on Friday. The 38-year-old striker has penned a six-month contract with a conditional second season and will reportedly earn up to €8M over till June 2021.

Zlatan played at LA Galaxy over the last two campaigns, scoring 53 goals in 58 appearances. He was previously with the Rossoneri from 2010 to 2012, hitting the net 56 times in 85 matches, before leaving for PSG. It is his third stint in Italy after the ones with Juventus and Inter. Over his career he also played for Malmoe, Ajax, Barcelona and Manchester United. Continue reading

What would the Ibrahimovic signing say about Milan?

Following the embarrassing loss to Atalanta to end the year, I was fully expecting plenty of reports on a new stadium or rich owners interested in purchasing the club to help ease the pain around the holidays. But instead Milan fans received a late Christmas gift on the 26th when Di Marzio and numerous other journalists reported the news of Ibrahimovic agreeing to rejoin the rossoneri.

Assuming the deal becomes official, what does this development say about the parties involved? No matter what your spin is, one thing is universally true- Milan have not been the same club since Ibrahimovic was sold, alongside Thiago Silva, to Paris St Germain in the summer of 2012.

This is when Silvio Berlusconi started waving the white flag by repeatedly stating he could no longer compete financially with those benefitting from oil money in football, so the loss to Atalanta was the miserable ending to a decade that saw Milan’s steady decline.

Following Berlusconi’s “departure”, the disastrous Li/Fassone/Mirabelli regime brought the Financial Fair Play restrictions that Leonardo and now Gazidis/Boban/Maldini/Massara have had to deal with in the past two years. While Leonardo did make some splashy veteran acquisitions (Bonucci and Higuain), the current Milan directors were left with no choice than to lower the wage bill while also acquiring players with potential huge resale value- the vision Gazidis illustrated in a lengthy interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

But so far, the youth movement has been so frustrating that you can make a case the best players on the squad- Donnarumma, Romagnoli, Bonaventura and Suso- are all from the Galliani era. During the season both Boban and Maldini mentioned the need of having more veterans on the team to help groom the Bennacer, Leao, Hernandez and Duartes on the squad, at times it felt they were publicly egging on Gazidis and the Elliott Fund to ditch the youth movement and bring in some immediate help.

After Bologna and Napoli dropped out of the race, Milan were Zlatan’s only option left in Italy and the rossoneri have reportedly gotten him to agree to only a six month guarantee with an option for next season making this a low risk, very high reward type deal which is easier to stomach for the more conservative branch of the rossoneri’s brass. It remains to be seen if this will be the first of a series of agreements between Milan and Ibrahimovic’s agent Mino Raiola who also represents other significant players on Pioli’s squad.

Giacomo Bonaventura has an expiring contract at the end of the season and could in theory sign with another team during the beginning of the new year. The former Atalanta midfielder has recovered from an injury and has already been linked to Roma, but he has played regularly in the past few weeks at a level superior to others at his position on the squad. Milan will also have to figure out with Raiola the best course of action for Gigio Donnarumma who has just 18 months left on his contract. You have to wonder if Raiola is reportedly agreeing to a short contract for Ibrahimovic as a way to gain good will for these two negotiations…  (if that weren’t enough, Raiola has also recently become Suso and Romagnoli’s agent)

While some of his teammates may receive significant benefits from Ibrahimovic’s return, this development is a bold indictment of the Piatek acquisition. Last January the club invested 35 million, paid in a single installment to acquire the Polish striker, but this season he has regressed to the point that there was talk he could be sent back to Genoa on loan to regain his confidence, and more importantly, market value since the idea of another club paying his amortized value remaining is about as likely as Vince Neil being in shape for Motley Crue’s upcoming reunion tour. There is however a significant chance that the development of players like Bennacer, Leao and Hernandez will accelerate because of Ibrahimiovic’s presence.

Milan are hoping Ibrahimovic will have a much more significant impact than previous legends who returned to the club starting with Seedorf, Inzaghi as managers as well as Kaka’ as a player who didn’t move the needle significantly once he came back in 2013. While it remains to be seen how much Zlatan has left after playing his last game in Europe in March of 2018 and at the ripe age of 38, many expect him to bring back some much needed swagger and fire to the locker room- qualities that have been lacking even more since Rino Gattuso left.

Many who have second guessed Ibrahimovic in recent years have been proven wrong, but it’s hard to imagine that he will still be playing by the time Milan returns to the level they were at when he first left. Regardless, while you could say Zlatan’s return reeks of desperation for all parties involved, the reunion leaves all involved in a better situation with little to no risk involved- Kaka’ isn’t any less adored by the fan base despite his underwhelming return and Milan will reportedly just guaranteed six months salary- considering how difficult things have been at Milan recently, that’s a big step forward.