It has proved to be the busiest summer in quite some time for the northern Italian trio of Inter, AC Milan and Juventus, who have bust a gut to try and ensure that their flaws from the previous season have been rectified once and for all. After a campaign of contrasting fortunes,changes were certainly required in order to bring back a sense of competition amongst Italy’s elite.
Juventus have been by far the most active club in Serie A, with almost €100 million being splashed out on solutions to a playing staff that was regularly
exposed last season. Reinforcements in their problematic positions on the flanks, plus brand new options in midfield and attack have given the club a
number of reasons to feel positive about their chances for the upcoming campaign.
Meanwhile, Inter have had to make significant alterations to their team, with the side still wallowing in pity from the departure of Jose Mourinho last
summer, despite having won a Coppa Italia trophy and the Club World Cup. A new coach in Gian Piero Gasperini has brought about new ideas, and they
have certainly come to fruition with the acquisitions of versatile forward players and ball-playing midfielders who could give the cup holders a much-needed new dimension.
Last but not least we have AC Milan, who have added an eclectic mix of raw, young talent, along with seasoned, experienced professionals. Despite having lifted the Italian title, it was no easy feat, and there
were occasions where key players missing could have cost them glory, but astute new additions sees them
in with a credible shout for having done the
summer’s best overall business.
It has been Juventus who have made the most daring
movements in the transfer market this summer, and they can be pleased with their overall efforts. Despite the likes of Giuseppe Rossi, Sergio Aguero, Andreas
Beck and Michel Bastos being thrown about for most of the window, they were never close to sealing deals for the quartet, as Giuseppe Marotta opted for a far more measured and pragmatic approach to dealings.
Firstly, the defence has undergone a overhaul with the arrival of two new full-backs of international pedigree. Reto Ziegler has joined from Sampdoria,
with the Juve supremo knowing the Swiss left-sider extremely well from their time spent with the Genoese outfit. However, he has begun on a rocky road in Turin after admitting he has a strained
relationship with Antonio Conte, who has other ideas at left-back – namely the burgeoning Paolo De Ceglie- who is in line for a breakout season. Marco Motta
and Frederik Sorensen have also completed permanent deals and will continue to provide depth in their backline.
Another Switzerland international has been acquired to perform the role of right-back in Stephan Lichtsteiner, whose consistently powerful, all-round displays at Lazio led the Old Lady to splash out a
hefty €10m for his services, but should prove to be the elusive player that they have desperately craved in defence . Unfortunately, a centre-back addition was a case of too-little-too-late, after being considered low in priority to other positions, and it may pose an
ill-fated problem if Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini slide back into their comfort-zones.
The engine room in midfield has also seen an overwhelmingly positive overhaul, with the visionary,playmaking skills of Andrea Pirlo and the tenacity
and industry of Arturo Vidal potentially forming one of the most feared partnerships in the middle of the
park. Also Felipe Melo and Mohamed Sissoko have been deemed too limited in what they can offer to Conte’s new, fluid approach and have been shipped off, as the last remnants of Alessio Secco’s indifferent reign as general manager have departed.
Finally, the attack has been significantly bolstered as options galore arose in recent days. Eljero Elia finally ends Juventus’ two-year chase for a left-winger since Pavel Nedved decided to call it a day. The 26-year-old possesses all the required attributes of a modern-day
flanker on his best form , and may flourish in Conte’s 4-2-4 set-up, although he will have to erase the difficult past 12 months quickly. Mirko Vucinic is also
set to be the wildcard who may take Serie A by storm, under the noses of critics. The 28-year-old is a supreme talent, and one of the most intelligent
forwards around, who has it all in his armoury to become Juventus’ new talisman.
Other additions include Marcelo Estigarribia,
Emanuele Giaccherini and the permanent transfer of Simone Pepe, who will provide versatile options. The former is untested at this level, but his crossing ability and eye for a pass was showcased for
Paraguay in the Copa America, whilst the latter two are more typical, hardworking runners of the ball.
The underlying regret remains not retaining Sebastian Giovinco, and it will be interesting to see if pre-season starlet Cristian Pasquato can make the step up with Lecce, having joined them on loan.
In what was expected to be an average summer under the stewardship of Leonardo, the Brazilian tactician suddenly departed to take up a general manager’s position at Paris Saint-Germain, forcing
Inter to seek a new coach – subsequently in the form of Gian Piero Gasperini, who was initially met with mixed reactions from supporters who hoped for a
‘bigger name’. However, his coaching philosophy differs greatly from that of Leonardo, and it has prompted a change in culture at the club, with a few
older heads making way for younger, more flexible talent – possibly at the request of Massimo Moratti,
who may not be able to sustain the bankrolling of experienced stars.
Their rearguard has been bolstered to an extent with the permanent signing of fan favourite Yuto Nagatomo, who displaced Cristian Chivu during his loan spell last season with his high-octane wingback-
like displays. In addition, a new Maicon of sorts may have arrived in Jonathan from Santos for €5m, but he will play second fiddle to the ex-Monaco man for a
while yet. Emiliano Viviano also joins to provide more goalkeeping backup, but it may only be a temporary switch as Juraj Kucka is likely to swap clubs with him
next year. The midfield has seen two new, promising additions into its department, with Andrea Poli and Ricardo
Alvarez swelling the ranks. Inter’s engine room has been known for its error-proof, Argentine efficiency and functionality for many years, but the signing of
Poli, an Italy U-21 international, truly heralds the shift in cycle at the club, after being scrutinised for their
lack of faith in selecting youngsters, especially those of Italian heritage.
Although he may not be the most combative or powerful midfield player, Poli offers a great passing range and awareness on the ball, and it remains to
be seen whether Inter will offer him the keys to their midfield. Meanwhile, Ricky Alvarez, a left-footed attacking midfielder, will add more balance and
height to the team, as well as a new goal threat, but is likely to be deployed out on the left to cater for Wesley Sneijder, who is set to shine in his central playmaking role this season, after opting to stay put
at San Siro amid Manchester United interest.
Surprisingly, it is the club’s strikeforce that has overseen the most changes to its line-up over the summer. You would have bet your mortgage on Samuel Eto’o wearing a Nerazzurri jersey this season
after the emphatic 2010-11 he enjoyed, as well as Goran Pandev beginning to show the reasons why the club secured his services 18 months ago. The duo
has since left, with the former becoming world football’s most lucrative earner at Russian-side Anzhi, and the latter joining forces with Napoli.
It has presented the opportunity to Diego Forlan to step in, and if he can reignite his career by covering the goal return of Eto’o, combined with the added
versatility and moments of magic from Mauro Zarate – a more-than-capable alternative to Rodrigo Palacio – it could prove to be the most shrewd of business by Moratti. Young attacker Luc Castaignos has also received rave reviews, with his game mirroring that of Thierry Henry, giving Inter yet more options.
The Italian champions ended up enjoying a productive summer of transfer activity, even though two of their captures were announced during the tail end of last season, namely Philippe Mexes and Taye
Taiwo. Despite it appearing that their business was wrapped up early on, the Diavolo made two crucial moves to bolster their squad towards the end of the window, and it is this know-how that sees Milan at the top-end of the market once again. Marco Amelia remains at the club as reliable-enough goalkeeping backup to undisputed No. 1 Christian
Abbiati, and they have surely come up trumps by landing two experienced, full international defenders in the form of Marseille left-back Taiwo, who will
provide much-needed cutting edge and imagination to their left flank, whilst France star Mexes arrives from Roma with natural leadership qualities, as well as excellent defensive ability. Also, by shipping out Oguchi Onyewu and Sokratis, and veteran trio Legrottaglie, Jankulovski and Oddo, they have successfully cleared the deadwood in their ranks, and now have a far more streamlined rearguard.
The midfield has seen a number of changes, with last minute deals for Alberto Aquilani and Antonio Nocerino signed and sealed. The summer-long
mystery of the identity of ‘Mr X’ caused the rumour mill to go into overdrive, with the likes of Ganso,Riccardo Montolivo and even Kaka being bandied about, but the fanfare died down after an extremely
wise and astute piece of business was completed for Liverpool’s Aquilani, who will inject more craft and imagination into their side, with the trequartista role
now firmly in his sights for both club and country. In addition, Nocerino arrives from Palermo to replace the injury-struck Mathieu Flamini, and gives Milan
more choices with his industrious, box-to-box style of play. His signing particularly stands out, as he now has a golden opportunity to push stalwarts Massimo
Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso completely out of the first-team picture, whilst also putting pressure on the heels on Flamini upon his return.
The attack sees Milan permanently lose an established striker in Marco Borriello, and they may be a little light on the targetman front if Ibrahimovic
is ruled out for a period of time. However, the signing of wonderkid Stephan El-Shaarawy, who could be Allegri’s ace in the pack this season, is sure to race
the pulses. The 19-year-old is a prodigious talent, after a hugely
impressive season on loan at Padova last time round,and will compete for the attacking midfield birth with the likes of Aquilani and Robinho, although he may
be a little raw to rely on just yet. Yet, after seeing Alberto Paloschi and Alexander Merkel both sadly
depart for the time being, it is important that Milan continue to maintain a healthy balance of youth and experience throughout their squad. Antonio Cassano has, however, remained to compete with Alexandre Pato.
By Jeroh tejiri