Serie A: Predicting Next Season's Top 4 and Who Will Challenge Juventus

Theo Rowley@@LeRowleyContributor IJune 27, 2013

With an interesting transfer window ahead, Napoli's performance next season will depend on whether they can keep hold of 29-goal striker Edinson Cavani
With an interesting transfer window ahead, Napoli's performance next season will depend on whether they can keep hold of 29-goal striker Edinson CavaniGiuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Whilst Juventus may have created an insurmountable chasm between themselves and the chasing pack en route to vanquishing their 29th league title last season, the gulf was much smaller amongst their would-be challengers.

There may have been nine points between the victorious Bianconeri and their eventual bridesmaids, Napoli, but the gap between second and fourth was only eight points. 

Although the void between fourth and seventh was an additional nine points, it is undoubted that the chasing peloton are capable of providing a sterner test next season.

But when it comes to hypothesising over the upcoming campaign's top four, there are a number of factors to take into consideration.

The most prevalent variable is this summer's transfer window.

With a host of big names linked with impending arrivals to Serie A—as well as the inevitable departures of a plethora of prolific players—it is expected to be a hectic few months as clubs look to stay in touch with their competition.  

As reported by BBC Sport, Carlos Tevez completed his £12 million move to Juve on Wednesday evening—to accompany the upcoming July arrival of free transfer Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao—and with that, the Old Lady have simultaneously sent an early warning to their rivals and initiated a striker merry-go-round.


Now needing a forward to fill the void left by Tevez, it is well-documented that City deem Napoli's 29-goal hotshot, Edinson Cavani, as a remarkable replacement.

Despite appearing to flinch at his release clause of £53 million, City have never been one to shy away from big-money signings in recent seasons, and it is thought they will soon submit a bid as to pique Napoli's interest.

They may have to act quickly as The Telegraph reported on Tuesday that newly installed Napoli manager Rafael Benitez had "given the all-clear" to his superiors to accept a bid from his most recent club, Chelsea—who he led to Europa League glory last season—for £49.3 million.

If Cavani were to leave Napoli, it will be interesting to see who Benitez chooses to replace the striker who practically fired them to second place single-handedly with his monster goal haul.

One player mooted by John Cross in the Daily Mirror this week is Liverpool's troubled Uruguayan striker, Luis Suarez.

As The Guardian's Andy Hunter reports, he is known to want to leave Liverpool. But would a move to Naples represent the right move for him?

Whilst they could offer Champions League football, it is yet to be seen whether Benitez will thrive in his second spell in Serie A, following his disastrous performance at then-European Champions Inter Milan in 2010.

Radamel Falcao could have been another player who would have, understandably, interested Napoli,but he has since moved from Atletico Madrid to newly promoted Monaco of France. Judging by a picture uploaded to Instagram on Tuesday, the Colombian attacker could possibly have convinced Manchester United winger Nani—who was previously a target for Juventus according to The Telegraphto join him.

Another club that could dissemble the Juve hegemony with a few select shrewd signings is AC MIlan.

Despite beleaguered former Italian Prime Minister and AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi being sentenced to jail for seven years on Tuesday, it is thought attention won't be distracted from keeping hold of their prized assets.

Crazy-haired pair Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli formed a formidable partnership in the latter half of the season. Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, however, AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani has said he "cannot rule out" El Shaarawy being sold (via Sky Sports).

Put simply, if Milan can keep hold of him, they will be able to build upon the momentum they gained last season. But if he is sold—the Ben Curtis of the Daily Mirror reports that Arsenal are interested—Giallorossi will struggle to retain their place in the top four.

However, one thing that Serie A offers in abundance is unpredictability. The clubs that finished below these three are more than capable of stealing a march on their rivals. 

Fiorentina, for example, will look to avoid the disappointment of missing out on Champions League football on the final day of last season.

Simone Bargellini of Sky Sports reports that they are rivalling Tottenham for the signature of Barcelona's David Villa, a player who is rumoured to be leaving the Nou Camp this summer in the search for regular football leading up to next year's world cup.

When predicting next season's ultimate top four, though, this writer believes it paramount to include Inter Milan in contention, alongside Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli.

Smarting from finishing ninth, Inter have recently installed Walter Mazzarri as coach, fresh from overseeing Napoli's surge to second place.

His wily nous and tactical acumen, coupled with the acquisition of several new players—such as the expected arrival of Juve's Mauricio Isla, as reported by 24 Horas (via Football-Italia), a signing that would represent quite a coup—and the Nerrazzuri would be rejuvenated.

What are your thoughts? Will Juventus have another clean gallop to the title? Who will replace Cavani, should he leave? How will Rafael Benitez fare in his return to Italy? Let me know either in the comments section below or via Twitter: @LeRowley


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