The final preview of the new football season is upon us as football and motorsport correspondent Riccardo Ronchi takes Serie A under the microscope.
The latest edition of calcio is back this Saturday. However it won’t be the usual mix of antisocial fans, empty stadiums, match fixing, boring defensive games and all the other moronic Italian football stereotypes. In fact Serie A had a bit of a renaissance on the European football scene in 2014-15. Domestically the power is with Juventus but will the Old Lady make it five in a row or will the Milanese giants resurge back to the upper echelons?
Note: All transfers up to date as of 18 August 2015
Atalanta BC Manager: Edoardo Reja. Last season: 17th
In: Jasmin Kurtić (Sassuolo), Marten de Roon (Heerenveen), Luca Valzania (Cesena), Gaetano Monachello (Monaco), Marcos De Paula (Chievo), Davide Bassi (Empoli).
Out: Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City), Davide Zappacosta and Daniele Baselli (Torino), Constantin Nica (Avellino), Daniele Capelli (Cesena), Giuseppe Biava and Girgio Frezzolini (Retired), Urby Emanuelson and 2 others released.
Transfer grade: C-
What’s in store: If it hadn’t been for the mess that Cagliari created in the middle of 2014-15 then Atalanta would probably have been relegated instead of the Sardinians. The team have received a lot of money from player sales including 7 million euros for Yohan Benalouane, but the Dea have been slow to react on the transfer market and have not signed anyone of note. They need another central defender and possibly a striker.
Key player: Marco Sportiello
Sportiello was made first choice goalkeeper at the start of last season and has repaid the team with performances that have so far gone under the radar. He is an underrated keeper and without him the Orobici would have certainly let in more than 57 goals last year.
One to watch: Richmond Boakye
The 22-year-old is slowly getting to grips with the demands of top flight football. In Serie B he has scored 11 and 12 goals respectively in two seasons and he netted 6 times for Elche in La Liga. 2014-15 was not so successful with only 3 goals with Atalanta but the Ghanian has promise.
Predicted finish: 19th
Bologna FC Manager: Delio Rossi. Last season: 4th (Promoted)
In: Ibrahima Mbaye and Lorenzo Cristeig (Inter), Luca Rosettini (Cagliari), Erick Pulgar (Universidad Católica), Matteo Brighi (Sassuolo), Antonio Mirante (Parma), Franco Brienza (Cesena), Luca Rizzo (Sampdoria).
Out: José Ángel Crespo (Córdoba), Luca Veratti (Melfi) Damjan Djoković (Gazélec Ajaccio), Michele Pazienza (Vicenza), Ferdinando Coppola (Verona), György Farics (Darmstadt), Diego Pérez and 4 other players released.
Transfer grade: C+
What’s in store: Bologna are back in Serie A after winning a promotion play-off tie against Pescara last season. Much was promised in the transfer window but so far there have been no marquee signings from American owners Joe Tacopina and Joey Saputo. Nonetheless I expect a few more signings before the end of the transfer window that will allow the Rossoblu to make the jump needed to survive in Serie A.
Key player: Marios Oikonomou
The Greek produced some solid performances from the heart of defence. When Daniele Gastaldello arrived halfway through the season, Oikonomou lost his place in the starting 11 but he convinced Delio Rossi to put in back him and go to a three at the back formation, he subsequently rewarded him with 4 goals.
One to watch: Erick Pulgar
South Americans are so hit-and-miss in Serie A that you never quite know how they are going to turn out. The Chilean defender is versatile and can play as a midfielder too. Last season he even showed his eye for goal in the Chilean league, scoring seven goals.
Predicted finish: 15th
Carpi FC Manager: Fabrizio Castori. Last season: 1st (Promoted)
In: Francesco Benussi (Verona), Nicolás Spolli and Raphael Martinho (Catania), Kamil Wilczek (Piast Gliwice), Andrea Lazzari and Ryder Matos (Fiorentina), Gabriel Silva, Igor Bubnjić and Zeljko Brkić (Udinese), Luca Marrone (Juventus) ,Wallace (Chelsea).
Out: Roberto Maurantonio (Akragas), Luca Cognigni (Ancona), Andrea Boron (Seina), Nicoló Sperotto (Arezzo), Renato Dossena (Released).
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: This isn’t the team from the picturesque island off the Bay of Naples where the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio spend their holidays, This is in fact a team from a town of just 70,000 people near Modena that are tasting Serie A football for the first time ever. Carpi’s rise in the last five years is remarkable and even though they will have to play in Modena because their 4,000 capacity stadium does not comply with regulations, they will be the neutrals’ favourite. Survival might be a long shot considering the fate of other small Italian clubs that have played in Serie A but Castori has invested wisely in the transfer market.
Key player: Jerry Mbakogu
The Nigerian striker fired in 22 goals last season to clinch the Serie B title by 9 points. His blistering speed will give even the most experienced of defenders headaches and I wouldn’t be surprised if a big club comes knocking at the door for his services at the end of 2015-16.
One to watch: Kevin Lasagna
As if there were not sufficient reasons to cheer on Carpi, they even have a player called Lasagna. He was used mainly as a substitute last season and scored 5 goals, he will probably reprise that role. Fans will be hoping for potent finishes and exquisite touches from the forward.
Predicted finish: 17th
AC Chievo Verona Manager: Rolando Maran. Last season: 14th
In: Lucas Castro (Catania), Marco Calderoni (Bari), Massimo Gobbi (Parma), Walter Bressan (Cesena), Simone Pepe (Juventus), Fabrizio Cacciatore (Sampdoria), Valter Birsa (Milan), Paul-José Mpoku (Standard Liège).
Out: Ervin Zukanović and Christian Puggioni (Sampdoria), Diego Farias (Cagaliri), Marcos De Paula (Atalanta), Dejan Lazarević (Antalyaspor), Valerio Anastasi (Mantova), Alessio Sestu (Virtus Entella), Tomasz Kupisz (Brescia).
Transfer Grade: C
What’s in store: Chievo seem to be one of the teams that always stay in the top flight without really setting the world alight. They have been anchored in mid-table for too long and have not brought in enough quality to challenge the likes of Palermo or even their city rivals Verona. This is why 2015-16 will be a difficult season and I expect them to be in a relegation fight.
Key player: Alberto Paloschi
Chievo’s reputation is not particularly helped by the fact that they cannot really score goals (a meagre 28 in 2014-15). Almost a third of those goals were scored by Alberto Paloschi. The former Milan prospect will begin his fifth season with the Flying Donkeys and coach Maran will be hoping that he finds the net at least 10 times in 2015-16.
One to watch: Federico Mattiello
Federico Mattiello was desperately unlucky to have his leg broken in a horrifying tackle by Roma’s Radja Nainggolan. The 20-year-old is convinced that he will return to full fitness and when he does he will be given a chance to show Maran that he is an important player for the team.
Predicted finish: 18th
Empoli FC Manager: Marco Giampaolo. Last season: 15th
In: Luca Bittante and Michele Camporese (Fiorentina), Andrea Costa (Parma), Marco Zambelli (Brescia), Raffaele Maiello (Napoli), Lukasz Skorupski (Roma).
Out: Davide Bassi (Atalanta), Mirko Valdifiori and Elseid Hysaj (Napoli), Roberto Perticone (Trapani), Francesco Tavano (Avellino), Matteo Ricci (Livorno), Tiberio Guarente (Released).
Transfer grade: B-
What’s in store: Empoli surprised onlookers last season with steely performances that perhaps merited more than their 15th place finish. The summer has not been so rosy for the Tuscan club as innovative coach Maurizio Sarri has jumped ship to join Napoli and taken playmaker Mirko Valdifiori and right-back Elseid Hysaj with him. New coach Marco Giampaolo therefore has his work cut out as he has had to rebuild the defensive line following Daniele Rugani’s return to Juventus. The club also needs to make sure that they get more wins under their belt as they drew 18 games last season.
Key player: Riccardo Saponara
Another former Milan prodigy, Saponara was never given the chance to emulate his idol Kakà at the San Siro. The attacking midfielder is back to the club where he made his name and will probably become the symbol of Giampaolo’s Empoli… That is if he does not leave the club…
One to watch: Michele Camporese
Taking over from the excellent work Daniele Rugani will be a difficult task for the former Fiorentina youth player. Having played for Bari last season, he will be in competition with fellow new signing Andrea Costa over the centre-back position.
Predicted finish: 16th
AC Fiorentina Manager: Paulo Sousa. Last season: 4th
In: Mário Suárez (Altético Madrid), Nikola Kalinić (Dnipro), Gilberto (Botafogo), Davide Astori (Cagliari), Luigi Sepe (Napoli).
Out: Stefan Savić (Atlético Madrid), Cristian Piccini and Juan Manuel Vargas (Real Betis), Mario Gómez (Besiktas), David Pizarro (Wanderers), Alberto Aquilani (Sporting), Steve Beleck (Cluj), Neto (Juventus), Andrea Lazzari and Ryder Matos (Carpi), Luca Bittante and Michele Camporese (Empoli), Antonio Rosati and Amidu Salifu (Perugia), Axel Gulin (Pordenone), Cristiano Lupatelli (Retired), Mounir El Hamdaoui (Released).
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: Vincenzo Montella was sacked by Fiorentina at the end of last season for ‘showing a lack of respect to the club.’ Whilst the Viola directors may be sticking to their principles, sacking Montella might be the wrong decision because he brought them back into the top 5 and the team played some lovely football. Paulo Sousa steps into the hot seat after a successful spell at FC Basel. Whilst the team has been revolutionised in the transfer window, Viola fans are worried about the appointment of their new boss and it may take some time for the team to gel.
Key player: Borja Valero
The vice captain epitomised Montella’s style of play; fluid, composed and creative. The Spaniard is 30 years old and will be joined by fellow countryman Mário Suárez in the midfield. Valero’s eye for a pass will makes him a valuable asset to the team.
One to watch: Khouma Babacar
For all of the progress Fiorentina made under Montella, their strike force suffered due to a lack of consistency. Giuseppe Rossi is a great player but is very fragile and Blackburn reject Nikola Kalinić will take time to adapt to Serie A. This is why Khouma Babacar has a great chance this season to prove that he is worthy of place in the starting 11.
Predicted finish: 6th. Predicted Europa League run: Round of 16
Frosinone Calcio Manager: Roberto Stellone. Last season: 2nd (Promoted)
In: Mobido Diakité (Cagliari), Daniel Pavlović (Grasshopers Zürich), Samuele Longo (Inter), Nicola Leali (Juventus), Raman Chibsah (Sassuolo), Alejandro Rosi (Genoa), Daniele Verde (Roma).
Out: Raffaele Schiavi (Catania), Victor de Lucia (Latina), Andrea Gessa (Retired), Manuel Pamić (Released).
Transfer grade: B-
What’s in store: Frosinone are another team who will be making their debut in the 2015-16 Serie A. The Canarini scored the second most amount of goals in Serie B after Pescara. Moreover they have brought in young talent from some of Italy’s major clubs. However, survival will remain the main objective and with the team having earned consecutive promotions, it may be a step too far for some of their players.
Key player: Leonardo Blanchard
The centre-back has been vital in the back-to-back promotion story of Frosinone. The big question is can he make the step up to Serie A? It will be a huge challenge for the 27-year-old given that the team is likely to have a raft of new faces playing in the starting line up.
One to watch: Daniele Verde
One of the most exciting youngsters roaming around in Serie A at the moment. He only made 7 appearances last season for the Giallorossi but in those 7 appearances he displayed willingness and skill and the Frosinone crowd will look forward to his zooming runs up and down the wings this season.
Predicted finish: 20th
Genoa CFC Manager: Gian Piero Gasperini. Last season: 6th
In: Issa Cissokho and Serge Gakpé (Nantes), Olivier Ntcham (Manchester City), Ezequiel Muñoz and Samir Ujkani (Palermo), Goran Pandev (Galatasaray), Diego Capel (Sporting Lisbon), Darko Lazović (Red Star Belgrade), Diogo Figueiras (Sevilla).
Out: Luka Krajnc (Cagliari), Giannis Fetfatzidis (Al Ahli), Iago Falqué (Roma), Alejandro Rosi (Frosinone), Sebastián Ribas (Fénix), Rolando Mandragora (Pescara), Enis Nadarević (Trapani), Diego Polenta (Nacional), Antonino Ragusa (Cesena), Marco Borriello (Released).
Transfer grade: C+
What’s in store: Every time Genoa start to have a really competitive team under Gian Piero Gasperini, owner Enrico Preziosi has to go off and completely re-model the squad in the summer. The Grifone finished 6th last season but were denied a place in the Europa League as they were unable to obtain a UEFA license. Replicating last season’s achievements will be very difficult as the teams below them have strengthened and we will see whether Gasperini can fit his new players into a 3-4-3 formation.
Key player: Mattia Perin
Italy is not currently lacking in young upcoming goalkeepers but Perin is one of the best and has the most experience. The shot stopper made 32 appearances for the Rossoblu and will have to be at his best yet again this season if the team want to have any remote chance of fighting for the European spots.
One to watch: Goran Pandev
Goran Pandev is back in Serie A after a one year a hiatus at Galatasaray in which he basically admitted that he hated living in Turkey. At 31 he has valuable experience and can play anywhere along the forward line.
Predicted finish: 10th
Inter Milan Manager: Roberto Mancini. Last season: 8th
In: Geoffrey Kondogbia (Monaco), Jeison Murillo (Granada), Miranda (Atlético Madrid), Stevan Jovetić (Manchester City), Martín Montoya (Barcelona).
Out: Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Ricky Álvarez (Sunderland), Ibrahima Mbaye and Lorenzo Cristeig (Bologna), Samuele Longo (Frosinone), Rubén Botta (Pachuca), Alfred Duncan and Matías Silvestre (Sampdoria), Joel Obi (Torino), Zdravko Kuzmanović (Basel), Rene Krihn (Granada), Lukas Spendlhofer (Sturm Graz), Riccardo Bocalon (Alessandria), Francesco Bardi (Espanyol), George Puscas (Bari), Isaac Donkor (Bari), Daniel Bessa (Como), Hugo Campagnaro and 2 others released.
Transfer grade: A-
What’s in store: No Italian summer is complete without Inter completely chopping and changing their squad. Roberto Mancini can’t complain about a lack of money having spent over 60 million euros although Xherdan Shaqiri and Mateo Kovačić have had to be sold due to Financial Fair Play regulations. The former Manchester City coach is still on the hunt for a winger (Ivan Perišić) and a central midfielder (Felipe Melo). With the club losing about 100 million euros every year Champions League qualification is imperative.
Key player: Samir Handanović
Samir Handanović is one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A. The Slovenian is known for putting off penalty takers and has saved more than a third of all penalties in Serie A (his record in one season is 6 with Udinese in 2011-12). He will give the new defensive partnership of Miranada and Murillo great assurance.
One to watch: Davide Santon
Inter fans cannot understand why Mancini is trying to get rid of Santon. Or maybe he is just trying to make sure that no Italians get into the team to fit in the line with the Inter ethos. The 24-year-old was just recently brought in from Newcastle in January and is an upgrade on the declining Yuto Nagatomo. He can play on both wings and still has plenty of potential.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Juventus FC Manager: Massimilliano Allegri. Last season: Champions
In: Paulo Dybala (Palermo), Mario Mandužukić (Atlético Madrid), Simone Zaza (Sassuolo), Neto (Fiorentina), Alberto Brignoli (Ternana), Mamé Thiam (Virtus Lanciano), Francesco Anacoura (Parma), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid).
Out: Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham), Carlos Tévez (Boca Juniors), Fredrik Sørensen (Köln), Edoardo Goldaniga (Palermo), Luca Marrone (Carpi), Nicola Leali (Frosinone), Andrea Pirlo (New York City), Simone Pepe (Chievo), Marco Storari (Cagliari).
Transfer grade: C+
What’s in store: Even the most ambitious of Juventus fan would not have predicted such a stunning 2014-15 season. However there are worrying signs appearing just around the corner. The team has lost their core steel and creativity in Vidal, Pirlo and Tévez. New signing Sami Khedira is already out for 2 months through injury and Allegri has to buy both a defensive and an attacking midfielder before the transfer window. They are still the best team but it will not be so simple.
Key player: Paul Pogba
Say hello to Juventus’ new number 10. Paul Pogba will have the honour of wearing the number of some of the Old Lady’s finest legends of the past (Platini, Del Piero). He has progressed admirably in to the all-round midfielder that he is today. The Frenchman is built sternly and yet has the skill and agility of a winger. Question marks do hang over his future with rich clubs circling around dangerously but for now he must focus on leading the Juventus midfield.
One to watch: Neto
Juventus have grabbed themselves a bargain by signing Neto on a free transfer from Fiorentina. The Brazilian won’t usurp Gianluigi Buffon for the starting position but he may be used for rotation matches especially in the Coppa Italia
Predicted finish: Champions. Predicted Champions League run: Quarter Final
SS Lazio Manager: Stefano Pioli. Last season: 3rd
In: Sergej Milinković-Savić (Genk), Ricardo Kishna (Ajax), Patrić (Barcelona), Ravel Morrison (Unattached).
Out: Luis Cavanda (Trabzonspor), Diego Novaretti (León), Ederson (Flamengo), Bruno Pereirinha (Atlético Paranense), Mamadou Tounkara (Crotone), Luca Crecco (Virtus Lanciano), Joseph Minala (Latina), Giuseppe Sculli and 3 other players released.
Transfer grade: B-
What’s in store: Lazio had a magnificent 2014-15 under Stefano Pioli, going on a 7 match-winning run at one stage. This has granted them access to the Champions League Play-Off round where they will face Bayer Leverkusen. Sadly I cannot see them beating the Germans over two legs, which means they will drop to the Europa League. Owner Claudio Lotito runs a tight ship, which is why the Biancoceleste have not overspent in the transfer window and I fear that this will drop them behind the likes of Inter and Napoli.
Key player: Felipe Anderson
2014-15 was when we saw the real Felipe Anderson. The Brazilian winger scored 11 goals in all competitions last season and terrorised defences with his precise dribbling. He is a very technically gifted player who may move on at the end of the season if the team fail to reach the Champions League.
One to watch: Ravel Morrison
How Ravel Morrison has ended up in Rome is certainly peculiar. Last time anyone heard of him he was on loan at QPR from West Ham. He has had a good pre-season with Lazio and if he can keep his head in the right place, then he could be a big success.
Predicted finish: 7th. Predicted Europa League run: Round of 16
AC Milan Manager: Siniša Mihajlović. Last season: 10th
In: Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci (Roma), Luiz Adriano (Shakthar Donetsk), José Mauri (Parma), Rodrigo Ely (Avellino).
Out: Adil Rami (Sevilla), Stephan El Shaarawy (Monaco) Ezekiel Henty (Olimpija), Valter Birsa (Chievo), Giampaolo Pazzini and Michelangelo Albertazzi (Verona), Gabriel (Napoli), Pelé (Benfica), Robinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), Didac Vilá (AEK Athens), Sulley Muntari (Al-Ittihad), Michael Essien (Panathinaikos), Daniele Bonera (Released).
Transfer grade: B-
What’s in store: Milan have gone from not signing anyone apart from free agents to massively overspending for players. It has been a summer of what could have been and frustration for most Milan fans. They missed out on Carlo Ancelotti, Jackson Martínez, Geoffrey Kondogbia and look set to miss out on Zlatan Ibrahimović. Champions League qualification is the aim but at the moment the team is not good enough to reach it, especially with its inept midfield which badly needs a creative central midfielder.
Key player: Diego López
López was absolutely crucial for Milan last season, they would have struggled even more without him in goal. The Spaniard was one of the few players to save his bacon last season (along with Giacomo Bonaventura). In 2015-16 he will have a new defence in front of him, which will give him less work in games but provides great security for the back 4.
One to watch: Rodrigo Ely
The defender has come out of nowhere. Ely spent last season on loan at Avellino in Serie B and Mihajlović has already promoted him to a starter alongside new signing Alessio Romagnoli. Then again it isn’t hard to be a better defender than Philippe Mexès (for all his amazing goals) and Alex…
Predicted finish: 5th
SSC Napoli Manager: Maurizio Sarri. Last season: 5th
In: Allan (Udinese), Vlad Chiriches (Tottenham), Mirko Valdifiori and Elseid Hysaj (Empoli), Pepe Reina (Bayern München), Gabriel (Milan).
Out: Walter Gargano (Monterrey), Roberto Colombo (Cagliari), Duván Zapata (Udinese), Raffaele Maiello (Empoli), Luigi Sepe (Fiorentina), Miguel Britos (Watford), Giandomenico Mesto (Released).
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: Not the end of season Napoli would have wanted in 2014-15. They were beaten in the Europa League Semi Final by Dnipro and then they lost to Lazio on the last day of the season to miss out on qualification to the Champions League. As a result transfer spending has been relatively modest and Maurizio Sarri will try to craft a new team from some shrewd signings. A push for the Champions League places is a must and the Partenopei should look at going far in the Europa League again as it will help Italy’s UEFA coefficient.
Key player: Gonzalo Higuaín
The Argentine forward has not had the best couple of months. He skied a penalty in the 4-2 loss to Lazio at the San Paolo and then he ballooned another one in the Copa América final penalty shootout. Added to this Higuaín looks set to remain with the Azzurri and will not be able to play in the Champions League. Nevertheless he is a good shout for being top goal scorer in Serie A this season.
One to watch: Mirko Valdifiori
Mirko Valdifiori suddenly came to prominence in last season’s Empoli side having played there since 2008. The central midfielder flourished under Sarri and now the coach has brought him to Naples. His creativity and passing are his best attributes and he could strike a good partnership with captain Marek Hamšik.
Predicted finish: 4th. Predicted Europa League run: Quarter Final
US Palermo Manager: Giuseppe Iachini. Last season: 11th
In: Oscar Hiljemark (PSV), Edoardo Goldaniga (Juventus), Abdelhami El Kaoutari (Montpellier), Matheus Cassini (Corinithians), Aleksandar Trajkovski (Zulte Waregem), Ahmed Benali (Brescia), Andrea Rispoli (Parma).
Out: Paulo Dybala (Palermo), Andrea Belotti (Torino), Eros Pisano (Verona), Ezequiel Muñoz and Samir Ujkani (Palermo), Édgar Barreto (Sampdoria), Gennaro Troianiello (Salernitana), Claudio Terzi (La Spezia), Gnaddi N’Goyi (Dijon), Michel Morganella (Released).
Transfer grade: C
What’s in store: As usual Palermo have sold their star player (Paulo Dybala) and brought in a number of unknown signings. They have done well to get 32 million euros for the Argentine but this leaves a gap up front following the departure of Andrea Belotti too. Despite winning Serie B in 2013-14 and leading Palermo to 11th place, coach Giuseppe Iachini is almost certain to win the race for the sack under notorious owner Maurzio Zamparini if he suffers a bad start in 2015-16.
Key player: Franco Vázquez
Vázquez was the star of the show along with Dybala last season. He scored 10 goals in the league and provided numerous assists. Without Dybala, he might struggle a bit more to work off the creativity of the forwards but he still remains a fine player.
One to watch: Robin Quaison
Palermo’s scouts must have a wide presence across Europe and South America because Robin Quaison could be a breakout star of 2015-16 and next in line in the Zamparini cash converter line. The Swede was snapped from AIK and his energy gives drive to the Sicilian side’s midfield.
Predicted finish: 13th
AS Roma Manager: Rudi Garcia. Last season: 2nd
In: Antonio Rüdiger (Stuttgart), Mohamed Salah (Chelsea), Iago Falqué (Genoa), Leandro Paredes (Boca Juniors), Edin Džeko (Manchester City), Matteo Politano (Pescara), Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal).
Out: Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci (Milan), Mapou Yaga-M’biwa, Federico Viviani (Verona), José Holebas (Watford), Lukasz Skorupski (Empoli), Daniele Verde (Frosinone), Seyou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), Marquinho (Roma), Junior Tallo (Lille), Gianluca Curci (Mainz), Antonio Sanabria (Sporting Gijón), Federico Balzaretti (Retired).
Transfer grade: B+
What’s in store: Roma fans will acknowledge that they were lucky to finish in 2nd place in 2014-15 after a poor second half of the season. Rudi Garcia has gone back to the drawing board and assembled a competitive squad. The Giallorossi are bit light in defence and could do with another full-back and centre-half. Due to their low seeding it will be difficult to progress from the Champions League group stage and it will be another battle to secure European football for 2016-17.
Key player: Edin Džeko
Perhaps Roma have finally solved the striker problem. If Garcia doesn’t insist on playing Francesco Totti, who for all his skill is simply too old to play regularly then the Lupi have themselves a top quality striker. It will be interesting to see who will score more goals between him and Mario Manžukić at Juventus.
One to watch: Mohamed Salah
A great capture from Garcia. The Egyptian was fantastic for Fiorentina from January onwards last season and since it was clear that José Mourinho would not give him sufficient game time at Stamford Bridge, Salah has come back to Italy to try his luck at Roma. His elusive running will mesmerise defenders.
Predicted finish: 2nd. Predicted Champions League run: Group Stage
UC Sampdoria Manager: Walter Zenga. Last season: 7th
In: Fernando (Shakthar Donetsk), Lucas Torreira (Pescara), Ervin Zukanović and Christian Puggioni (Chievo), Alfred Duncan and Matías Silvestre (Inter), Édgar Barreto (Sampdoria), Oliveira Jefferson (Vicenza), Mattia Cassani (Parma), Niklas Moisander (Ajax), Antonio Cassano (Unattached).
Out: Pedro Obiang (West Ham), Stefano Okaka (Anderlecht), Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Fabrizio Cacciatore (Chievo), Federico Pivaccari (Western Sydney), Samuel Eto’o (Antalyaspor), Gonzalo Bergessio (Atlas), Matías Rodríguez (Universidad de Chile), José Campaña (Alcorcón), Gianluca Sansone (Bari), Massimo Volta (Perugia).
Transfer grade: C+
What’s in store: The Blucerchiati finished 7th in 2014-15 to qualify for the Europa League at Genoa’s defence. Sadly much has changed. Siniša Mihajlović has left to join Milan and new man Walter Zenga almost won the sack race after an embarassing 4-0 home defeat at the hands of FK Vojvodina in the Europa League. Peace and serenity has been restored but with slightly crazy president Massimo Ferrero in control anything could happen.
Key player: Lorenzo De Silvestri
The 27-year-old was a reliable force from full-back last season and even managed to score 4 goals. This year Zenga will expect more of the same consistency and width from De Silvestri as the team are likely to play with a narrow midfield.
One to watch: Antonio Cassano
The maverick is back. ‘FantAntonio’s contract was terminated at Parma last season due to the club’s much documented financial woes. The signing of the 33-year-old represents a huge gamble and could either go very well or (more likely) very wrong.
Predicted finish: 11th
US Sassuolo Manager: Eusebio Di Francesco. Last season: 12th
In: Grégoire Defrel (Cesena), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma Primavera), Giovanni Sbrissa (Vicenza), Cristian Dell’Orco (Parma).
Out: Simone Zaza (Juventus), Jasmin Kurtić (Atalanta), Matteo Brighi (Bologna), Raman Chibsah (Frosinone), Thomas Manfredini (Vicenza), Paolo Bianco (Retired), Cesare Natali and Ciro Polito (Released).
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: Sassuolo have settled nicely in to Serie A football and coach Eusebio Di Francesco feels right at home. Last season’s 12th place finish was no fluke as the Neroverdi produced entertaining attacking football that won many plaudits. In the transfer window Sassuolo have not had to be that proactive but perhaps they would benefit by signing another defender if they want to have a serious stab at cracking the top 10.
Key player: Domenico Berardi
The 21-year-old is now owned outright by Sassuolo after they bought Juventus’s remaining share in him. Although he has lost fellow strike partner Simone Zaza, he should form an effective partnership with new signing Grégoire Defrel. Berardi can be deployed anywhere across the forward line and his speed is combined with a good technique. Just don’t tell that to Milan when they’re in town….
One to watch: Karim Laribi
Laribi is another weapon in Di Francesco’s forward armoury. The 24-year-old was one of the standout players for Bologna last season netting 8 times for the Rossoblu in a team that was particularly goal-shy. Expect him to make a couple of impacts from the bench.
Predicted finish: 14th
Torino FC Manager: Giampiero Ventura. Last season: 8th
In: Davide Zappacosta and Daniele Baselli (Atalanta), Joel Obi (Inter), Afriyie Acquah (Hoffenheim), Danilo Ávelar (Cagliari), Salvador Ichazo (Sanubio).
Out: Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Antonio Barreca( Cagliari), Marcelo Larrondo (Rosario Central), Migjen Basha (Luzern), Barreto and 2 other players released.
Transfer grade: A
What’s in store: In a transfer market with ever more extortionate fees, Torino have done really well to buy young Italian players from the money recouped by the Matteo Darmian sale. Coach Giampiero Ventura deserves a lot of credit for guiding the Toro to the cusp of European football and president Urbano Cairo should make sure that he stays there for as long as possible. The Granata will be in and around the European places but the bigger teams will have more squad depth, which will hurt Torino.
Key player: Kamil Glik
The Torino captain had a good effort at trying to equal or better Marco Materazzi’s record for the most goals scored in a Serie A season by a defender (12 for Perugia in 2000-01). The Polish defender ended up with 7 in 2014-15 and forms part of a solid back line that conceded the sixth least amount of goals last season.
One to watch: Daniele Baselli
The young Italian midfielder has moved to Turin along with teammate Davide Zappacosta for around 10 million euros. He didn’t get the chance to shine at Atalanta but under Ventura he will probably get more game time.
Predicted finish: 8th
Udinese Calcio Manager: Stefano Colantuono. Last season: 16th
In: Duván Zapata (Napoli), Ali Adnan (Rizespor), Gaspar Iñiguez (Argentinos), Manuel Iturra (Granada), Marquinho (Roma).
Out: Allan (Napoli), Gabriel Silva, Igor Bubnjić and Zeljko Brkić (Carpi), Douglas Santos (Atlético Mineiro), Naldo (Sporting Lisbon), Rafael Romo and Allan Nyom (Watford), Gabriel Torje (Osmanlispor), Siomne Scuffet (Perugia), Nico López (Granada).
Transfer grade: B-
What’s in store: Udinese laboured to a 16th place finish under Andrea Stramaccioni last season. The Zebrette are on the verge of completing the renovation of the Stadio Friuli and manager Stefano Colantuono will be asked to bring the team back to at least a mid-table place finish. The club have done very well to make over 45 million euros worth from player sales but as usual there will be no big signings.
Key player: Antonio Di Natale
The 37-year-old continues to hound Serie A defences year in and out. Although his goal output may be on the decline (23 in 2012-13 compared to 14 in 2014-15), his speed and agility in front of goal make him a manager’s dream.
One to watch: Duván Zapata
Duván Zapata will battle it out with Frenchman Cyril Théréau. The Colombian looks to have an advantage given that he is a much pacier and stronger option. At Napoli he always had to play second fiddle behind Higuaín but despite this he still averaged a goal every three games in the league.
Predicted finish: 9th
Hellas Verona Manager: Andrea Mandorlini. Last season: 13th
In: Federico Viviani (Roma), Giampaolo Pazzini and Michelangelo Albertazzi (Milan), Eros Pisano (Palermo), Filip Helander (Malmö), Luca Siligardi (Livorno).
Out: Francesco Benussi (Carpi), Francesco Zampano (Pescara), Rafael Marques (Coritiba), Nenê and Ivan Martić (La Spezia), Javier Saviola (River Plate), Alessandro Agostini and 4 other players released.
Transfer grade: B
What’s in store: Hellas Verona have quietly been going about their business. Despite losing the speed of Juan Iturbe and the creativity of Jorginho, the team finished in 13th place. In the transfer market the Gialloblu have made small adjustments. Coach Mandorlini has to look at some defenders before he starts the season as Verona conceded the most goals out of the teams that weren’t relegated.
Key player: Luca Toni
The 37-year-old was Capocannioniere (top scorer) in 2014-15 along with Mauro Icardi. Toni has found his place at Verona and has been rewarded with the captaincy. Even at his age he is as lucid as ever and in 2015-16 will have the added bonus of linking up with former strike partner Giampaolo Pazzini.
One to watch: Filip Helander
The new signing played for Malmö in the Champions League last year. In fact he helped the team win the Swedish league title and was nominated for Swedish defender of the year. It remains to be seen how well he performs in Serie A but he certainly has the ability to play well.
Predicted finish: 12th