No Pirlo. No Vidal. No Tevez. There'll be a revamped Juventus side hoping to secure their fifth consecutive Serie A this term, which might just offer a glint of light to the likes of Roma, Napoli and Roberto Mancini's new Inter, who will look to contest the championship. The league welcomes exciting new talents such as Edin Dzeko, Alex Sandro (about to be announced) and Mario Mandzukic, while domestic stars such as Simone Zaza, Iago Falque and Paulo Dybala have moved on to bigger stages. Let battle commence.
Three reasons why this season will be ace...
1. The Force Awakens
Serie A could quite easily have been mistaken for the latest instalment of Star Wars this summer. Edy Reja, the league’s oldest coach, looked like he was auditioning for the role of Han Solo as he arrived at Atalanta’s pre-season get-together on a spaceship. Milan signed ChewBacca [also known as Carlos, from Europa League winners Sevilla] which would indicate the team will no longer play with a False 9 or Phantom Menez as they did last season. Drones keep appearing. Spotted in Naples where Maurizio Sarri was using them to film team shape, Inter coach Mancini has insisted he must have one. Something has stirred at San Siro, too.
“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?” Rising from their slumber, the Milan clubs are back and join a rebel alliance, led by Roma and Napoli, in challenging champions Juventus who have lost three players in whom the force was strong. This season promises to be box office.
CAMPIONATO. DI CALCIO. ITALIANO. Remember the theme tune from Channel 4’s Gazzetta Football Italia with its iconic cry of “Golazo!”? Well, as a soundtrack it has never been more appropriate. More goals were scored in Italy last season than in any of Europe’s top five leagues. Luca Toni became the oldest Capocannoniere ever. Mauro Icardi is the youngest since Paolo Rossi in 1978. Although Carlitos Tevez has left Serie A, 687 other goals have arrived. That’s how many the league’s new No.9s Edin Dzeko, Mario Mandzukic, Stevan Jovetic, Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca have scored in their careers. Pepito Rossi is healthy again, Gonzalo Higuain is still around and what if Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli make a return? It’s enough to make you shout: Goooooooooooooooooooolazo.
3. The Crazy Gang
Sampdoria owner Massimo Ferrero made a name for himself last season for morris-dancing on the pitch, wearing a club pashmina like Rambo, propositioning TV presenters and generally giving the impression that he was high on life. After predicting Samp would win the first leg of their Europa League play-off against Vojvodina 4-0 only for them to lose by the same scoreline, he brought artful dodger and serial prankster Antonio Cassano back to the club. Cassano has been bombarding Balotelli with texts to persuade him to join, too...
Mo Salah turned out to mean Mo problems for Fiorentina. A revelation on loan from Chelsea last January, they had an option for another season and seized it, only for the player to produce another piece of paper claiming he had a veto. Convinced that his head had been turned by Inter, he instead joined Roma. That wasn’t the only transfer farrago to keep us entertained this summer. Jilted by Jackson Martinez and defeated in the first ‘derby’ of the summer when Inter beat them to the €35m signing of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Milan consoled themselves with Bacca and then went after Alessio Romagnoli, the new Nesta. Complaining about the €30m asking price, Sinisa Mihajlovic said: “I like strawberries but they shouldn’t cost as much as oysters.”
How then do you think he celebrated after Milan finally agreed a fee? That’s right: by ordering a plate of strawberries and oysters. Milan’s extravagance owes much to Bee Taechaubol being prepared to front an absurd €480m for a 48% stake in the club. Contrast that with poor old Parma. They have been forced to put their UEFA Cups up for sale following their relegation to the fourth tier.
Youngsters to spy on
Paul Pogba (22) and Felipe Anderson (21) are now even more conspicuous after Juventus and Lazio awarded them the No.10 shirt. Federico Bernardeschi (21) has also received the same honour from Fiorentina. Paulo Dybala (21) has a huge price tag to live up to in Turin, as does Pogba’s international team-mate and rival at Inter, Kondogbia (22). Italy’s centre-back pairing of the future, Romagnoli (20 - read our Alessio Romagnoli talentspotter profile) and Daniele Rugani (21 - read our Daniele Rugani talentspotter profile) will add interest to encounters between Milan and Juventus. The Old Lady expects Kingsley Coman (18 - read our Kingsley Coman profile) to start fulfilling his promise and still has an option on Sassuolo wonderkid Domenico Berardi (21). Also be sure to look out for Ricardo Kishna and Ravel Morrison at Lazio. Their attitude may have been questioned in the past but their talent is indisputable.
Tussle for the title
Last summer Roma believed it was going to be their year only to finish runners-up again and disappoint. Dzeko, however, could well be the missing piece to the puzzle just as Gabriel Batistuta was before their last title in 2000/01. After satisfying his many demands, Roberto Mancini no longer has any excuses at Inter. At the very least he has to deliver Champions League football, as does Sinisa Mihajlovic at Milan. Both are playing high stakes poker. Napoli, meanwhile, have flown under the radar but merit consideration as legitimate outsiders after filling holes in their team, hanging on to Gonzalo Higuain and replacing Rafa Benitez with Maurizio Sarri.
Juventus have more than one pretender to their throne. They have bought well after losing Andrea Pirlo, Tevez and Arturo Vidal. The Old Lady is rejuvenated but all transitions are delicate. Even so, a foundation of Gigi Buffon, the BBC and Claudio Marchisio is the strongest in Serie A. They remain favourites to win a record equalling fifth straight Scudetto but, make no mistake, this will be closest title race in years.
Battle at the bottom
Expect the unexpected. Surprise high fliers one season tend to fall hard and fast the next. Think Samp in 2012, Palermo in 2013, Catania in 2014 and Parma last term. Will it be Samp again or maybe even Genoa this time? Recall how Atalanta also flirted with relegation last season. Empoli should struggle as well after losing Sarri, Rugani and Mirko Valdifiori, the Pirlo of the provinces. Cinderella stories Carpi and Frosinone, both of whom are top flight debutants, are hoping to emulate Chievo and Sassuolo in establishing themselves in Serie A. It’s likely one will stay up along with play-off winners Bologna, who in millionaire Joey Saputo have the backing to survive and the goals of Mattia Destro, too.
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