With less than one month to go before the first match of the 2018/2019 season, Italian clubs are racking their brains to secure some convincing additions to their squads.
This year, the Serie A will premiere on 18 August, exactly one day after the closing of the transfer market at midday. Contrarily to the past editions, in which the 20 teams had until the 31st to seal their last deals, all clubs must hurry up and complete their homework before school – that is, the league – starts again in the middle of August.
So far, some excellent players have got their names printed on Italian clubs’ shirts. And whilst sitting by the sea on our beach chair and sipping a cold Peroni, we have selected what we believe are the most promising signings ahead of the 2018/2019 season.
11. Rolando Mandragora – Udinese
Rolando Mandragora turned 21 last month and has shown his crystalline talent over the last few seasons.
After making himself known at Pescara in Serie B, playing a fundamental role in the Dolphins’ triumphal ride to the top tier of Italian football during the 2015/2016 season, he was immediately chased by Juventus. The young Neapolitan then had a brilliant season at Crotone last year, despite the team from southern Italy eventually getting relegated, holding the Sharks’ midfield together with charisma and determination.
Udinese have invested €20m to buy Mandragora from the Italian champions and now it is time for the 21-year-old to take advantage of his great talent. If he turns out to be as good as top quality ex-Pescara players like Immobile, Insigne, Verratti or Torreira, then Udinese will have bagged themselves a real bargain.
10. Francesco Acerbi – Lazio
The professionalism and willpower of Francesco Acerbi make him a reliable player and a great signing.
Acerbi has spent five years at Sassuolo, after short spells at Milan and Chievo, becoming an irreplaceable piece of the Neroverdis’ defence in the past three seasons or so.
What makes this man special is that, despite serious health issues, he overcame them and stepped back into the pitch stronger and more solid than ever. Acerbi was diagnosed with testicular cancer twice within the space of two years.
Now, the 30-year-old will take all his defending experience to Lazio, perhaps replacing De Vrij, who moved to Inter, with a chance to help the Biancocelesti make a good impression in the Europa League.
9. Justin Kluivert – Roma
Bamboozling defenders in the Netherlands and with a prestigious surname on the back of his Ajax shirt, Justin Kluivert moved to Roma in June for around €19m.
Son of the famous Netherlands international striker Patrick Kluivert, Justin ignored the massive pressure on his shoulders and showed his class in the Eredivisie, scoring 12 goals in 44 appearances for the Amsterdam-based club.
Kluivert is an unpredictable and unstoppable winger. Born in 1999 and aged only 19, the young player is a true talent and loves to run into opposition defences with speed. Battling against strong and tactical defences in Italy will put Kluivert to the test, although it will definitely make him blossom to his full potential.
8. Darijo Srna – Cagliari
He may not be a spring chicken anymore, but Darijo Srna has bags of experience and has not yet finished running on the right flank.
The former Croatia international, who in the course of his career has received offers from big clubs such as Chelsea and Bayern Munchen, had always remained faithful to his Ukrainian club Shaktar Donetsk. With a total of 339 appearances and 33 goals (like his shirt number) in 15 seasons, Srna has definitely become a club legend.
After being suspended last season for a failed doping test, the Croatian right back wants to redeem himself at Cagliari and has signed a one-year contract with the Sardinian club.
Srna is 36 years old but Darijo is like wine: he gets better as he gets older.
7. Kevin-Prince Boateng – Sassuolo
Kevin-Prince Boateng, brother of Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng, has been changing teams for fun in recent years. However, he has always left his mark.
After an experience in the Canary Islands with Las Palmas, during which he scored one of the goals of the season, Boateng moved to Eintracht Frankfurt and helped his club triumph in the DFB-Pokal Cup against Bayern last season.
Now though, the midfielder is flying back to Italy, which is his wife’s home nation. Boateng had a brilliant spell at Milan between 2010 and 2013, making himself known following the 4-3 win against Lecce in which he scored a hat-trick coming on as a substitute, with Milan were 3-0 down.
Sassuolo are hoping that ‘the Prince’ can add quality to their team, alongside new signing Di Francesco from Bologna (son of Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco).
6. Ivan Strinic – Milan
Ivan Strinic started in six of Croatia’s seven matches at the World Cup. A flexible left-back, he can defend, attack, run backwards and forwards for more than 90 minutes and whip venomous crosses into the box.
Milan have secured him from Sampdoria for free with a three-year contract. Strinic first moved to Italy for the 2015/2016 Serie A season, joining Napoli from the surprise Europa League finalists Dnipro.
The 31-year-old left-back played 85 matches for the Ukrainians and scored four goals. Since then, he has never put the ball behind the keeper – but, to be honest, that’s not really his main responsibility.
5. Lautaro Martinez – Inter
Twenty years old and already with the number ten on the back of his shirt, Lautaro Martinez is perhaps one of the most exciting new prospects in international football.
Inter managed to clinch the young striker, beating the fierce competition of German giants Borussia Dortmund, thanks to the fatherly recommendations of Racing Club’s director Diego Milito, who convinced the Argentinian to fly to Milan.
With ‘El Principe’ Milito encouraging Martinez to move to Italy and with another Argentina legend Javier Zanetti ready to welcome him straight away, the attacker had a clear idea about his future.
Inter, in recent years, have scouted a few interesting South American talents such as Ricky Alvarez and Gabriel Barbosa, who eventually let down the Nerazzurri.
Lautaro Martinez, however, could really be the precious talent that Inter have been lacking in recent history…
4. Simone Verdi – Napoli
Leaving Napoli on the altar like a heartless groom when he refused to move from Bologna in the winter transfer market, Simone Verdi has now joined the Azzurri for £22.5m.
The 26-year-old has finally made his way to the maritime city under the mighty Vesuvius, following the January drama in which he decided to stay at Bologna despite Maurizio Sarri’s persistent phone calls. Verdi wanted to honour his contract with the Rossoblu, the club that had faith in him and gave him an important chance after his disappointing 2015/16 season at relegated Carpi.
The right wing, though, could not say no twice and is now Carlo Ancelotti’s most exciting signing so far.
With 16 goals in 62 appearances at Bologna, playing pretty much every single game for the club in the last two years, Verdi is ready to make the Stadio San Paolo roar and to display his technical abilities in the Champions League.
Alongside the Italy international, 22-year-old Fabian Ruiz from Betis is definitely an exciting addition to Napoli’s midfield.
3. Javier Pastore – Roma
Tall and slim, Javier ‘El Flaco’ (‘The Skinny One’) Pastore has left Paris Saint-Germain after seven seasons in the French capital and has moved to Roma in a €25m deal.
Italian football has sweet memories of the Argentinian ace, who made himself known following two brilliant years in Sicily at Palermo, exploding under the attentive management of boss Delio Rossi and experiencing European football thanks to the Rosanero’s qualification to the Europa League.
Wearing the usual 27 under his name, a homage to his dear mother (it is indeed her favourite number), Pastore has been often compared to football legends such as his compatriot Riquelme, the Brazilian Kaká and the wizard Zizou Zidane.
Roma fans are understandably excited to see ‘El Flaco’ in action, a real threat for the opposition and a superb player for his team.
2. Radja Nainggolan – Inter
A summer of torment and heartbreak has catapulted on Radja Nainggolan.
Firstly, he was ignored by Belgium boss Roberto Martinez and missed out on a World Cup spot; secondly, he had to leave Roma after four intense and passionate seasons.
The Ninja, replying to a Roma supporter in tears on Twitter, said that it was not his choice to leave and that he was very sad as well. However, in Milan, an old friend was waiting for him, and can now finally embrace again with the midfielder: that is, of course, Inter head coach Luciano Spalletti.
Physically powerful with unstoppable long shots and incredible leadership, Nainggolan is an astounding addition to the Nerazzurri’s new squad and may be the perfect player to help Inter shine in the next Champions League.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus
Surprise, surprise: Cristiano Ronaldo!
Top of the list has to be arguably the best player in the world, the star from Madeira that won five Champions League trophies and scored 311 beautiful goals in 292 matches for Real Madrid.
Ronaldo moved to Turin for a deal worth around €100m, which is a substantial price for a 33-year-old, but is also possibly generous for a talisman like the Portugal international.
The arrival of CR7 to Juventus has divided Italian fans. One half is confident that his purchase is a great opportunity for Italian football to grow and hopefully sprint back to the appeal that Serie A used to have decades ago; the other half instead are confident that Ronaldo’s addition to an already strong Bianconeri side will once again kill the fight for the title.
Juve supporters though, of course, are ecstatic. The Portuguese machine may be what the Bianconeri need to finally triumph and clinch the Champions League trophy.