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September 12, 2019

Serie A summer transfer roundup, part one

By Flavio Fusi

The summer of 2019 marked a new record in spending on the transfer-market for the Serie A. Italian clubs, according to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, have paid out a total of € 1167.4 million in transfer fees. That’s a slight increase of +8.8% compared to last season, but dramatic if compared to 2015, when the total expenditure was €608.9 million (+91.7%). All this is due in part to the “Impatriate Regime” provisions of the “Decreto Crescita”, which guarantees significant tax relief to workers, including footballers, moving to Italy from abroad.

Juventus

Juventus had started the window relying on all its economic strength to carry out a series of moves that the club had been following for some time. After reinvigorating its defense, with the arrivals of Matthijs De Ligt and Merih Demiral, as well as that of Cristian Romero (currently playing another year on loan to Genoa), they sold Leonardo Spinazzola to Roma in exchange for Luca Pellegrini. To complete their defense, they obtained Danilo from Manchester City, after selling rightback João Cancelo to Pep Guardiola’s team for €60 million.

The midfield has also undergone a restyling: to provide more quality for new coach Maurizio Sarri. Fabio Paratici signed two free-agents, Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey.

But since August, the Bianconeri have had to face reality and recognize the difficulties in selling the excess players. Practically, the market ran aground after the failure of the negotiations for the sale of Paulo Dybala to Tottenham. For different reasons, none of the players on sale (including Daniele Rugani, Blaise Matuidi, Sami Khedira, Dybala and Mario Mandžukić) left Turin.

The situation has become almost embarrassing for a club like Juventus: and now the priority will become to sell off players in order to maintain financial balance (despite the positive balance on the transfer-market, the financial self-sufficiency of the club rests on the ability to generate significant capital gains year after year) rather than sell players not functional to the project. The club then listened to offers for other players such as Federico Bernardeschi and Emre Can and weeks before had to sell a top prospect such Moise Kean to Everton. In the end, no outgoing negotiation materialized and Sarri had to exclude Mandžukić and Can (who let off steam with the press) from Juventus’ Champions League roster.

It’s certainly true that Juventus managed to improve their roster and offer Sarri players more suitable to his style, yet like many of Europe’s elite teams, Juventus have been the victim of their wealth and of the wages they guarantee to their footballers, which only a few teams in the world can afford.

Napoli

By the time I wrote my Napoli’s season preview, their transfer campaign was pretty much concluded. In the last few days, they added Fernando Llorente, to provide depth and an alternative to their two main strikers Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens, but that was their very last move.

The dream of signing James Rodríguez remained unfulfilled, but the club got Hirving Lozano who immediately proved his worth in the game against Juventus. Despite € 113.2 million spent on the transfer market, the Allianz Stadium match also showed how necessary it is for the whole team to play to its full potential to allow Napoli to compete with the Bianconeri.

Atalanta

After a well-deserved third-place finish last year, Atalanta are about to embark on their first Champions League campaign. To prepare for this historic event, the team owned by the Percassi family has kept all its most important players, except for center back Gianluca Mancini, who was sold to Roma for €23 million.

The ability to keep the performance of the three-man defense high, regardless of the starting center backs, was one of the strengths of last season but a replacement was needed. Martin Skrtel was initially chosen to replace Mancini, only three weeks after signing his contract, he got it cancelled for an unspecified reason. The club then immediately took action, signing Simon Kjaer from Sevilla in his place. Overall, Atalanta got a defender that is 4 years younger and that already knows the league: he played in Serie A for Palermo and Roma.

The purchase of Ruslan Malinovskiy will allow Gian Piero Gasperini to have a midfielder deployable both in the middle of the field and behind the strikers in his 3-4-1-2.  Malinovskiy’s profile is different from anything Atalanta could field in midfield before: he is great at carrying the ball and dribbling his direct opponents as well as being a creative midfielder who also scores a lot. I wrote a more detailed profile of the Ukrainian in one of my recent columns.

To complete the campaign, they purchased Luis Muriel from Sevilla. The striker was loaned to Fiorentina for six months last season. With the “Viola” jersey Muriel started out great, scoring six goals, between late January and early March, before being sucked into the spiral of mediocrity and negativity that characterized the final weeks of Vincenzo Montella’s team.

Last season’s shooting map of the Colombian is not particularly encouraging, but Muriel has already scored two goals (generating just 0.35 XG from six shots) and if he could finally realize his enormous potential could form a potentially devastating attack with his compatriot Duvan Zapata.

Gasperini requested 16 or17 players able to compete for the starting eleven and got them. The biggest unknown about the season of “la Dea” is the impact with the Champions League. But the team is strong and if the attack, improved during the summer, and can be as unstoppable as last season (77 non-penalty goals and 62.81 xG), it will be very difficult to keep Atalanta out of the top positions in the standings once again.

Inter

Unlike Napoli, in the last few days of the market, Inter Milan actually added another important piece to their roster. After the purchase of Romelu Lukaku, his former team-mate Alexis Sánchéz also arrived on loan. 


Considering that there is no fee for the loan and that Manchester will pay more than 50% of the Chilean salary, it would have been difficult not to conclude such a bargain, which adds an important weapon to Inter’s attack. Given his mileage, there are doubts about his physical tenure, but if in shape, Conte will have an elite creative player at disposal (0.33 xG assisted per 90 last season).

As the icing on the cake, Inter’s CEO Giuseppe Marotta finally managed to push Mauro Icardi away from the locker room, albeit only on loan with an option to buy. The Argentinean and his stubborn wife and agent Wanda Nara have in fact moved to Paris and PSG.

With a total expense of € 152.5 million and a negative balance of € -105 million, Inter were far from shy on the transfer market. There’s a lot of enthusiasm among the fans and now everybody expects Conte and his team to deliver on the pitch.

With the Champions League teams out of the way, tomorrow we’ll look at the big moves from the rest of Serie A.

Article by Flavio Fusi