Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Serie A Canada Watch List

This is a list I have compiled of a few players that should be on the watch list for all Calcio fans. They are either players on the brink of super stardom, or players whose performances will dictate whether or not their particular teams are able to achieve their goals this season.

Ciro Immobile
Lets get the obvious out of the way first. Ciro Immobile comes off his loan deal with Pescara which saw them promoted last year with a lot of hype. The Serie B's capocannoniere had 28 goals a year ago, and started his Serie A season on the right foot, no pun intended, with a goal in a 2-0 win for Genoa over Cagliari. Genoa believe in the 22 year old so much so that they have been looking to offload out of favour striker Alberto Gilardino.

Alberto Aquilani

Many questions have surrounded Alberto Aquilani upon joining Fiorentina this off season from Liverpool. Brought in to fill the hole left in the midfield by the departed Riccardo Montolivo, Aquilani answered those questions in his first Serie A match by providing a beautiful diagonal ball from the centre of the pitch all the way to the edge of the 18 yard box. Jovetic would finish the wonderful assist giving the Viola a much needed first win of the season.

Michael Bradley
Michael Bradley is on a quest to prove himself in the Serie A, and is being given the opportunity in the nation's capital. A successful season with Chievo caught the eye of the Romans, and he will be given every opportunity to continue making a name for himself. The American international has been given the role of holding the midfield alongside Daniele De Rossi. Bradley is a physical force in the centre of the pitch, but does not get enough credit for his creative abilities which he showed off on his assist of Nicolas Lopez' tying goal against Catania over the past weekend.


We all know of the departures at Udinese this summer, but who did they bring in? Well the player whom I think will play the biggest role in trying to replace all the departed is Brazilian attacking midfielder, Maicousel. Not much is known about him, but we didn't know much about Asamoah, Isla and Armero before they broke onto the scene with Udinese either. Maicousel made a beautiful run, and was sent in for his first Serie A goal in his first match against Fiorentina on Saturday, but the hope is he will be more of a creator than a scorer. He only had six goals in 56 appearances for Botafago in Brazil over the last two seasons, but Udinese are hoping his creative abilities will be able to keep them in the upper echelon of the Serie A.

Angelo Ogbonna

Torino have made some interesting moves this summer as they attempt to stay afloat in the Serie A. But the one player that is going to be integral to their season is their heart and soul on defense, Angelo Ogbonna. He is a product of the Torino youth system and has already made well over 100 appearances for the club on his way to becoming captain, and is the future of the Azzurri central defence. His performance this season will go a long way in keeping Torino in the Serie A, and also cementing his place in the national team.

Abel Hernandez

This next selection had a horrendous start to his Serie A season, but I believe it is about time Abel Hernandez starts to live up to the hype. Still only 22 years old, this will be Abel's fifth season with Palermo. He was virtually invisible for the men in pink in their 3-0 loss to Napoli, but he will be important to Palermo if they are to have any kind of success in the Serie A this season. I have opined that they could be a team fighting to stay in the top flight, and one of the keys to their season will be Abel Hernandez having a breakout season and doing what so many of us think he can accomplish. All the talent in the world yet he has only been able to show it in flashes to this point in his career.

Dorlan Pabon
Parma will have a difficult time fulfilling the void left by Sebastien Giovinco. But they have tried to fill that hole with young pacey forwards like Jonathan Biabiany and Dorlan Pabon. Although both of them were phased out by Juventus in the first match of the Serie A season, their pace still got them both into scoring positions a few times during the match, and it was certainly evident that these two have the pace to make some things on the counter attack this season for the Gialloblu.

Giampaolo Pazzini

Milan have had a roller coaster ride of an off season, and after a 1-0 loss to Sampdoria in their first match many questions surround the Rossoneri. Newly signed Giampaolo Pazzini is coming off the worst season of his career, but was overshadowed by Diego Milito at Inter. With Pato and now Robinho injured to start the season, Milan will be counting on Pazzini to poach some goals while the Brazilians watch from the stands.

Lorenzo Insigne
 Lorenzo Insigne has probably been the most hyped Italian youngster of them all. Marco Verratti would have given him competition for that title had he not left for Paris Saint-Germain, but that's another story for another day. Insigne will be given every opportunity to make Napoli fans forget about the departed Ezequiel Lavezzi. Lorenzo enjoyed an incredible preseason that only fuelled the hype machine surrounding the 21 year old. He started for Napoli in their 3-0 victory, but was unable to record any goals or assists. The expectations are very high for this young man, and it is rare to see an Italian at his age get a chance to start with one of the bigger teams. We will have to wait and see if he can live up to the lofty expectations set for him.

Alessandro Matri

Lastly, I am expecting to take some heat from all of you on this and I hope you do, because I truly believe in Alessandro Matri to be the man to score plenty of goals for Juventus. Your classic 'poacher' striker Matri is physical, strong, and has a knack for getting into the right places. Giovinco will be hurt for the next couple of weeks so I expect Matri to start alongside Vucinic, and make it hard for Massimo Carrera to keep him out of the first team once Giovinco is back healthy. Matri can win the Serie A golden boot, if given the chance...

These are my watch list players. Whose yours? Lets discuss....comment here or find me on twitter @DanRiccio23.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Dan The Man

Daniele De Rossi Remains Loyal to his Hometown Club
Daniele De Rossi has rejected a move to English giants Manchester City. Yeah this is old news, but I have yet to offer my opinion on it. 

Daniele is one of the premier talents in the Italian Serie A, and to see him reject a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world is admirable. It's not like any Italian football fans hated De Rossi in the first place, I just feel like he gets forgotten about at times. Maybe last year more than ever, just because Roma was such a mediocre team. But when the Euro came around, De Rossi was arguably the Azzurri's best player, and was noticeable at all times on the field. Whether it was creating an offensive opportunity, or if it was making a last ditch effort on the defensive end he was absolutely sublime. Or maybe, just maybe, it was showing that he could even play in central defense if need be, to me he is one of the most valuable talents on the planet.
The Roman Boys Celebrate the 2006 World Cup Win
Putting a price on him would be difficult, but Roma was put in a very tough place following the £31 million offer Man City threw at them. There a comes a time when an offer is just too good to reject, and maybe this was it, however selling De Rossi at this point would be extremely detrimental to the team's prospects for this year. If there was one player on any team in the Serie A, that you could say is irreplaceable, who would it be? I'd say Daniele De Rossi. 

Roma's Future Captain
Daniele is the reason I think Roma can challenge for the Scudetto in 2012/13, we know that Zeman's all out attack tactics will be in full effect, but without De Rossi Roma don't have that rock in the midfield that can save goals from going in on their own net. I may be Serie A biassed, but Daniele is the best box to box midfielder in the world. I challenge you to name me a better one. 

But really I just wanted to applaud Daniele, I have all the respect in the world for this guy, he knows Roma have a chance at a title this year, and he wants to stick it out and win some trophies with his hometown club. It's hard to find a guy like him in football these days. 

Grazie Daniele You Have Earned the Respect of Many Around the Globe

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Conte vs Zeman Round 1

Antonio Conte vs Zednek Zeman 
also known as 
3-5-2 vs 4-3-3

Looking over the probable line-ups for the upcoming season I'm seeing a common theme. With the exception being Atalanta, with a simple 4-4-2 and Torino with an exciting 4-2-4 formation that got them back into the Serie A, every other team is either using a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3, with some teams having slightly modified it with either a 3-5-1-1 (Napoli, Bologna, & Udinese) or a 4-3-1-2 like Milan & Chievo or finally a 4-3-2-1 like Inter.

Some say 'Parody is Flattery', but I think Conte and Zeman would both feel less than flattered by this. Either way the influence of these two men and their formations will be very evident this season.

Those of you who followed the Azzurri's run in the Euro Cup should know that this was a struggle for Head Coach Cesare Prandelli, who used the 3-5-2 for the first game against Spain, when Italy drew 1-1, but then used a modified 4-3-3 for the remainder of the tourney. Some (mainly myself) have argued how in the Final game he should of reverted back to the 3-5-2, and how it would of been a much closer game. But thats in the past, and after many cold showers it is to be forgotten.

i'm sure a lot of people wanted to be the Batman to my Robin 
in the weeks after the final

  Zdenek Zeman may be best known for using the 4-3-3, but when you actually see a Zeman squad using it effectively how he preaches it, it looks a lot more like a 2-5-3, which creates a lot of goals. Pescara scored the most goals in the Serie B last season, and with all the fire-power Roma have at their disposal I suspect they should be considered favourites to score the most goals in the Serie A this season.

Roma in a pre-season friendly already effectively using the 4-3-3 
(looks like just 2 at the back though) 

Zeman is not the only one who has used the 4-3-3 in the Serie A before. Massimo Allegri (Milans current Head Coach) used that same formation in the 2010/11 SERIE A season and won more than just Most Goals by a club that season, as Milan were crowned Scudetto Champions, which can be credited to the 4-3-3 formation that allowed them to score so many goals.

Antonio Conte last season preferred a more pass-heavy formation in the 3-5-2. (It will definetly still be used by new Juve bench boss Massimo Carrera while Conte serves his 10-month touchline ban). This formation keeps 3 central defenders back at all times, and is not as susceptible to a counter attack as the 4-3-3. The formation finally got its recognition by the Italian Soccer community only after Juventus finished the 2011/12 season as UNDEFEATED Scudetto Champions. 

During last season, Mr.Conte was constantly called out by 'analysts' and 'experts' about how it does not produce enough goals. Antonio answered this at the end of the season  himself: "While the 3-5-2 may not score a lot of goals, it rarely gives them up" and that is all that matters.

This season there will be a lot of talk on what formation will be better to use Zeman's 4-3-3 or Conte's 3-5-2. My vote will always be with my coach, but the main thing is that they both create very exciting, attractive Calcio, and while you try to decide which side you are on, I'll be enjoying all the action from the most competitive soccer league on the planet.

The Milan Swap

Those were the glory years for these two.
The swap has been talked about for a week now, and it is finially official as of this morning. At this point no Italian football fan seems to know why AC Milan had to pay €7 million + Antonio Cassano to Inter Milan for Giampaolo Pazzini. The former dynamic Sampdoria duo have had mixed results since leaving the Blucerchiati in the 2011 winter transfer window.
We know Cassano had the heart issue, so its hard to blame him, but his whole career he has been a player who comes with more hype than what he produces justifies. A talented player forsure, but one that has never lived up to expectations. With the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, Cassano realized he did not want to be part of the rebuilding program at San Siro. He asked to transferred. Giampaolo Pazzini was destined to underachieve at Inter, despite his great form upon arrival at Inter (11 goals in 17 appearances) he was always going to play second fiddle to Diego Milito. Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni made it clear that Pazzini would not be in his plans this season, so he should look elsewhere for first team football.
Cassano wanted out, and Pazzini was being forced out; still the Rossoneri somehow had to pay extra on top of Cassano for Pazzini. It should be mentioned that although Cassano had his health issue last season he was still able to make the Euro 2012 Azzurri squad, this speaks to how highly regarded a talent he is. Pazzini however, had an injury free season but only found the back of the net 5 times in 33 appearances. Inter have seemingly come out of this deal on top, but it remains to be seen how they will use Cassano. One would have to assume at this point that Cassano will not be a part of the nerazzurri starting eleven. Milito is assured to be the lone striker while Coutinho, Sneijder, and Palacio are in support. In this type of a formation, Pazzini could have thrived, and would be a good replacement in my opinion if anything were to happen to Diego Milito. Pazzini with the Rossoneri though is a different story. He is a player with limited abilites who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. With Milan counting on Pato to have a big season Pazzini will struggle to find playing time, and will struggle to find himself in the formation Milan uses. I can't see the future or anything, but I really don't see Pazzini working out with them. I have always liked the player, I am a big fan of 'poaching' strikers, but from the outside looking in, Pazzini does not fit in at the San Siro.

So what have we been talking about for the last week then? A deal of two strikers that probably have their best days behind them? The more I think about it, the more I find ways to think about why this doesn't make sense for either team. For Inter it makes sense financially, but I believe there will come a time when they will miss Giampaolo Pazzini at some point this year, especially if Milito gets hurt.
But for the life of me I can't understand what Milan is doing here, they are trying to nickel and dime for any player they seem to be interested in, and then throw away €7 million on a player they don't need. Milan are in need of defense more than anything. In their last two games they have given up 8 goals yet they continue to be on the search for attacking players. Pazzini will not help them, and if they get Kaka he will not solve their issues at the back end either. They have bodies in defense but they do not have much quality, this is where they should be spending what little money they have. I can understand that they wanted to get rid of Cassano as soon as he asked to be transferred but the added money is just baffling.
The only thing that makes would maybe make sense is that Inter needed the extra money as insurance for Cassano's health. Either way though, this deal will probably not make much effect to either team on the pitch this season, but it is just another reason for Milan fans to upset with their transfer season.

Friday, 17 August 2012

What's Wrong With What Juventus Has?

RobinVan Persie Signs for Manchester United
Many a Juventus fan wanted to see Robin Van Persie in the Bianconeri. Although it was known for a few days it has now become official that the Dutch talisman is on his way to Old Trafford. He has signed for Manchester United. The deal is reported to be around €30 million, and to that I say congratulations Arsenal!

But this post is not about Robin Van Persie, or Arsenal still being able to get a truckload of money despite the fact that RVP's contract is about to expire. This post is about Juve and their search for a 'top player'. Since the beginning of the transfer window Director General Giuseppe Marrotta has been in search of a top of the line striker. I do believe he has been looking, but as I have said in the past he won't empty out the pocketbooks for one, nor should he

If we take a look at the targets that Juventus have been after, they all have one thing in common, and that one thing is value, or at least the perception of it.

Robin Van Persie - Out of contract after this season

Luis Suarez - Apparent turmoil between him and Liverpool

Edin Dzeko - In search of first team football

Fernando Llorente - Out of contract after this season

Javier Hernandez to Juventus? Rubbish
Immediately following Robin Van Persie's signing to Man U, rumours spread that Juve would be after Javier Hernandez now that he may have been pushed out of the first team at Old Trafford. Trust me those are just rumours. The thing is Marrotta has done when any good transfer director should do, and that is be in search of value all over the globe. He thought he may have had a chance to get a big name at a discount price in Van Persie, but quickly learned that was not going to happen and then just talked up the transfer just to drive the price up. He did this knowing that if Manchester City were to get their hands on RVP then Dzeko would immediately become more expendable, and cheaper than the €30 m Man City is currently demanding.

Beppe Marotta
That's what it's all about; value. Marrotta knows that we aren't that bad up front, but a big name at a discount price is never a bad idea. He thought he might be able to get one of those guys at a price he would be happy with, however that was not the case. It was partially his fault because he announced to the world how much he wanted a top of the line front man for the upcoming season. Anywhere he has gone looking, he has gotten an inflated price since he was so adamant in telling everybody what he wanted.

The Vucinic Mustache kisses Supercoppa
Which is why I am beginning to come around to the idea that it's all just been smoke in mirrors by Marrotta. Maybe he thinks like me, that this is strikeforce isn't as bad as everyone seems to make it out to be. He spent €11m to get back Sebastian Giovinco from Parma, he has Matri back at full health for the first time since January, and Vucinic is a stud especially with that mustache. Fabio Quagliarella could be on his way out in exchange for Giampaolo Pazzini at Inter, which I think would be a great move. Pazzini flourished at Sampdoria under Marrotta, and a move to the Old Lady could be exactly what is needed to rejuvenate him, and hes right in the prime of his career at 28 years old. The best thing is he would cost next to nothing given that Inter coach Andrea Strammaccioni has already ruled Pazzini to be out of the squad's plans for the season. VALUE!

It's just like the Marco Borriello move in the January transfer season that Juventus made this past season. Yeah it did not work out so well, but it cost them nothing, and he was needed due to Matri's knee injury.

Alessandro Matri is Ready To Go
I don't see a problem with what Juventus has, I like Matri a lot as a poacher type of striker, he's big, he's strong, times his runs well, and has that knack for being in the right place at the right time. He scored 20 goals in 2010-11 and was on his way to another twenty goal season last year before battling through injury. Also, Alessandro Sampogna made a great point when talking about this the other day, he doesn't take penalties so he will have a tough time beating the Di Natale's of the world when it comes to overall goals. Vucinic and Giovinco are both guys who will finish but also create plenty at the same time. Juventus will get goals from everywhere, and that is something that can be very valuable to a squad.

Also while Marrotta has been talking up the need for a top of the line finisher, he has quietly signed quite a few players to the youth ranks. Leo Bonatini is young Brazilian whose come over and had a great pre-season for the Juventus Primavera squad(his first goal in a Juventus jersey is below). Also, just today Manolo Gabbiadini was bought from Atalanta. Although he will be sent to Bologna on loan where he should start immediately, and hopefully form a nice partnership with Alessandro Diamanti. Lest we forget that Juventus also own half of Serie B Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile, he will be playing for Genoa this season.

Marrotta is really growing into his Director General position, and after a few less than impressive transfer season's I really can't argue with what he is done lately, and he seems to have Juventus on the right path. The top of the line striker he has been talking about may already be part of the team, and all that talk has allowed him to make some other very quiet smart moves. Now he just needs to learn how to sell players.

So to answer the question originally posed in the title... What's Wrong With What Juventus Has? The answer is nothing, but Juventus fans expect the best, and while there is nothing wrong with that, they are reluctant to give what Juventus have the chance to succeed. After going undefeated last season I think they deserve that at the very least.

Follow me on twitter @DanRiccio23 for all the latest Serie A news updates.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The First Edition of the Serie A Canada Podcast!

In our first edition we go over how the Calcio Scommesse verdicts broke down. Antonio Conte recieved a ten month ban, does this affect Juve's title hopes? Italy makes some interesting call ups for their friendly against England, while the Supercoppa Italiana is coming up! We got the preview right here on the Serie A Canada podcast!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Serie A Power Shift

Milan Lose 5-1 to Real Madrid
Fresh on the heels of the two Milan clubs suffering losses and Antonio Conte being banned for ten months, I begin asking the question...is the balance of power shifting in the Italian Serie A?

Yes I know AC Milan was only playing a friendly, but losing 5-1 is not pretty, friendly or not, and Inter were playing a Europa League match in which they led 3-0 on aggregate heading into the 2-0 loss to Hajduk.

Also this morning the sentences came down in the Calcioscommesse scandal, and although Juventus did not lose any players, as Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pepe were both acquitted. They did lose their coach, Antonio Conte who was sentenced to a ten month ban, however he will appeal, and possibly get it down to four or five months.

Antonio Conte banned for 10 months

What was so impressive about Juventus last season was the fact that they managed to win the Serie A without a superstar. Alessandro Del Piero who was no doubt an integral part of the championship run, became a role player rather than the superstar he was for so many previous Juventus championship seasons. Andrea Pirlo played like a superstar, but prior to the season was written off due to his age, and nagging injuries that hindered him in years past. Which left Conte to bring in a hard-working, team mentality. He became the superstar of the team. Which is why I believe the team will struggle more than anyone else seems to think without Conte, especially with the Champions League approaching on top of the already gruelling Serie A schedule. Yes Juventus are still the favourites heading into the season, but for the first time in awhile there is serious contention looming atop the leader board.

Udinese have been able to finish among the Champions League qualifiers in the last two seasons, but face the same question as always; who will replace the men they've sold away this summer?

Napoli 2012 Coppa Italia Winners

Napoli's qualification into the Champions League after the 09-10 taught them a great lesson, they weren't good enough to compete in all competitions. After struggling last season, they are now poised to make a serious run at the Scudetto with the arrivals of Behrami, Insigne, Gamberini among others. They lost Lavezzi and have replaced him with several players which usually bodes well over the course of long season. The Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus tomorrow will be their first real test of the season, however they do seem further ahead in their pre-season preparations than Juve at the moment. It really is just a glorified friendly. The pre-season has been very impressive for the Patrenopei as they've defeated the likes of Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen as well as others so far.

New Roma coach Zdenek Zeman

Roma have been very active in the transfer market this season, as I've documented in my 'Welcome to Zemanlandia' piece from a week or so ago. I really like what they have done and since have brought in Euro 2012 standout Federico Balzaretti and have finally made the transfer of Mattia Destro official. With Zdenek Zeman taking over the helm they will surely score plenty of goals in the coming season and are my pre-season favourite to score the most in the league, however it is the defence that will be a problem for them as it is for every Zeman team. A year of maturity and progression will no doubt help the likes of Bojan Krkic, Erik Lamela and Miralem Pjanic, all players under the age of 22 that were brought in last summer. There is no denying the talent this team has, and I truly believe they have the best chance at the title outside of the 'big three'.

Lazio have been very quiet this summer, but as we saw last season they have a very capable squad. They were at or near the top for much of the first half of the season, until the injury to Miroslav Klose and sub-par performance of Djibril Cisse saw them fall out of title contention.

New Fiorentina Signing Alberto Aquilani

Fiorentina are the wild card in all of this, they have quietly had a very impressive transfer season. Although they lost Montolivo and Behrami, Valero, Aquilani and Pizarro have been brought in. More importantly they have been able to keep star player Stevan Jovetic in the Viola shirt, and are maybe just a striker away from having a very competitive season among the top of the Serie A.

What has excited me is that the teams in the second tier that 4th through 8th group of teams, have recognised the weakness of Inter, Milan, and Juventus, and have begun to get their ducks in order for a push to the top.

Inter seem to still be in transition from their glory years and are still building towards a new cycle, however they still have the talent to contend.

While Milan is also in transition and do not seem to have the finances to bring in new stars. The recent signing of Cristian Zapata won't fill the void left by the sale of Thiago Silva and was just the most cost-effective player they could find. Yes he had some success with Udinese a couple of years ago before moving to Villarreal, but being part of a defence that was relegated from La Liga does not sound to good from here.

Juventus has improved their squad but with Champions League on the horizon, and the coaching situation still up in the air, it is tough to confidently say they will repeat.

Whatever the outcome will be, I can tell you this, it will not be a two horse race atop the Serie A down the stretch this season. Calcio fans are in for an exciting season.

Follow me on Twitter: DanRiccio23 for all the latest Serie A news, and for the latest blog updates.

Your comments are always welcome

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Juve's Bad Investments

In recent years the Juventus have had trouble in the transfer seasons. It has not been due to a lack of finances, although with the new stadium they have moved to another level financially. They won't compete with the PSG's and Manchester City's, but they clearly have more disposable income.

This is good news for Bianconeri fans, but still they will have to be more diligent when selling players in the future. What sparked this idea was the sale of Milos Krasic for €7 million to Fenerbahce, and the inevitable loan of Felipe Melo yet again to Galatasaray. With the eventual implementation of the UEFA financial fair play, the selling of players is going to be just as important to a team as buying will be.

Milos Krasic was bought for €15 million in the summer of 2010. As most Juventini will tell you he was fantastic to begin his Bianconeri career, but struggled with fitness toward the end of that first season and seemed to lose a step as the year dragged on. The arrival of Antonio Conte was the beginning of the end for Milos at Juventus. He was completely phased out of the squad and was not even used as a substitute for most of the season. He only made 9 appearances during the 2011-12 season. It's surprising that Juventus were still able to sell him, but with his impressive pre-season this summer prior to being sold every fan wondered if he that magic he brought to the table at the start of his Serie A career was coming back. We'll never know.

Eljero Elia is another name that comes to mind, he arrived at Juventus last summer for €9 million. He made a grand total of four appearances before being shipped out this summer for €5.5 million. Why buy him in the first place?

The list goes beyond Krasic and Elia of course. Since the re-birth into Serie A Juventus have struggled mightily with transfers. Spending large fees on players that have not panned out. Felipe Melo(€25m), Diego(€27m), Tiago Mendes(€13m), Sergio Almiron(€9m), Jorge Martinez (€12m), and worst of all Amauri(€22.6) and trust me on this I could name more.

The return to Serie A saw the core of Alessandro Del Piero, Pavel Nedved, David Trezeguet, and Gianluigi Buffon still carry the team to Champions League qualification in their first two seasons back up. But beyond that the new blood was needed to carry the team to the next level, it wasn't until this season that Giuseppe Marrotta was able to figure it out with players like Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo being brought in. However we still are seeing the same problem, an inability to sell players at a profit.

Amauri, Tiago, Martinez and Melo have all brought back very little return in terms of performance and monetary value to the club and this cannot continue if the Old Lady is to continue on atop the Serie A. Most of them were only given a handful of opportunities to really succeed with the club, so it begs the question why bother? Especially with players like Martinez.

Alessandro Matri, Fabio Quagliarella, and Reto Ziegler are three players that remain on the selling block. I'm not sure why Matri would be, he seemed to fit in well with the Bianconeri's plans and had a decent scoring record before struggling through the end of last season with a knee injury. They spent €20m on him and now are reportedly looking to fetch €12m on the market for him only to use it on another striker. You always want to be buying low and selling high, something Marrotta does not seem to do well. Ziegler was brought in on a free, but was loaned out immediately and now they are struggling to get rid of him. While Quagliarella is having an awful pre-season after not featuring in the squad for much of last season, so what can they really get for him?

What troubles me the most is the continuing talk of Robin Van Persie being atop their priority list. He is a great talent I will admit, but I do have my doubts about his overall game. I'm not sure it will translate well to the Serie A, and I find it hard to remember when RVP has pulled out great performances when facing the top teams around Europe. But I could rant all day about that, the thing is that he is just turned 29, and is coming off the first injury free season of his career. His contract is going to expire with Arsenal next season at which point I would have no problem signing him as a thirty year old on a free transfer. But Arsenal is smart they know he is in high demand because of the great season he is coming off, and since three teams have let it be known they are strongly interested in him(Juventus, Man U, and Man City) they will let the bidding war ensue. Squeezing as much money as possible out of their star player.

I am warning Juventus fans Robin Van Persie may not end up being all he's cracked up to be. The Bianconeri went down the same road with Amauri a few years ago and we see how that turned out. Buying strikers when they are at their peak is never a good idea. I will grant you Van Persie is ten times the player Amauri was, but it's the same type of deal buying when their value is peaked and they are about to hit the down slope of their career.

Robin Van Persie would be yet another bad investment for Juventus.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Best in the World

Is the Serie A the best league in the world? The answer right now is no, but as we saw from the Euro's Italy are still no slouches despite the reputation of the league and National side taking a hit in recent years. I for one have always enjoyed the Serie A more than any other league, sure I have a rooting interest for Juventus but as a casual soccer fan I would still rather watch any Serie A game more than another league.

But I also think that the Serie A is back on the rise again. It is unfortunate that the Serie A lost our coveted fourth Champions League spot, but if things fall the right way this season that spot could belong to an Italian team once again, and if you think about it that spot could be filled with a very competitive team.

I have shared my views on Roma and Napoli's transfer seasons thus far, and I think we can all agree, both teams have made some impressive strides in the right direction. Inter has also made some important moves this summer, Coutinho seems like a different player since spending a year on loan  while head coach Andrea Strammaccioni has stressed a hard work ethic since taking over late last season. Milan have had their struggles, and those have been very well documented this summer, but I still maintain that cashing in on Ibrahimovic and Silva was the right thing to do for the Rossoneri. That was a move for the long-term that will benefit them in a big way. Udinese have sold away virtually everyone that made them so great last season besides Antonio Di Natale and Pablo Armero, however Armero may be on his way to Juventus in the coming days. Juventus have strengthened the squad big time, and are still looking for more, even beyond Armero, Van Persie or Edin Dzeko remain possibilites, while a defender is also desired by the Bianconeri brass. That leaves Lazio to round out the top seven, and they were great last season until a run of injuries killed a squad that already lacked depth.

Thats seven teams that could all compete for the Serie A this season. We can all agree that Lazio and Udinese are probably the weakest of the two, but I am here to make the argument that it is no longer a three team race in this league. Juventus will NOT be undefeated again this year. That isn't a very bold statement, as there aren't too many teams that have enjoyed consecutive 'invincable' seasons.

I have spoken to it before how upsetting it is that Udinese will probably go a second consecutive year where they stand very little chance of advance from their Champions League qualifier as they just sell away too many players, and do not re-enforce in time for the qualifier. But there is always a chance, Guidolin has that team working hard and they are never easy to beat, especially at the Stadio Friuli. But this hurts Italy's chances of getting that fourth Champions League spot back.

But we won't be held out for long, Napoli and Roma are building squads that will compete for a very long time, and squads that will have enough depth to compete in all competitions. Napoli got a rude awakening last season when they struggled with the added games of the Champions League. So they sold Ezequiel Lavezzi and have revamped with a much deeper, balanced squad. One that will challenge for a Serie A title, and one the will compete hard for continental glory as well.

Roma are in the same boat. They brought in the perfect coach for their young squad that is developing into one of the most exciting teams to watch in all of football. Seriously, if you watched some their games last season, and how talented some of these guys are, then you know what they can can do in the final third of the pitch. If not, I suggest you find a Roma game to watch this upcoming season, they will be a lot of fun.

Inter and Milan will always be around, and they will always field great teams. They may go through transition seasons every now and again, but most teams do, we've even seen it happen with Chelsea in recent seasons. But Inter are looking to get back on the map and Milan will be gunning to prove that they will still be a great team despite the sale of their two superstars, and many of their older players riding off into the sunset.

Juventus is a team on a mission at the moment. The mission is to get the credit and reputation they once had restored. An undefeated season did help but now more trouble and betting scandals are looming. However, the team had nothing to do with it, and the plan still goes on as it was drawn out. They are aiming for a lengthy run in the Champions League while retaining the Serie A title. However, it will not be as easy as they made it seem last season.

The Serie A is a league that is growing, and trying to restore its name and reputation around the world. I believe in it, and I am happy to see that the owners of Napoli and Roma are making a real effort to compete with the 'big three' and beyond. The league will not be a two horse race this season. There will be plenty of scoreboard watching and it will not be long until we see Italian squads dominating throughout Europe once again.

Your thoughts and opinions are always encouraged.

Follow me on Twitter @DanRiccio23 for all the latest Serie A news and updates on the blog!


Guest Blog

By Alex Bartolomeo

There seems to be a trend developing in the Serie A if we look at recent transfer windows, but it is nothing new for calcio fans. The young talents of Italy have been shipped off or sold to the highest bidder. It seems that young Italians are finding it hard to make there way into a starting XI in the Serie A, and if they do owners seem reluctant to sell their rising stars within the Serie A for fear of that competition. What is most troubling about all of this is that players get sold away to other countries and are forgotten. Taken out of the National Pool before even getting a chance in most cases.

In recent weeks we have seen Fabio Borini and Marco Verratti both leave the Serie A for England and Italy respectively. This is not the first time we have seen this happen, and most certainly will not be the last. I think we would all like to see these players reach their potential before being shipped elsewhere.

Here are some examples of what could have been:

Alessandro Rosina (right) shakes hands with Alessandro Del Piero prior to a Torino derby match.
Rosina was captain of Torino at the time. (2008)

Known as Rosinaldo in Torino for resembling the great 'Phenomeno' Ronaldo. Rosina started his career with Parma at just 20-years-old. Hopes were high for this young man however, he never did truly break out with the Gialloblu. He moved on in the summer of 2006 to Torino where he finally began fulfilling his potential. During his three seasons with Torino he ammased 22 goals and 10 assists. Despite interest from clubs all over the Serie A, it was Zenit St. Petersburg who won the race for his signature. Rosina was 25 and just entering the prime of his career, however since moving to the Russian side he has never cemented his place in the first team. He earned his first cap for the Azzurri during the 2007-08 season, but has yet to earn a second cap since moving to Zenit.

Enzo Maresca after winning the UEFA Cup with Sevilla

An Italian bull that started his career at the age of eleven with AC Milan. A box-to-box central midfielder that made his first senior appearance at the age of 18 with West Bromwich Albion of the English Premiere League. He quickly became a highly touted young player from there. Juventus purchased him in 2000 to bring him back to Italy however, he was never given a proper opportunity. Lack of first team football at Juventus to a loan spell at Bologna and co-ownership deals to Piacenza and Fiorentina respectively. In that 2004-2005 season Enzo played well, finding the back of the net five times in just 25 appearances. As a midfielder, that is a very good scoring record. Despite showing promise Juventus bought his full rights back from Fiorentina in 2005 and sent him to Sevilla, where he would go on to win the UEFA cup. Enzo netted twice in the final and was awarded man of the match honours. However, Enzo was never given an opportunity with the national team.

Alberto Aquilani

Being born in Rome, he began his training as a 15-year-old with the Giallorossi and became known as 'The Prince'. Roma fans believe he would be the one to replace Francesco Totti. This put a lot of pressure on the young midfielder, and he was not able to live up to the immense hype. Alberto was only given a short stin at the senior level with Roma, and was plagued by injuries. However, a team abroad still believed in his talent. He was sold to Anfield where he would play with Liverpool in the English Premiere League. Injuries have never allowed him a chance at the first team. He has only been called to one major tournament (Euro08) and since has not made it to the World Cup in 2010 or the recent Euro 2012. Alberto has spent his last two seasons in Italy, but only on a loan basis. He is still looking for a permanent move back to his home country.

Federico Macheda

At 14 Federico was already set to become a star. He got noticed by Sir Alex and was taken to the Premiere League. Never having really gotten an opportunity with the first team, Macheda's growth seems to have stunted. He is no longer one of the top Italian talents, and although he is still 21-years-old has fallen behind as guys like Fabio Borini and Mattia Destro are much further ahead in their development.

Marco Verratti

Touted as the second coming of Andrea Pirlo despite having never played a minute of Serie A football, Marco Verratti is Italy's most promising young talent at the moment. He led Pescara to promotion from Serie B this past season and made the big money move to PSG. Juventus was set to close a deal on the youngster until Pescara got a more than generous offer from the Parisian giants. The ceiling is high for Marco, but he needs to play in order to reach his immense potential. I don't think he will get that chance at PSG, it will be unfortunate if he does not continue to grow as a man and as a player because of this move.

It is not always what it is cracked up to be, leaving for the big money contracts in Russia or wherever a young star may find it. This is not a problem subject to Italians alone, but a problem that seems to be more prevalent in recent years. The blame should not just go on the players, although the allure of high reputation teams coupled with a big contract is hard to refuse, the owners in Italy need to nurture this talent better than they have in recent years. There is a bigger picture here, growing the game in Italy should benefit every team financially, not just the bigger clubs. Rising stars need to be given opportunities, and real opportunities at that, not just a few appearances here and there.

The problem is not as large as I might make it out to be, I know that but Italy should be a league that competes with the English and Spanish and at this rate it is starting to feel like it has become a feeder league for them. Mario Balotelli, Marco Verratti, and Fabio Borini should be the stars of football playing with Italian teams, not teams from around the globe. These are the types of players that can restore the great reputation the Serie A once had. Yes we may not be losing all of our best young talent, but in recent years the few that are leaving are the really special ones, and that is what scares me the most.