What Serie A Is Doing Right (and Wrong) in the Summer Transfer Window
The 2013 summer transfer window has been a great one for the Serie A. While the league has seen one of its best players going abroad, the league's top teams have all been active and their moves have been positive.
The Italians are not close to returning to the top three in the UEFA coefficient rankings, especially after the binge of points the Germans received after the all-German Champions League final and the fact that Inter's title year will be coming off the books after this season. The current financial situation in Italy makes it unlikely that the Serie A will be capable of returning to Europe's elite quite yet.
The principal beneficiaries of the transfer spoils this summer have been Juventus and Fiorentina.
The Bianconeri have had another banner window. The best team in Italy for the past two seasons, the main weakness of Antonio Conte's men has been in front of goal. Team president Giuseppe Marotta has been searching vainly for a star man to lead the line.
This summer he finally acquired the men he needs to lead his line. Spanish international Fernando Llorente has been ticketed for Juve since making a pre-contractual agreement in January. The product of Athletic Bilbao's youth system, Llorente is a true target man who is lethal in the air and can be equally as deadly with either foot. It's the target man Juventus hasn't had since David Trezeguet's heyday.
Arriving with him is former Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez. For all his his occasional off-field issues, there is no denying Tevez's talent. He's one of the deadliest forwards in the game, and Marotta got him absurdly cheap.
Juve paid a mere €9 million for his services. That number could go up due to performance incentives, but to get a player as good as Tevez for so little is an incredible coup. During his spat with Man City 17 months ago, teams were willing to pay 2.7 times that amount—and the Citizens didn't think that a satisfactory sum.
Bepe Marotta has pulled an absolute coup. His continuing mastery of the Bosman transfer—the means through which he's claimed Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba to great success—combined with the bargain acquisition of Tevez has finally given him a strike force that can make the Bianconeri a potential force in Europe and easily overpower almost all of Serie A.
Juve has also set themselves up with depth (and a future starter) in defense with the purchase of Angelo Ogbonna from Torino.
Even as sellers, Juve has had an excellent summer. Marotta took Emanuele Giacchereini's exceptional performance at the Confederations Cup and flipped the versatile midfielder to Sunderland for €7.5 million. The move was confirmed by ESPNFC on Tuesday, and it has given Juve some money to make another possible upgrade.
Attackers have been the order of the day in Italy this summer. The other big signing in the league this summer, Fiorentina's capture of German international Mario Gomez, gives La Viola a real chance at the Champions League and an outside shot at the Scudetto.
ESPNFC's James Horncastle wrote this excellent article about the Gomez purchase on Monday. To sum him up, Fiorentina was Gomez's choice chiefly because they made him feel most wanted. In Gomez it's not an insignificant aspect of the equation.
Horncastle points out that Bayern purposefully avoided signing another big striker in order to keep his head on straight. Last summer's signing by the team of Mario Mandzukic was mainly as a backup until an injury to Gomez revealed the Croatian's tireless work rate up front as the X factor that made Bayern the most dominant team in the world last year. Gomez chose La Viola rather than a team in England or Spain because team officials showed that they wanted him more than anyone else.
The signing of Gomez is a paradigm shift for Fiorentina. They played the prettiest soccer in Italy last year, but their goals were spread between 16 players. Whether you decide that that indicates a wealth of quality up and down the roster or a lack of a dominant striker is up for debate. What is not up for debate is that Gomez now gives Vincenzo Montella's men a top-of-the-line goalscorer up front.
The prospect of the German combining with a healthy Giuseppe Rossi and even Stevan Jovetic in the unlikely event he stays with the club is a terrifying one for many Italian defenses.
Even in the loss of arguably best forward, Napoli's Edinson Cavani, carries the mark of smart transfer business. By inserting an astronomical €63 million buyout clause in the contract Cavani signed a year ago—and then refusing to part with him for less—Aurelio De Laurentiis ensured that if he did lose his prized asset he would have the money to be able to rebuild his side quickly using the hefty sum he would receive.
Napoli is indeed losing El Matador. ESPNFC has reported that French champions Paris Saint-Germain have finally completed the big-money move for the striker. Insulated by his high release clause, Napoli now has a large bankroll and six weeks to give Goran Pandev and Lorenzo Insigne some backup.
If there is one place where Serie A's heavies have failed this year it is in shopping for defense. AC Milan in particular has stood pat so far with their vulnerable central defensive pair of Philippe Mexes and Christian Zapata. Worst, the Rossoneri stood by watching their best option for an upgrade, Ogbonna, wind up in Turin.
What grade would you give the Serie A as a whole for this transfer window?
Juve owes much of its two year run to its defense. They ran up 19 clean sheets last season, and the season before that only allowed their 20th goal in the final game of the league campaign. The old maxim rings true: Defense wins championships. Juve's is one of the best in Europe, which is why they have dominated the league and made new inroads in the Champions League. It's in the best interests of Serie A's teams to attempt to attain that level in the back.
Italian soccer is still on the mend after calciopoli. But this transfer window gives them an optimistic long-term outlook. Their champions are now an attractive destination, and world-class players are starting to return to the ranks of other teams. This window is by no means a cure-all for Serie A's woes, but they are doing things right, and the future may once again be bright for the Italians.
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