All posts by forzaantonini

Serie A Summer 2017 Transfer Window Grades

Atalanta

Key Acquisitions (Players they obtained) Key Losses (Players sold / let go / sent on loan / retired) Important Players that Stayed (stayed despite heavy links to leave)
Cornelius (Copenhaghen) Migliaccio (Fine Carriera) Papu Gomez
Ilicic (Fiorentina) Grassi (Spa via Napoli) Andrea Petagna
Castagne (Genk) Zukanovic (Genoa via Roma) Spinazzola
Osolini (Ascoli via Juventus) Frank Kessie (Milan)
De Roon (Middlesbrough) Conti (Milan)
Paloschi (Spal)
D’Alessandro (Benevento)

Antonio’s Grade: B-

Atalanta lost key players to bigger clubs, but that was always going to happen after their incredible display last season, culminating in a fourth place finish. The loss of Kessie might hurt the most as he absolutely dominated the midfield for them. Ilicic and Orsolini should bring creativity to the attack and bringing De Roon back after a season in the Premier League should help patch up the wound of losing Kessie. Holding onto the likes of Petagna, Spinazzola and Gomez means that the transfer market wasn’t necessarily poor, as Atalanta also made good profit which will help them long-term. They also avoided losing enough players to put them in danger of the relegation zone.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: C

When the highlight of your transfer window is keeping a 29-year-old winger, it’s not a great off-season. With the Europa League closing in, the Bergamaschi will have to do without star center midfielder Kessie, who was sold to AC Milan early on in the transfer window. Unfortunately, Atalanta did not re–invest much of the funds received from the Kessie deal and now find themselves falling back into Serie A mediocrity. The key signing for them this season will be Ilicic from Fiorentina, who could be set for a breakout season.

Benevento

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Belec (Carpi) Cragno (Cagliari) Ciciretti
Letizia (Carpi) Pajac (Cagliari) Venuti
A. Costa (Empoli) Falco (Bologna) Chibsah
Cataldi (Genoa via Lazio) Bagadur (Brescia via Fiorentina)
D’Alessandro (Atalanta) Camporese (Foggia)
Lemmello (Sassuolo) Ceravolo (Parma)
Antei (Sassuolo)
Lazaar (Newcastle)
Lombardi (Lazio)

Antonio’s Grade: C+

It wasn’t a bad mercato for Benevento when you look at some of the players they bought. They brought in some players with Serie A experience, loaned in some young talent, and kept hold of some talents. I couldn’t imagine them doing much more given their budget and considering that this is their first ever season in Serie A. However, I do not believe that they have done enough to get them away from the relegation zone. The other teams that would normally finish near the relegation zone have seemingly done enough to stay up. Bringing in Letizia and Costa definitely gives some defensive strength, and Cataldi can improve their midfield considerably, but I don’t think it’s enough. Losing Cragno and Ceravolo could prove costly in the long run. Lemmello is the only player that seems capable of scoring more than a few goals. Since their goal is to stay in Serie A, I can’t give them a high grade because they have not done enough to remain there.

Pietro-Iemmello

Sebastiano’s Grade: B+

Bringing in Serie A veterans such as Antei, Lazaar, and Lemmello are all crucial signings for a team that few have staying up. Cataldi from Lazio could also prove to be a revelation, but at the moment, it seems like they greatly overpaid for him. It is hard to imagine Benevento doing more than they have, and yet salvation still seems far away.

Bologna

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
De Maio (Fiorentina) Dzemaili (Montreal Impact) Verdi
G. Gonzalez (Palermo) Viviani (Spal via Verona) Di Francesco
Andrea Poli (Milan) Oikonomou (Spal) Masina
Palacio (Inter) Gastaldello (Brescia)

Antonio’s Grade: C-

It was a very dull transfer market for Bologna, and coming immediately after a terrible season has got to be painful for any Bologna fan. They didn’t bring in many names that I can see improving this side. The only good signing I can think of is De Maio, who is just a solid center back. They lost Dzemaili, who was one of their best goal scorers, and both of their starting center backs in Oikonomou and Gastaldello. Dzemaili needed to be replaced and their answer to bring in Andrea Poli is not nearly enough. Keeping Masina and Di Francesco could have positive long-term effects, but this was a poor mercato overall. I don’t think everyone’s least favorite cold-cut improved at all and they will likely finish around the same place as last season.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: D

Bologna’s back line has been upgraded with De Maio and Gonzalez, and the midfield is set to showcase former AC Milan veteran Poli, who is not a signing that will change much, and might actually take minutes away from younger players like Donsah and Pulgar. Bologna will have to be weary this year as they may fall back to where they ended last season, which would be crushing for the city and the team.

Cagliari

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Cragno (Benevento) Di Gennaro (Lazio) Joao Pedro
Cop (Gijon) Gabriel (Milan) Barella
Cigarini (Sampdoria) Bruno Alves (Glasgow Rangers)
Andreolli (Inter) Murru (Sampdoria)
Romagna (Brescia via Juventus) Tachtsidis (Olympiacos via Torino)
Gregory Van der Wiel (Fenerbahce) Mauricio Isla (Fenerbahce)
Pavoletti (Napoli) Salamon (Spal)
Borriello (Spal)

Antonio’s Grade: A-

It was just an average mercato for Cagliari until the news that Borriello would be leaving was heard. This could have been disastrous, given that there wasn’t much time to find a suitable replacement. However, Cagliari managed to make not one, but two fantastic signings in the last day or two of the mercato, in Pavoletti and Van der Wiel. They also brought in young talents like Romagna and Cragno. Cigarini should help bring balance to the midfield, while the only losses that may have hurt them were Tachtsidis and Murru as all the other players that left have been properly replaced. Overall, this was a very impressive mercato from Cagliari and they should finish closer to mid table now.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B+

It’s a good thing that the transfer window doesn’t end in July because a month ago, Cagliari’s window looked gloomy. A month later, the Sardinian giants brought in a steady right back in Van der Wiel and a proven goal scorer in Pavoletti as a replacement for Borriello. Andreolli will also shore up the back as Cagliari look to establish themselves as a mid-table Serie A team.

Chievo Verona

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Rodriguez (Cesena) Sardo (Fine Carriera) Birsa
Pucciarelli (Empoli) De Guzman (Eintracht Francoforte via Napoli) Inglese (sold but loaned back)
Tomovic (Fiorentina) Spolli (Genoa)
Stepinski (Nantes) Gakpe (Genoa)
Mpoku (Standard Liege)
Izco (Crotene)

Antonio’s Grade: D

Surely this is the season that Chievo fails. They have finished way too high in the table for the talent their squad possesses. This mercato was a disaster in my opinion. Pucciarelli was brought in to score goals, but he has never been very good at that. Tomovic could end up being decent, but center back was not their biggest problem that needed fixing. Their goalkeeper is seemingly too past his prime to continue as a starting goalkeeper. Their midfield lacks creativity, and their attack doesn’t look very potent. Losing Izco and De Guzman with no replacements will likely cost them. Holding on to Inglese might be enough to keep them out of the relegation zone, but it’s not looking like this will be a positive season for Chievo.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: D

Every year, Chievo seems to be on the brink of failing apart and every year, they prove the doubters wrong. This year’s window was no different than the past few windows, spending very little and relying on experience. It’s hard to see this team surviving an ever more competitive league with the signings that they made.

Crotone

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Budimir (Sampdoria) Mesbah (Losanna) Ceccherini
Faraoni (Udinese) Rosi (Genoa) Martella
Kragl (Frosinone) Crisetig (Bologna)
Izco (Chievo) G. Gerrari (Sassuolo)
Ajeti (Torino) Falcinelli (Sassuolo)
Crociata (Milan) Capezzi (Sampdoria)
Mandragora (Juventus)
Tumminello (Roma)
Pavlovic (Sampdoria)

Antonio’s Grade: C-

Crotone pulled off somewhat of a miracle to stay up last season. Half-way through the season, they looked like they were probably finishing in last place, but somehow managed to stay up. A good amount of their success was due to Falcinelli’s ability to score goals, and now they can’t rely on him. He has not been replaced at all. Trotta and Budimir have extremely low chances of scoring 10 or more goals individually and possibly even combined. Mandragora and Izco are solid additions that actually make their midfield stronger than it was last season, while Crociata and Tumminello are interesting young talents that could end up making a difference. However, their goalkeeper isn’t that solid, they have no identifiable goal-scorer and their wingers really shouldn’t be on any Serie A team. Crotone didn’t do enough and will almost surely get relegated.

budimir

Sebastiano’s Grade: C+

“Quantity over Quality” was the motto for Crotone this year after their improbable salvation last season. Having lost key players like Falcinelli and Ferrari, the arrivals of Budimir and Tumminello will need to be in-form if they are to stay up. Perhaps the January window will give Crotone another chance to add the last piece that would put them over the hump.

Fiorentina

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
V. Hugo (Palmeiras) Cristian Tello (Betis Siviglia via Barca) Chiesa
Gaspar (Vitoria) Gonzalo Rodriguez (San Lorenzo) Badelj
Veretout (Aston Villa) De Maio (Bologna via Anderlecht)
Benassi (Torino) Ilicic (Atalanta)
Eysseric (Nizza) Valero (Inter)
Giovanni Simeone (Genoa) Vecino (Inter)
Pezzella (Betis) Bernardeschi (Juventus)
Thereau (Udinese) Tatarusanu (Nantes)
Gil (Monaco) Kalinic (Milan)
Tomovic (Chievo)

Antonio’s Grade: B-

As seen above, Fiorentina have had a very busy summer in the transfer market, as they basically have a completely new team from that of last season. However, even though I believe they have lost key players that will hurt them, they have made up for it in some way by bringing in some good talent. On defense, they can no longer count on former captain Rodriguez, De Maio, or Tomovic, players who have not been properly replaced. The loss of rising star Bernardeschi might end up hurting the most as he was Fiorentina’s best player last season. Chiesa is another rising star and can partially replace Bernardeschi, but he still has some time to go before he reaches that level. Fiorentina have replaced Kalinic, their top goal-scorer for the past two seasons, with Simeone. Simeone is the son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone and looks to have a bright future, although I don’t think he is quite at the level of Kalanic just yet. Eysseric can replace the creativity lost from Valero going to Inter. Gil, Gaspar, and Benassi are all promising young talents that are positive additions for Fiorentina. Overall, Fiorentina are not as strong as they were just a few months ago, but this team is building for the future.

Giovanni+Simeone+ACF+Fiorentina+v+UC+Sampdoria+SA7NApzAr9ul

Sebastiano’s Grade: D

Fiorentina may have a very difficult season ahead, as they lost most of their centerpieces with Vecino, Kalinic, Bernardeschi and Valero all going to greener pastures. Now it will be up to Simeone and Thereau to carry the load left by those that have gone. Overall, there is little doubt that the team was far more talented a year ago.

Genoa

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Zukanovic (Atalanta via Roma) Orban (Racing Club) Laxalt
Bertolacci (Milan) Burdisso (Torino)
Lapadula (Milan) Pinilla (Univ. de Chile)
Rodriguez (Banfield) Cataldi (Benevento)
Centurion (Boca Juniors via San Paolo) Ntcham (Celtic Glasgow via Manchester City)
Rossettini (Torino) Simeone (Fiorentina)
Ricci (Sassuolo) Hiljemark (Panathinaikos)

Antonio’s Grade: B

Last season was one of the worst seasons that Genoa have had in recent memory. They barely avoided relegation even though their team usually finishes comfortably mid-table. They clearly needed a tune-up and that’s what they got to some degree. Zukanovic and Rossettini are pretty good additions to the defense and are upgrades over the likes of Munoz and Orban. Bertolacci, if he stays healthy, can add creativity and goals. Lapadula will guarantee hard work and I reckon, quite a few goals. Centurion seems like a positive purchase as many top sides were after him this summer. Genoa didn’t lose many key players besides Simeone and Burdisso, so they shouldn’t be too worried. If Perin can stay healthy, Genoa will likely go back to finishing comfortably mid-table.

lapadula

Sebastiano’s Grade: B

Genoa covered all of the bases this summer by bringing in Rossettini and Zukanovic for the defense, Bertolacci in the midfield, and Lapadula in attack. With Simeone being the only star player leaving, Genoa should improve upon last season’s record. While the signings will not blow anyone away, they are enough to be competitive in this league.

Inter Milan

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Skriniar (Sampdoria) Ever Banega (Sevilla) Ivan Perisic
Borja Valero (Fiorentina) Medel (Besiktas) Antonio Candreva
Vecino (Fiorentina) Murillo e Kondogia (Valencia)
Dalbert (Nice) Stevan Jovetic (Monaco)
Cancelo (Valencia) Gabigol (Benfica)
Karamoh (Caen) Ansaldi (Torino)

Antonio’s Grade: B-

Inter remained fairly active in the August transfer market. They got rid of some deadweight and brought in some impressive acquisitions. However, Inter fans were promised top players from all over Europe and they didn’t really get that. This most definitely has to do with them not finishing in a European position and the fact that their big-money signings last season largely failed. I do think that Spalletti will figure out how to get the best from the players he has, which is still a strong squad. Skriniar isn’t the center back most Inter fans wanted, but he is solid nonetheless. Borja Valero could be that link that was missing from Inter last season and his midfield passing and movement is much needed. Dalbert and Cancelo are improvements over Nagatomo, Santon, and D’Ambrosio even though they didn’t get Ricardo Rodriguez or Serge Aurier. The failure to pick up a truly top-class midfielder may end up costing them in the end. Losing Murillo and Medel may actually hurt them as Inter look extremely low on center backs and defensive midfielders even if those two weren’t great in the first place.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: C+

New ownership often brings high expectations – expectations that are not always met as we can see here with the Nerazzuri. The additions of Valero and Vecino will certainly strengthen the midfield, especially after selling former Monaco man, Kondogbia. Skriniar will be an upgrade over Murillo, but with Ranocchia as the only other option to Miranda, the back line is thin. Perhaps Inter was overshadowed by its crosstown rivals, but this is not a window that will see them compete for a champions league spot just yet.

Juventus

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Bentancur (Boca) Dani Alves (Paris St. Germain) Paulo Dybala
Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich) Neto (Valencia) Alex Sandro
Mattia De Sciglio (Milan) Leonardo Bonucci (Milan)
Wojciech Szczesny (Roma via Arsenal) Mandragora (Crotone)
Bernardeschi (Fiorentina) Lemina (Southampton)
Blaise Matuidi (Paris St. Germain) Rincon (Torino)
Benedikt Howedes (Schalke)

Antonio’s Grade: B+

The major news this summer coming out of Juventus was Bonucci’s decision to leave for AC Milan. It seemed insane that Bonucci would want to leave Juventus, who have won the league six times in a row, for a team that finished in sixth place last season. People saw this as a sign of a disastrous mercato for Juve and maybe a changing of the guard. However, I believe that, in general, Juventus have done some good business this summer. They acquired a fantastic winger in Costa for a minimum price. They also made great deals by getting Szczesny, Matuidi and Howedes for very little cost. Szczesny is a great addition and gives Juventus two great goalkeepers in the squad. Matuidi fixes a lot of the midfield problems given how injury-prone Marchisio can be, and with Khedira out of steam. Howedes probably isn’t on Bonucci’s level, but he is a proven center back and adds needed depth. However, there are a few problems that they didn’t properly address. The purchase of De Sciglio to be their starting right back (and replace) Dani Alves is truly baffling. Also, I think that Juventus should have gotten rid of Sturaro and added another defensive midfielder to compensate for the aforementioned Marchisio and Khedira. Lastly, they were supposed to get Schick, but failed to do so which means that they don’t have much striker depth. Still, the likes of Bernardeschi and Bentancur are very promising youngsters, and the absence of Bonucci frees up more playing time for Daniele Rugani this season. Also, none of the purchases were very expensive, barring Bernardeschi, who deserved the price tag.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B

How do you defend your Serie A title? You do so through buying proven winners in Matuidi, Howedes, and Costa. This is how the Bianconeri answered that question this summer. Add on some utility players like De Sciglio and Szczesny and it seems like an excellent transfer roundup. On the other hand, Juve could have easily acquired Keita Balde, Spinazzola and Shick, and failed to do so. Balde in particular was up for pennies on the dollar and Juve will surely regret not picking him up. Finally, Bonucci’s departure will be a blessing in disguise as Rugani will see more minutes and improve the squad with his presence from the start.

 Lazio

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Marusic (Ostenda) Biglia (Milan) Milinkovic-Savic
Lucas Leiva (Liverpool) Hoedt ( Southampton) De Vrij
Di Gennaro (Cagliari) Keita (Monaco)
Felipe Caicedo (Espanyol) Cataldi (Benevento)
Nani (Sporting Lisbon)  

 Antonio’s Grade: B

As usual, Lazio have had a largely inactive mercato. They sold well with Hoedt, Biglia and Keita and brought in some cheap replacements. Nani was the replacement brought in for Keita, but he definitely isn’t quite at the same level and that’s ignoring the fact that he is on the decline. Lucas Leiva is a decent replacement for Biglia, but once again, he isn’t quite on the same level. They did well to hold onto Milinkovic-Savic, who was one of the best midfielders in the league last season. They somehow managed to beat Juventus in the Supercoppa, so maybe they are better than they seem. Overall, it wasn’t a very exciting mercato and the team hasn’t really improved – but Lazio held onto most of their talents, and their squad looks good enough to finish in one of the Europa League spots.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: C+

Another perplexing transfer season for the capital’s first team, as they lose Keita Balde at a discounted price, their captain, Biglia, and promising young defender Hoedt. When one sells the center pieces of a team as is the case here, the appropriate signings must be made. Unfortunately, Lazio brought in injury prone Lucas Leiva, a winger that is past his prime in Nani, and two promising but unproven youngsters from the Braga young team – for 30 million euros. With all of the funds at their disposal, it would have been nice to see Lazio make the jump into champions league placement.

A.C. Milan

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Musacchio (Villarreal) Pasalic (Spartak Moscow) Gianluigi Donnarumma
R. Rodriguez (Wolfsburg) Mati Fernandez (Fiorentina) Suso
Kessie (Atalanta) Deulofeu (Barcelona via Everton)
Conti (Atalanta) Honda (Pachuca)
André Silva (Porto) Kucka (Trabzonspor)
Borini (Sunderland) Bertolacci (Genoa)
Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) Lapadula (Genoa)  
Bonucci (Juventus) De Sciglio (Juventus)  
Biglia (Lazio) Vangioni ( Monterrey)  
Kalinic (Fiorentina) Bacca (Villarreal)  
  Niang (Torino)  

Antonio’s Grade: A

Milan had one of the best transfer markets in all of Europe. Fassone and Mirabelli were in charge of the mercato and they completely revolutionized the team to the point where only two or three starters from last season will continue to be in the starting lineup this season. Milan brought in Rodriguez, who is one of the best left backs in the world. They signed Conti who was the highest scoring defender in all of Europe last season and is an improvement over Abate or Calabria. Calhanoglu is one of the world’s best free kick takers and is versatile. Biglia is a top midfielder and a huge improvement over Montolivo. Kalanic and Andre Silva will provide a lot of goals between them (as will Cutrone). Both strikers are much more suitable to Montella’s playing style than Bacca was. Musacchio has been one of the best center backs in all of La Liga for the past few seasons and is a much better player than Paletta or Zapata.

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The biggest signing, however, must be Bonucci. Milan were able to sign him for only around €40 million, which is a steal when you compare it to the overall market. The fact that he wanted to leave Juventus and join Milan shows that top players are interested in Milan’s project. Bonucci is considered to be one of the world’s best center backs and will be important for Milan’s goal of Champions League qualification. It was also incredibly important that Gianluigi Donnarumma stayed because he is already one of the best goalkeepers in the league and will likely be one of the best that Italy has ever had. It must also be mentioned that Milan bought almost every one of these players for a fairly cheap price and beat out other competitors (Roma and Inter) to get some of these players. Lastly, Milan did a fine job getting rid of players that shouldn’t be on the team like Bertolacci, Poli, Honda, Bacca, and Vangioni. The only missing piece is that they didn’t get another winger to replace Deulofeu and Niang, which could hurt them in the long run. Overall, it was a fantastic Mercato for Milan as they will likely finish in a Champions League spot.

Sebastiano’s Grade: A+

After years of enduring subpar players and performances, it finally seems like the return of the Milan giants is eminent. Kessie, Biglia, Bonucci, Rodriguez, Musacchio and Silva are but a few of the plethora of top level additions Milan made this offseason. It may still be early to tell just how far this team can go, but the potential is there. From the performances we have seen to date, this team may well be contending for the Scudetto as early as this season. A transfer window for the ages.

Napoli

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Ounas (Bordeaux) Pavoletti (Cagliari) Insigne
Mario Rui (Roma) D. Zapata (Sampdoria) Koulibaly
  Strinic (Sampdoria) Hysaj

Antonio’s Grade: B+

The main story for Napoli this summer is that they barely changed their team. But is this a bad thing? They kept a fantastic team together and even made a few good deals. Insigne and Koulibaly are hitting the peak of their career now and it is so important that they stayed. This Napoli side can push hard for the Scudetto this season as Juve and Roma are slightly weaker. The fact that not one of their starting players left is impressive and shows that the team is committed to their goal. The only problem I see is that Reina is getting old and is starting to make a few too many mistakes. If they had gotten Rulli, it would have been an important purchase. Also, Koulibaly probably needs a better partner than Albiol, Maksimovic and Chiriches if they want to push deep into the Champions League. However, Ounas is a solid addition, as is Mario Rui. This team looks set to do great things this season, including mounting a title challenge.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: D

There is no question that retaining your team identity and most valuable players is important in mounting a serious run in to the top. However, for a team like Napoli, bringing in one or two big names would have undoubtedly put them above most of the other teams with the exception of Juventus. With one of the most exciting teams in Europe, we would have liked to see more investments being made to better the team now and possibly to even have Napoli be a contender in the Champions League. In an age where money reigns supreme, Napoli were left behind and we will see the consequences both in the present and in the future.

Roma

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Moreno (PSV) Totti (retired) Nainggolan
Pellegrini (Sassuolo) Szczesny (Juventus via Arsenal) Manolas
Karsdorp (Feyenoord) Vermaelen (Barcelona)
Gonalons (Lyon) Salah (Liverpool)
Under (Istanbul Başakşehir) Paredes (Zenit)
Defrel (Sassuolo) Rudiger (Chelsea)
Kolarov (Manchester City)  
Schick (Sampdoria)    

Antonio’s Grade: B-

Roma brought in famous sporting director Monchi to revolutionize the team in the upcoming season. How did he do? Well, he came to a club that was in debt because of Roma’s failure to qualify for the Champions League the previous season. Monchi did a decent job at making money back with sales for decently high prices for Salah, Rudiger and Paredes. He was able to get a few players for cheap like Pellegrini, Moreno, Under and Gonalons, although none of these are top signings. Kolarov could prove to be a good purchase at left back as Roma relied far too much on Emerson last season. Towards the end of the transfer market, Roma were able to capture Schick, who may well prove to be a fantastic long term signing. However, it seems that Roma overpaid for Defrel and they never signed a true right winger to replace Salah after they failed to land Mahrez. This means that players will have to play out of position to cover for this failure. Under could end up being a player that flourishes in that role but isn’t at the level of Salah yet. This will be the first season in over 25 years that Roma can no longer rely upon the magic of Francesco Totti, so their failure to pick up multiple quality signings will hurt their chances of fighting for the Scudetto and possibly even finishing top four.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B-

The sporting director Monchi did a decent job in his effort to mix young talent with experienced veterans, but nothing spectacular occurred in Roma’s window. Numerous key players have left, and their replacements are questionable. Defrel for 20 million still leaves us speechless as does the addition of Gonalons, while Kolarov, Pellegrini and Shick seem to be the ideal signings for a Roma team that will be battling at the top of the table for a Champions League spot.

Sampdoria

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Capezzi (Crotone) Skriniar (Inter) Torreira
Caprari (Pescara via Inter) Bruno Fernandes (Sporting) Linetty
Murru (Cagliari) Cigarini (Cagliari),
Kownacki (Lech Poznan) Muriel (Sevilla),
G. Ferrari (Crotone) Schick (Roma)
Ramirez (Middlesbrough)  
Andersen (Twente)  
Strinic (Napoli)    
D. Zapata (Napoli)    

Antonio’s Grade: B+

It looked like it was going to be another difficult season for Sampdoria after they started selling a number of their starters from last season including the center back Skriniar, attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes and striker Luis Muriel. Not too long after, Sampdoria started making important new signings. Caprari could be an interesting buy to replace the dribbling skills of Fernandes and Muriel. Gaston Ramirez is a top signing from the Premier League who improves the squad without a doubt. Anderson and Ferrari will be important in defense as Sampdoria incredibly only had two true center backs last season, which caused them problems. There probably should have been another center back brought in considering they sold Skriniar. New signings Murru and Strinic will compete for the starting left back spot. Duvan Zapata is a positive signing for the attack as well. However, losing promising young star Schick will cost them some goals even though they ended up getting a large sum of money in his sale. Keeping hold of Torreira and Linetty will be important for them. I think Sampdoria could aim slightly higher this season since they added much needed depth to the squad this season.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B+

A couple of years ago when we saw Samuel Eto’o wear the Sampdoria shirt, we were perhaps tricked into thinking this was the start of a new Sampdoria. Instead, today we have come to realize the Genovese giants remain the same – good without being great, making astute signings without blowing anyone away. Zapata, Murru, Ferrari and Gaston Ramirez will improve the team from last season and while I would not expect anything spectacular, a top-ten finish seems almost assured.

Sassuolo

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Falcinelli (Crotone) Aquilani (Pescara) Domenico Berardi
Cassata (Ascoli via Juventus) Pellegrini (Roma) Acerbi
Goldaniga (Palermo) Defrel (Roma)
  Iemmello (Benevento)
  Ricci (Genoa)

Antonio’s Grade: C-

Sassuolo’s season was a failure. They got knocked out of the Europa League in the group stages and finished close to the relegation zone. They needed a strong mercato to make sure that they can finish in the top ten, but it doesn’t look like they have improved at all. They do have Falcinelli back who should add goals and Goldaniga is a solid defender, but they really haven’t done much. Losing Pellegrini to Roma could do a lot of damage as he might have been their best player last season. Defrel and Iemmello scored most of the goals last season, so it’s strange how they let them both go. They have to hope that Berardi has a fantastic season or it will be another failure of a season. Sassuolo needed more depth and they really didn’t get that.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: F

Having lost Defrel, Pellegrini and Antei, we expected Sassuolo to buy young exciting replacements. Instead Sassuolo failed to reinvest and are now looking like relegation contenders. Furthermore, the neroverdi have lost long-time manager Di Francesco, and this too will add to the difficulties of the upcoming season. Berardi and Duncan, the two star players of the team that stayed, will have to be in form if Sassuolo has any chance of surviving.

SPAL

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Mattiello (Juventus) Bonifazi (Torino) Meret
Oikonomou (Bologna) Del Grosso (Atalanta) Vicari
Rizzo (Bologna) Ghiglione (Pro Vercelli via Genoa)
Viviani (Bologna via Verona) Zigoni (Milan)
Felipe (Udinese) Castagnetti (Empoli)
A. Gomis (Salernitana via Torino) Giani (Spezia)
Paloschi (Atalanta)  
Konate (Malmoe)    
Grassi (Atalanta via Napoli)    
Borriello (Cagliari)    
Bonazzoli (Sampdoria)    

Antonio’s Grade: A

SPAL had a fantastic season as they won Serie B to make it into Serie A. They have also had a fantastic mercato in that their already strong squad became a lot stronger by bringing in talents from all over Serie A. The players they brought in aren’t just rejects but truly talented players. Oikonomou and Felipe are pretty good defenders. Bringing in Rizzo, Viviani, and Grassi improves their midfield considerably. Gomis and Meret will fight for the starting goalkeeper spot but Meret looks like he will have the brighter future of the two, especially after his performances last season. Most impressive of all is that they were able to bring in two proven goalscorers in Paloschi and Borriello. Borriello had a great season and scored 20 goals in 37 competitive games last season and his abilities will be important. It looks like SPAL have done more than enough to stay up, meaning this mercato has been fantastic. Still, losing players like Giani, Zigoni, and especially Bonifazi could end up costing them as they were very important for SPAL last season. Still, I think the additions brought in are good enough to get them to safety.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: A-

An excellent summer for the novel Serie A squad! Essentially revamping the entire team, SPAL managed to add young talent with many proven Serie A players. Greece star-man Oikonomou will be a pivotal addition to the defense as marquee signings, Borriello and Paloschi will take care of the goalscoring up front. There will also be competition for the starting goalkeeper spot as Meret and Gomis look like two promising Italian shot stoppers. For the funds at their disposal and their inexperience in the top flight, SPAL have enough to be the surprise of the season.

Torino

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Bonifazi (Spal) Joe Hart (West Ham) Belotti
Lyanco (San Paolo) Castan (Roma) Baselli
Sirigu (PSG) Iturbe (Roma)
Berenguer (Osasuna) Benassi (Fiorentina)
N’Koulou (Lyon) Rossettini (Genoa)
Rincon (Juventus) Zappacosta (Chelsea)
Burdisso (Genoa)  
Niang (Milan)    
Ansaldi (Inter)    

Antonio’s Grade: A

Torino had a decent season, but it looks like they have all of the right pieces to improve. Bonifazi was a beast last season for SPAL and looks to be a bright star in the future of their defense. Sirigu should be an improvement over a very poor Joe Hart. Berenguer was linked to Napoli, but the fact that Torino was able to get him is positive for them. N’Koulou is a top defender and will bring stability to the defense, which was Torino’s biggest problem last season along with mistakes from Hart. Rincon is a good replacement for the departed Benassi. Niang should add more depth to the attack and Ansaldi can play at left or right back and is also a positive signing. Torino addressed their defensive weakness and added some overall depth. Losing Zappacosta might be the only negative as he did very well for the Granata. They also don’t have a solid backup for Belotti, but Boye should be decent enough. Possibly the most important thing is that Belotti stayed with them and is guaranteed to score a lot of goals.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: A

One of the most efficient and effective transfer windows in all of Europe. This year, Torino managed to keep up with the big money spenders in Juve, Roma, Milan and Inter by purchasing numerous proven players in the likes of, Sirigu, former Cameroon captain N’Koulou, Rincon, Niang and Ansaldi. Not only this, but they were also able to keep star striker Belotti for at least another six months. Iturbe and Benassi have moved away, but Toro replaced them magnificently. Expect Toro to finish in the top seven this year.

Udinese

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Lasagna (Carpi) Kums (Gent) Jankto
Mallé (Granada) D. Zapata (Napoli) Fofana
Bizzarri (Pescara) Felipe (SPAL)
Pezzella (Palermo) Heurtaux (Verona)
Nuytinck (Anderlecht) Badu (Bursaspor)
Bajic (Koniaspor) Thereau (Fiorentina)
Behrami (Watford) Karnezis (Watford)  
Maxi Lopez (Torino) Kone (AEK Atene)  
  Wague (Watford)  

Antonio’s Grade: C+

Udinese had a disappointing season overall and their mercato is slightly disappointing as well. Udinese’s goal should be to get back into Europe, but they haven’t done nearly enough to finish among the top seven. Losing their main strikers in Thereau and Zapata will likely prove costly as Lasagna and Perica don’t seem like they will score as many goals. Felipe and Heurtaux are gone, which isn’t much of a problem, but losing Karnezis to Watford seemed like a bad decision. Maybe Scuffet can finally live up to the hype that surrounded a few seasons back, but they probably shouldn’t have made that gamble. Keeping Jankto and Fofana is important for their midfield as both are promising players. Nuytinck was a positive purchase for their defense and Behrami will bring strength to the team. Maxi Lopez was a good signing for cheap as he might be able to make a difference from the bench, as will Bajic. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t think they have done enough to considerably improve upon last season.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: D

Could this be the year that Udinese go down? With the window that they had, it may very well. With Thereau going to Fiorentina and Badu to Bursaspor, Udinese brought in Maxi Lopez and Behrami as replacements. Perhaps five years ago, these players could have been starters in Serie A, but now they are merely old and unable to be what they once were. Udinese are in trouble if they fail to splash the cash in January.

Hellas Verona

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Verde (Avellino) Boldor (Montreal Impact via Bologna) Fossati
Cerci (Atletico Madrid) Ganz (Pescara via Juventus) Bessa
Heurtaux (Udinese) Troianiello (Roma) Zaccagni
Silvestri (Leeds United) Pisano (Bristol)
Buchel (Empoli) Siligardi (Parma)
Caceres (Southampton) Bertolacci (Genoa)
Fossati (Cagliari) Lapadula (Genoa)  
Ferrari (Bologna) De Sciglio (Juventus)  

Antonio’s Grade: B+

Hellas Verona are back in Serie A where they should be. The mercato was decent enough to have many people saying that they will avoid relegation. They did a good job to keep some of their young talent like Bessa, Fossati, and Ferrari. Verde and Cerci add width and dribbling ability. Their defense has been improved by solid additions like former Juventus center back Caceres. Heurtaux was also brought in to solidify the defense. Kean could end up being the best signing, having shown so much promise in his youth career, and if they can hold on to him for a few seasons before he returns to Juventus, it will be a great deal for Hellas. Losing Siligardi may end up as a negative sale but they have added enough players that his loss won’t likely be felt. Still, they probably should have brought in some midfielders to add creativity as they are mainly relying on youngsters. If their goal is just to stay up, then I think they have done enough, but I don’t expect them near the top 10.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B-

With the Cassano debacle finally done, Verona have settled what is for them a solid transfer season. Cerci and Caceres will hope to revive their careers as young prospect Kean will surely add some aggression and desire upfront. It is still too soon to tell how far this team can go, but with the pazzo Pazzini leading the front line, anything is possible.

 

 

A.C. Milan are Back (?): A Guide to Everything A.C. Milan this Summer and Beyond

Italian club A.C. Milan are back… or are they? Even though A.C. Milan have made some important steps to recover their status as a European powerhouse, they still have to prove it on the pitch. It’s true that they look to be moving in the right direction, but they may need some time to mold. Still, there is so much to be excited about. Let’s take a look at Milan’s current situation and what we should expect from them this upcoming season.

Recap

Since 2013, A.C. Milan have found themselves in a place that just doesn’t seem right. Multiple consecutive seasons finishing outside of the top six has seen them lose following around the world and has their status as a great club somewhat diminish. There were a few reasons for this fall from grace, including the loss of finances under the ownership of former Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his family. Until now, A.C. Milan have not qualified for the Champions League or the Europa League since the 2012-2013 season. However, this past year featured a great improvement as Milan were in 3rd in December and ended up finishing in 6th which gives them a spot in the playoff rounds of the Europa League. These Europa League games come at the end of July and early August and will determine if Milan will take part in the Europa League group stages. A return to Europe was much needed, as Milan were falling too fast and seemed to be fading away. A 6th place finish is not necessarily bad when you are competing against teams like Juventus, Roma, Napoli, Lazio, Inter Milan and Fiorentina, and they finished ahead of the last two.

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There is a lot to be excited about because A.C. Milan have finally been sold this April to Chinese owners, bringing to an end the ongoing story of delays and failures since 2014. Berlusconi did not originally want to sell, but with the influx of money pouring into teams that have been sold to rich eastern ownerships, A.C. Milan could no longer compete in the market. It is unfortunate that a club has to sell its identity, as Italian clubs are almost always run by Italian owners, but this was also the only way to keep Milan from falling completely off the map. These new owners are headed by Yonghong Li and David Han Li, who have promised to invest hundreds of millions of euros into the club. So far, they have made good on their promise and have started a new project of spending power to acquire important players. New Milan CEO Marco Fassone and Sporting Director Massimiliano Mirabelli have seemingly been successful as they have been the ones dealing with other clubs and agents to bring new players to Milan as well as in working to let some players that don’t belong or do not seem good enough to move away from Milan. They have made numerous strong purchases already and Milan have also been linked to some great players.

Milan coach Vincenzo Montella had a positive first season, even if he seemed to struggle in his tactics when Milan started accumulating injuries to key players. However, Montella proved during his time as coach of Fiorentina that he could finish in the top four spots, even with a team that was not expected to finish there. Despite only being in the Europa League and also being a huge outsider to challenge Juventus, Milan are attracting top players because of their history and pedigree as one of the best clubs in the history of the sport.

Transfer Market

Two of Milan’s biggest problems these past few seasons were that they didn’t have a proper centre back to partner the young Alessio Romagnoli with, and the Milan midfield has been very weak in lacking pace, prowess and creativity. Fassone and Mirabelli have been working hard to fix these problems and to improve certain positions. Milan have signed former Villarreal defender Mateo Musacchio, who has impressed in La Liga for the past few seasons. He seems like a great improvement to the failures Paletta, Zapata and Ely. He and Romangoli are a promising partnership with another young centre back in Gustavo Gomez ready to replace either one of them as he has shown potential. In the left back position, the once promising Mattia De Sciglio has been steadily declining each season and looks set to leave Milan after one too many poor seasons. Ricardo Rodriguez has been signed from Wolfsburg to improve the left back position. He has been regarded as one of the best left backs in Europe for the past few seasons and even though Wolfsburg had a horrifically bad season, Rodriguez was not completely at fault as he was forced to play centre back, a position which he has never played regularly.

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Milan have also strengthened the midfield with the signing of young star Franck Kessie after dominating the midfield at Atalanta in his very first season in Serie A. The Ivory Coast native adds much needed strength and his ability to both attack and defend makes him an important asset to the team. Maybe the most impressive signing so far is the young Portuguese attacker Andre Silva of Porto. His release clause at Porto was around 60 million euros, but Mirabelli was able to sign him for around 35 million – a steal. He has been dubbed as Cristiano Ronaldo’s heir by Ronaldo himself. He is able to hold up the ball well, can dribble skillfully, links up well with other players and is a good finisher of the ball. He brings more elements to the game than someone like Carlos Bacca who, while being an expert finisher, doesn’t offer much else. If Bacca stays at Milan, the two could form a much more deadly partnership as Bacca was too often left isolated in the attack, meaning that many games saw him barely touching the ball. Milan have also acquired Fabio Borini from Sunderland to add some depth to the attack, although he almost certainly won’t be a starting player. Milan announced a grand signing in Hakan Çalhanoğlu of Bayer Leverkusen, who is a master of the free kick and is quite versatile on the pitch. He also adds that missing creativity to link the midfield and the attack and will bring a lot of attention and jersey sales. Milan recently announced yet another major signing in right wingback Andrea Conti, who joins Kessie from Atalanta. Conti was the highest scoring defender out of anyone in Europe’s top five leagues this past season. He is very gifted in the attack, and his defense and would be a considerable improvement on the declining and currently injured Abate.

With these signings alone, Milan have greatly improved. However, recent events have also brought two huge new signings on top of the aforementioned acquisitions. Lucas Biglia will arrive at Milan from Lazio and will be the new centre defensive midfielder. He is exactly what Milan need, showing strong defensive play, with an additional skillset with the ball at his feet as a playmaker. The centre-defensive midfield position has been a problem at Milan for years, as Montolivo has been an utter failure and constantly sustains long term injuries, meaning teenager Manuel Locatelli has been forced to take responsibility and play a role that may be too much to bear for a young player. Jose Sosa has also been deployed there, but he is much more useful in an attacking role. Defensive midfield is a position that Franck Kessie can play, but he is stronger as a central midfielder. Other midfielders that have been linked for a move to Milan include Grzegorz Krychowiak (PSG), Fabinho (Monaco), Julian Weigl (Dortmund), Kevin Kampl (Bayer Leverkusen), and Milan Badelj (Fiorentina). Once again, any of those additions would probably be an improvement compared to last season’s Milan midfield options such as Montolivo, Poli, Kucka, Bertolacci and Sosa.

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Incredibly enough, it seems that Milan have acquired Leonardo Bonucci, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s best center backs. Bonucci leaves Juventus after about seven years with the club, and joined Milan for only about 40 million euros, which is cheap considering what most people think he’s worth. Chelsea and Manchester City have previously tried to sign Bonucci for much higher prices, but it seems that Bonucci really likes Milan’s project and sees great potential in them. Bonucci joining Milan happened seemingly out of nowhere. It is impossible to explain this turn of events as Juventus selling their star defender to a direct rival doesn’t make much sense, especially for that price. The strangest aspect may actually be that the entire saga ended in less than two days. It came about as a single report that wasn’t taken seriously at all, but just a few hours later, more and more reports were coming out that were later confirmed by Bonucci’s agent. The next day, Milan and Juventus agreed on a fee and Bonucci headed over to Casa Milan to meet with Fassone and begin his new journey with A.C. Milan. It does seem very strange that Bonucci would leave the perennial top team in Italy only to join a team that isn’t even in the Champions League, but Milan fans won’t care as they have added a world class player to their squad. It seems that Bonucci had a bad relationship with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri and possibly a few of the players. In any case, the squad just improved immensely with this addition which also brings Juventus down a notch.

Despite all of this, Milan are not done yet as a couple more players will be signed in the coming months. Fassone has most recently said that there is still more to be done this summer and that might include a surprise player or two. Milan will also likely obtain a new striker and winger by the end of the transfer window. Strikers that have been linked to a move to Milan include Andrea Belotti (Torino), Moussa Dembele (Celtic), Nicola Kalinic (Fiorentina) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmund). Any of those players will almost certainly guarantee that Milan score more goals this season. Milan has been missing the goalscoring touch that they had when they started Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the striker. While Calhanoglu can play as a winger, he is more suited to an attacking midfield role which means that Milan will likely need another top left winger if they want to guarantee an improved finish to last season as Bonaventura will be the only left winger on the team. However, he is probably better in attacking midfield or centre midfield and is still out due to injury. Milan have been linked to wingers Rachid Ghezzal (Olympique Lyon), Jesus Corona (Porto), Lucas Moura (PSG), Papu Gomez (Atalanta), Keita Balde (Lazio), Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig) and Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad).

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Bonaventura (pictured) is not a long term solution at the wing for AC Milan.

Many players will likely be departing Milan this summer with the influx of new players are coming in. Goalkeeper Diego Lopez is gone after Donnarumma solidified himself as the new starting goalkeeper over a year ago. Midfield flop Andrea Poli has just moved to Bologna on a free transfer. Promising young striker Luca Vido has been sold to Atalanta for one million euros, but Milan have a buy-back option for him. Juraj Kucka has been sold to Turkish club Trabzonspor for around five million euros. The once very promising Hachim Mastour, the flop Keisuke Honda and the forgotten Nnamdi Oduamadi have all seen their contracts run out with no renewal on the table, meaning they no longer play for A.C. Milan. None of these players seem like they will be missed by Milan fans. Others that have a moderate to high chance of departing include strikers Lapadula and/or Bacca, especially if another striker is brought onto the squad. Lapadula may be used in an exchange to bring in another player and Torino, Genoa, Atalanta and Sampdoria are all interested in him. Bacca could be sold for a high transfer fee as he seemed to lose his way this past season and Sevilla, Marseille, PSG, Arsenal, Everton and West Ham are all interested in his services. Antonelli and/or De Sciglio have been linked to moves away from Milan with Juventus looking like the most likely destination for De Sciglio. Centre backs Paletta and/or Zapata may be on the way out. Paletta is almost certainly leaving, with Torino, Valencia, Atalanta and Sassuolo interested. Bertolacci will most likely be sold or at least loaned out, especially if another midfielder is added to the squad. M’baye Niang will likely be sold with Everton or Torino looking like possible destinations. Plizzari is being loaned out to Ternara but will most definitely not be sold to them. Milan have decided not to purchase any of the players they had on loan this past season, which means that Mati Fernandez, Mario Pasalic, Gerard Deulofeu and Lucas Ocampos are all returning to the teams that own them.

What’s Up with Donnarumma?!?!?!

The general positivity and excitement surrounding Milan took a big hit when it was announced that teenage wonderkid goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma would not be renewing his contract and this meant that he would likely be leaving for much cheaper than if he renewed or if he would be benched this upcoming season and leave for free next summer. The reason that this news was so enormous was because of the way it all went down. Donnarumma is already one of the best goalkeepers in Europe at age 18 and has the potential to even surpass the likes of goalkeeping legends Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas. He has already appeared for the Italian national team and is expected to be the best goalkeeper of the next generation. He was given his chance by Milan at age 16 and Milan made him the starting goalkeeper after he showed great promise. He has always claimed to be a Milan fan and spoke of his love for the club and city many times. He kissed the Milan badge after the Juventus game during a time when many people were saying he would replace Buffon at Juventus. This seemingly showed that he was not interested in leaving and wanted to be like Buffon, staying at his club for many years at a time. Milan sent him a new contract offer that would make him the highest paid player on the team and guarantee that he becomes the captain of Milan within the next few seasons. Milan fans have always supported him, and he is definitely a fan favorite as he was seen as someone who would become an A.C. Milan legend. With all of this love and the incredible new contract, it seemed almost a matter of time before he signed the extension.

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The only other factor that likely influenced Donnarumma not to renew his contract was his agent Mino Raiola. Raiola is probably the most notorious player agent in the world as he represents many superstar players with unique and larger than life personalities including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli and Paul Pogba. He is famous for trying to sell his players to a club for an enormous transfer fee, which he receives a large portion of. Donnarumma did not give an answer to the contract offer before the deadline given by the club. Donnarumma did not give his answer until days after the deadline. Raiola is thought to have convinced Donnarumma to leave because Milan did not want to include a release clause in the contract and if they did, it would have been something like 100+ million euros meaning no one would probably be able to purchase him. Raiola is thought to have convinced Donnarumma not to renew so that another club would buy him in this transfer market and Raiola would hugely profit off of the deal because Milan would have to sell him since his current contract ends next year. Real Madrid, Juventus and PSG were immediately linked and it is thought that Real Madrid offered 30 million euros to get him, which is an immense amount for a goalkeeper with only one year left on his contract. However, Raiola’s sinister plan backfired after it was thought that Milan were not going to sell him even though he only has one year left on his contract, because they would rather see him rot on the bench this season and leave for free than see Raiola win and make millions of euros.

Fans were burning Donnarumma jerseys and calling him all sorts of names out of their anger. Even former players and coaches were saying that he was making a terrible choice. This announcement came at a terrible time when Milan looked to be progressing in the right direction, and this could have been a major turning point in the opposite direction for the club, losing its most prized possession and future star. Donnarumma was bombarded with hate and abuse and Milan fans even put up “Dollarumma” signs up behind him at a U21 Italy game while pelting him with fake dollars. Since then, it seems like Mirabelli and Fassone won the fight to keep the talented young keeper, and Raiola took the loss. Raiola openly announced in an interview where thatit wasn’t Donnarumma’s fault and that he was open to negotiating with Fassone again. Raiola’s account of the details consisted largely of nonsensical and contradictory statements, and the ordeal was seen as a failure on Raiola’s part. It was then claimed that Donnarumma would fire Raiola immediately and re-sign with Milan, claiming that he never wanted to leave and it was all Raiola’s fault. Donnarumma put those rumors to bed by tweeting “#Donnarumma #Raiola Yesterday, today, and tomorrow!!” It seems, however, that Raiola wrote this tweet himself or told Donnarumma to tweet it. Donnarumma seemingly then went on Instagram to apologize and say Milan is in his heart and that he would renegotiate the contract but he claimed that his account was hacked an hour later (something I am very skeptical about). Right now, it seems that he will stay at Milan, but fans will not forgive him easily, especially if Raiola remains at his agent. The contract should not be changed to favor Raiola and Donnarumma, and if anything, it should be harsher, including the removal of the guaranteed captaincy, lower wages and no release clause – but it seems like only the first one will change. The new contract offered has reportedly been accepted by Donnarumma. Fassone himself has said that Raiola once again tried to stall the negotiations and change the contract to lower the release clauses that are proposed on the contract. If Donnarumma does indeed stay, it means that Milan will have every position filled with a quality player and they can challenge for a Champions League spot. Donnarumma’s commitment to Milan will be yet another win for Mirabelli and Fassone, who can seemingly do no wrong at the moment. It will be interesting to see if Milan reaps the benefits of all of the actions taking place this summer.

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Promising Youngsters

There are many promising youngsters to look out for in the A.C. Milan system, and some of them have legitimate potential to become world class. As for goalkeepers, they have the already fantastic Gianluigi Donnarumma, as well as the promising Alessandro Plizzari who has convinced some that is just as good as Donnarumma. He is largely unproven but did play a game against mighty Uruguay at the U21 European Cup in which he saved two penalties and made many impressive saves during the game. He recently turned 17, so he has a lot of time to grow and if Donnarumma does decide to leave, then he might be the go-to option instead of pursuing another top keeper. For defense, there is fairly experienced 24-year old Ricardo Rodriguez who should improve the Milan defense and their attacking prowess. 25-year old Gustavo Gomez showed some glimpses of quality last season, but didn’t play enough for us to get a full grasp on his ability. This season will likely be the make or break season for him. 22-year old Alessio Romagnoli has already established himself as Milan’s best centre back and as one of the most promising centre backs in the entire league. He is the future of this backline and can still improve his consistency and gain experience. 20-year old right back Davide Calabria had a positive season and should be in the plans for Milan’s future. However, since it looks like Milan will get 23-year old Andrea Conti, Calabria may be forced out on a loan or settle for less playing time since Conti was such a revelation last season.

In the midfield, there is now 20-year old Franck Kessie. The best way to prove how much potential he has shown is to list the teams that he reportedly rejected – this includes Chelsea, Manchester United, Roma, Arsenal, Napoli and Liverpool. Milan somehow walked away with him, all the more credit to Mirabelli. There is also 19-year old Manuel Locatelli, who burst onto the scene after the injury to Montolivo when he scored crucial goals to beat Sassuolo and Juventus. He has shown great potential as well and looks like a strong candidate to play a lot this season if he isn’t loaned out to another team to gain some experience. Lastly, in attack there is 23-year old Suso who had an unexpectedly great season, notching many important goals as well as providing countless crosses and passes that led to goals. He is one of the main reasons why Milan were able to finish sixth and win the Supercoppa last season. There is also 19-year old Patrick Cutrone, who will most likely be loaned out but has shown potential as he scored 11 goals in 19 games for the U17 Italian national team and scored many goals for the Milan youth team. New signing Andre Silva is only 21 and dubbed as Cristiano Ronaldo’s heir, and while he doesn’t actually possess the insane talent that Ronaldo has, he can establish himself as a world class player with Milan. He had a wonderful season with Porto as he scored 16 goals in the Portuguese 1st league and scored 4 goals in eight games in the Champions League.

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Andre Silva (pictured) is one of the most intriguing acquisitions for AC Milan this transfer window.

What to Expect Next Season?

The goal next season has to be to finish top four in Serie A to get them into the Champions League. Deep runs in the Coppa Italia and the Europa League should also be goals, but Serie A is clearly the most important. Failure to finish top four would see them struggle the following season, as they would have lost a great deal of expected income and they would most likely not be able to further improve the squad. If they are likely to finish in a top four spot in the second half of the season, then they might want to focus more on the Europa League and Coppa Italia as it would be great to win a trophy in the first year of the new era, especially since winning the Europa League guarantees Champions League play the following season anyway. With the squad that they currently have, it seems like Milan should finish in a Champions League spot, either third or fourth. The additions of Bonucci and Biglia could actually make them contenders for top three and still, they are looking to sign two or three more players before the end of the window which could see them actually challenge for first place. I expect a lot from the new signings, especially Franck Kessie and Hakan Calhanoglu as the midfield must be a huge improvement from the last few seasons as well as for Bonucci to continue his performances and prove that he really is one of the best in the world.

I must stress that Milan need to purchase another top player or two before they can be considered definitive Serie A title contenders. Right now, I would say that Milan have the third best squad in the league behind Juventus and Napoli, and now slightly above Inter and Roma. Roma have just sold many of their players and have not yet replaced them, but I expect them to successfully find a solution by the end of the transfer window. Last year, Lazio and Atalanta finished ahead of Milan, but this upcoming season will almost surely see Milan ahead of Atalanta because they have lost many of their best players already and are set to lose more. Lazio also didn’t participate in Europe last season, making it much easier for them to focus on Serie A. They have not made any major signings and will probably part with Keita Balde by the end of the summer. With Juventus and Napoli looking too strong, I believe the final Champions League spots will be a fight between Milan, Inter and Roma with added some pressure from Lazio and Fiorentina. If Milan find themselves too far from the top four later in the season, this would be a huge disappointment and then they must focus all efforts into winning the Europa League for a ticket into the Champions League. As of right now, I would predict Milan finishing exactly in third place in Serie A, which would be considered a success. They might have a squad seemingly as good as Napoli, but Napoli has had a similar team for many years now while Milan have a completely new squad filled with players that have never played together, some with no Serie A experience.

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Final Verdict

It’s looking like this upcoming season could be the best season A.C. Milan have had in many years. There is a lot to be excited about. The new owners, Fassone and Mirabelli seem to have created a project that will bring Milan back to the top of Italian football and then to the top of Europe. I expect the fanbase to come out of their shell and show their full support for the team. The stadium will be packed again, more jerseys will be sold and more attention will fall onto everything Milan is doing. However, nothing is guaranteed and this team has a very long way to go before they can say that they are one of the best in Europe. The glory days could be just around the corner; there is much work to be done and this upcoming season should merely be a stepping stone on a longer path to glory. Don’t expect this team to win anything this upcoming season, but just expect them to improve greatly, which is all we can ask for – at least for now. Remember that Inter Milan seemingly improved their squad last season and ended up having a failure of a season. To my fellow Milan fans, take caution but have hope, because this new team has incredible potential.

The Secret Behind Chelsea’s Success

Chelsea are dominating in the Barclays Premier League at the moment and have been dominating all season. As it stands, they have an eight-point lead over Arsenal and a nine-point lead over Tottenham. Considering Chelsea were generally poor last season, many are wondering how they turned it around so quickly.

Chelsea finished in 10th place last season in the Premier League with a total of 50 points, the worst finish for the club in many years. This season, Chelsea are currently in 1st and have already eclipsed their point total from last season with almost half the season left. This is an incredible turnaround in such a short amount of time.. Most of this newfound success comes from the appointment of Antonio Conte and the few acquisitions they received over the summer like N’golo Kante and Marcos Alonso.

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Kante won the Premier League last season with Leicester City.

When the season started, Chelsea were popular candidates for a top-four finish because of the squad they have but also because of the appointment of Conte. His record at Juventus was simply outstanding as he imposed his own system on the team. He also imposed that system on the Italian National Team, who he succeeded with in the European Cup, despite the fact that some considered the team that Italy brought to the cup among the worst in the country’s history. Before the season started, Chelsea brought some players into the club like Kante, Marcos Alonso, Batshuayi, and David Luiz.

Conte did the right thing in not buying superstars, but rather sought out players that he thought would work well under his system and players that are generally underrated. Manchester United and Manchester City have brought in many superstar players like Pogba, Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, Bravo, Stones, and Gündoğan, yet neither team is currently in the top four places in the Premier League table.

At Chelsea, things started off pretty well with 2-1 wins over West Ham and Watford and a 3-0 win against Burnley. Conte used a 4-1-4-1 system with Kante protecting the defense while the five in front of him did most of the attacking. Chelsea played conservative football and tried to keep the shots to a minimum on both sides. This is a formation that is more Premier League-like and less of what Conte was used to. After those opening three wins Chelsea’s form took a huge dip with a 2-2 draw versus strugglers Swansea and two consecutive loses to Liverpool and Arsenal, with the defeat to Arsenal being a quite embarrassing 3-0 loss. Conte simply isn’t as capable at implementing this system since it is not what he is used to. He used these games to show that he needs to change this system and take a more Italian approach to the Premier League.

Conte changed to a 3-4-3 system which was more similar to what he was used to. Chelsea then went on a run of 13 straight wins in the league as well as only conceding four goals in that entire period. So what changed? How does this system work? For one, this system gets the best out of the squad that Conte has. Three center backs is something we see all the time in Serie A and is starting to be used more elsewhere. In Conte’s system, David Luiz is the center of the three defenders as he is the pivot where many passes are sent to. David Luiz is perfect as the center of the three because he will naturally receive the ball more since he is in the middle and this suits his strengths. David Luiz is actually not a great player defensively, but is a good passer of the ball from the back. In this system David Luiz has more of a control over the game and is able to send passes all over the pitch. Luiz is flanked by Cahill and Azpilicueta, the latter of which was brilliantly transformed from a wing back to a center back. When one of them makes a mistake, Luiz is usually behind them or next to them to cover it up. This is similar to Conte’s system at Juventus, with Bonucci being the pivot with a good range of passing while the other 2 (Barzagli and Chiellini) are more physical defenders. Cahill is more like Chiellini in that they are both strong and good in the air while Azpilicueta is similar to Barzagli in both read the game very well and skillfully marking attackers. Azpilicueta is so good defensively that he can easily slot into the CB position. One of the things Conte changed early on was to take John Terry out. He clearly doesn’t have the stamina or fitness left to compete at such a high level. Also, with the four in the back system, Chelsea struggled because Ivanovic isn’t a true right back as he doesn’t offer enough attack and isn’t quick enough against fast wingers.

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The four in the midfield are usually Marcos Alonso as a left midfielder, Matic (sometimes Fabregas) and Kante as the two central midfielders, and Victor Moses as the right midfielder. In Conte’s system, Alonso and Moses drop back as left/right backs when Chelsea are defending and they get very high up the pitch, putting in crosses and taking shots, when Chelsea are attacking. One of the other reasons that Chelsea has been so successful is because they bought Kante from previous Premier League champions, Leicester City. He was probably Leicester’s best overall player last season and has continued that form at Chelsea. Conte knew that Kante would be an incredible acquisition, which is why he asked Chelsea to get him. Kante posses a fine defensive game, reads the game perfectly, breaks up the opposing team’s play and is a precise tackler. He also has a good range of passing, moves the ball quickly, makes numerous interceptions and he never stops running. He even manages to win balls in the air despite being only 5’7”. Alongside Matic, who is much taller and very strong physically and in the air, they work together perfectly. Kante and Matic are both top class defensive minded midfielders which makes it very difficult for other teams to run at Chelsea’s center backs or reach Chelsea’s goal. When Chelsea need to become more attacking, they usually replace Matic with Fabregas who is more offensively minded with his fine passing and vision. Most coaches would use Fabregas every game because they see what he has done in the past but Conte made the bold choice to keep the center of the midfield very defensive and to give players like Pedro and Eden Hazard more creative roles.

While most coaches would suggest to their players to score more goals than the opponent, Conte’s philosophy seems to be to concede less goals than the opponent. He prefers to have all of his players behind the ball rather than to keep possession the entire game. Coaches like Pep Guardiola at Manchester City haven’t worked out because his system is flawed if he doesn’t have Barcelona-caliber players. Guardiola prefers to keep the ball the entire game and break down his opponent. The problem with this is that is in the event of a misplaced pass or an error with controlling the ball, the other team can easily counterattack. Conte knows this and prefers to have the other teams make mistakes so Chelsea can capitalize.

When attacking, Conte likes to use Hazard as a left winger, Pedro (sometimes Willian) as a right winger and Diego Costa at a striker. Hazard looks much more confident in his abilities this season and has changed into more of a fundamental player. He is working harder and moving into good positions. These types of things come with coaching. Diego Costa has always been clinical and is continuing his scoring success this season. Chelsea have often dropped their players deep and then sprung to life on the counter attack, leaving great dribblers like Hazard and Pedro to take on the remaining defenders, or in many cases, pass it to Costa who is a top finisher.

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When Chelsea have the ball, Marcos Alonso and Moses get high up the pitch which allows Hazard and/or Pedro to drift more inward towards the penalty box or a little deeper to receive the ball and create a scoring chance. Matic and Kante are usually reluctant to get up the field, so that if the other team gets the ball, Chelsea will have a number of players ready to retain possession once again.

This season, Chelsea players are covering much more ground during the average game. Conte is a coach who always expects his players to have a high work rate. Everyone defends when Chelsea isn’t in possession of the ball. Even Diego Costa works hard to put pressure on the opposing teams backline. Conte doesn’t mind if the other team has the ball, as long as they aren’t creating multiple chances. In the game vs. Manchester City, Chelsea had less shots and less possession but the shots Manchester City were taking were not very threatening. When Manchester City misplaced a pass, Chelsea were ready to counter attack quickly and this is how each of their three goals were scored. Chelsea don’t always let the other team control the possession, though. Against Everton, Chelsea won 5-0 while having more than 60% of the possession as well as letting Everton only take one shot the entire game.

Even though Conte is doing a fantastic job at Chelsea, there is another reason for their success that isn’t about him or the players. Since they finished in 10th place last season, Chelsea are not in a European competition like the Champions League or the Europa League. They can focus most of their attention on the Premier League while other teams have to prepare for games midweek and traveling to different countries.

Not everything is perfect at Chelsea as they do have some weaknesses. Tottenham ended Chelsea’s winning run in early January with a 2-0 win. Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino boldly matched Conte’s 3-4-3 system, had home field advantage, and his players seemed very motivated to get a result. The opposing 3-4-3 may have caught Conte by surprise. Chelsea wasn’t terrible but their defensive vulnerabilities were exposed. Pochettino singled out Azpilicueta as the weak link in Chelsea’s backline because at 5’10”, center back really isn’t his natural position. Because of his height, Dele Alli of Tottenham kept making runs into the box from the midfield which caused problems in the air for Azpilicueta. On both goals, Dele Alli made a run to the far post where Azpilicueta was and was able to head it into the goal. Eriksen kept floating balls towards Harry Kane and Alli to exposes the Chelsea backline aerially. Both goals from Tottenham looked exactly the same. Alderweireld man marked Diego Costa out of the game and was able to take him on physically. This was also master-class in pressing from Mauricio Pochettino’s men. Tottenham kept pressing Chelsea whenever they had the ball. They suffocated Chelsea and left them with little space to work in. Pochettino used Conte’s system. When coaches play the same style, the better team usually wins because it is man against man, the fact that this startled Chelsea, as well as Tottenham having the backing of the crowd at home made it easier for Tottenham to win here. This game showed that Chelsea can be beaten in Conte’s 3-4-3 system, but it would take a brave coach to play Conte man for man as other clubs like Everton have tried and failed.

Chelsea are somewhat weak in regards to individual backline players, as Conte really wanted to get new center backs over the summer. Azpilicueta was turned into a center back because Conte’s knew the other center backs aren’t very good. It seems like David Luiz was Conte’s 4th or 5th choice for a center back as Chelsea tried to buy Manolas of Roma, Romagnoli of AC Milan and Koulibaly of Napoli before they ended up buying David Luiz. This shows us that Conte knew that they would have trouble as he was used to having some of the best center backs in the world at his disposal with Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini on Juventus.

Currently, Chelsea look as if they are going to win the Premier League, which is incredible to believe after finishing at the bottom half of the table last season. It will be difficult for them in the coming weeks, as they have to take on Liverpool and then Arsenal. Conte and his squad have brought new life into the club. It will be interesting to see if other coaches can figure out a way to break Chelsea down and stop them from running away with the league. To do that, it will take a real tactical genius or some key injuries to Chelsea’s squad. Right now though, it looks like they will go all the way.