10 Serie A Players Who Disappeared from View This Season
Injury, squad rotation and just plain poor form have kept some big names out of the picture in Serie A this term.
Several of Italy's top sides have sorely missed key personnel in what's been a thrilling season on the peninsula. Players with big reputations and even bigger contracts have gone missing, new arrivals have pushed old reliables out of favour, and injury has robbed at least one major team of a man who was supposed to be their best hope for a triumphant campaign.
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo has disappeared twice this season. First, it was in the EPL with Southampton, and after he popped up to sign on loan for Juventus in the January window, he's vanished from view—on the pitch, at least—a second time.
In England, the club-record signing was reunited with manager Mauricio Pochettino, whom he played under during a successful 18-month spell in La Liga with RCD Espanyol. It wasn't enough to get the Argentine-Italian firing, though, and after he attacked a teammate and scored just three goals in 13 appearances for the Saints, he was allowed to return to Serie A for the rest of the campaign.
Osvaldo was a useful—but over-rated—player for Roma during his two seasons in the capital, but streaky form paired with selfish and unpredictable personality make for more trouble than he's worth. He's a player who's never short of excuses—he likes to blame managers, fans and tough tackling—but usually lacking in execution, and it's hard to see Juve taking up their €19 million option to buy a player who's yet to score in eight games for them.
Why he's still in Cesare Prandelli's mind for an Italy place is a mystery.
All of Bologna's Forwards
This top 10 could be made up entirely of disappointing Bologna players, but it's their strikers in particular who deserve the most criticism.
The Rossoblu are solidly mid-table in terms of shots per game (12.8 on average, according to WhoScored.com) but rank dead last in goals from open play—just 16 all season—and Alessandro Diamanti, who left for China in January, remains their top scorer with just five strikes.
Rolando Bianchi and Jonathan Cristaldo have just seven between them, and the hapless Robert Acquafresca—a player who was, at one stage, touted as a future star for Italy—is yet to score.
Back in their golden age, Bologna won the Scudetto seven times. Now, they'll only avoid relegation thanks to a miracle. Such a proud club with a rich history and a strong fanbase deserves a lot better.
It seems an age since Marco Motta last impressed. The speed and technical ability that convinced Luciano Spalletti to bring him to Roma from Udinese seems to have long deserted him, and it's unlikely he'll ever be adding to his single Italy cap at this stage of his career.
In truth, Motta probably dropped off most people's radars not long after signing for Juventus back in 2010, but this season's January loan move to Genoa gave the 27-year-old another shot at regular football—a shot he's failed to take advantage of.
There have been a couple of average displays for the Grifone, but nothing special, and he certainly does not look like a long-term fit at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. It's never nice to write off a player still in his prime years, but it's hard to see where the right-back can go from here.
Even when he plays well, there's always the feeling that Robinho could play better. It's been that way since his days at Real Madrid; it was much the same at Manchester City, and he hasn't exactly set the San Siro alight, either.
This season, the ageing Brazilian has struggled for form—like a lot of his teammates—and has totally failed to make an impact since January. His man-of-the-match effort in the Rossoneri's 3-3 draw with Bologna aside, it's been a poor campaign from Robinho, who should probably be looking for a fresh start elsewhere for 2014-15.
Goran Pandev retired from the Macedonian international side this season, but the extra time that decision allowed him hasn't done much for his club form.
The former Lazio and Inter star began the campaign reasonably, but since January, he's yet to score in Serie A and only once found the back of the net in the Europa League. He's been totally anonymous for Napoli during a crucial period for the club except for a game against Porto and the Partenopei's thrilling 4-2 home win over Lazio, when he was solid rather than spectacular.
Mirko Vucinic has found playing time hard to come by at Juventus this season. The arrival of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente pushed the Montenegrin down Antonio Conte's pecking order—a fact that must be a bitter pill to swallow for a forward who not so long ago was a first-team regular.
The former Roma star has made 17 appearances in all competitions, mainly as a substitute, but has netted just twice and now looks set for the exit.
While Vucinic never quite became the world-beater that many thought he could be during his early days at Lecce, he was an integral part of the set-up in both Rome and Turin for most of his career, as well as being the focal point for his national side. He's still got several years of football left in him, so a move away could reinvigorate him.
There were several clubs interested in the 30-year-old during the January window, and he'll be hoping at least one of them comes back with a better offer this summer.
It's hard to believe, but after club legends Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti, Marco Borriello is Roma's highest earner (from La Gazzetta dello Sport via SportLive.it).
That ill-considered contract was drawn up by the club's former president, Rosella Sensi, and continues to weigh on the Giallorossi now, three years after her departure. A loan to Juventus two seasons ago came to nothing, but last year, he impressed while at Genoa and was brought back to the Olimpico for another chance.
Borriello managed a single goal for Roma this term before being loaned to West Ham in the EPL—where he's been just as underwhelming.
Gonzalo Bergessio was the leading light in Catania's best-ever league finish last term, but this season, the Sicilians have nose-dived from an impressive eighth to the very bottom of the league.
It hasn't just been the Argentine's fault, and with seven goals to his name so far, it would be unfair to say he hasn't contributed. Like the rest of his colleagues, however, more was expected from the former San Lorenzo star.
The good work started at the Elefanti by Vincenzo Montella and continued by Rolando Maran was supposed to bring stability and perhaps even some success to the Stadio Angelo Massimino, but instead, a disastrous season means that they look certain to be banished to Serie B—just when local rivals Palermo seem set to return to the top-flight.
Mario Gomez's anonymity has been through fault of injury rather than poor form, but his debut season in Serie A will nevertheless be one to forget for the normally mercurial German forward.
Fiorentina signed the 28-year-old from Bayern Munich hoping that he'd fire them to new heights, paying a hefty €20 million for his contract and offering the player one of the league's biggest salaries.
A knee injury early in the season disrupted his campaign before he was ruled out for the rest of the term with medial ligament damage suffered during March's Serie A clash with Napoli.
Any player who can score 75 goals in 115 games for Bayern clearly has what it takes to become a superstar for the Viola, and they'll be hoping he can get fit this summer in time for next year's title race.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Figuring out what's wrong with Stephan El Shaarawy should be top priority at Milan—especially since Mario Balotelli is so obviously unreliable.
Injury has hampered the young Italian all season, but the drastic dip in form that he suffered in the second half of 2012-13 continues, and he's frustrated on the few occasions that he has made an appearance this term.
The Rossoneri tied El Shaarawy to a lengthy contract last February after he'd single-handedly kept them towards the top of the table following the departure of their previous goal machine, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He also became their youngest-ever scorer in the Champions League with a strike against Zenit St. Petersburg, all of which hinted to a very bright future at the San Siro and for the national team.
By contrast, he's played just five games in all competitions in 2013-14 and is yet to score. He remains hopeful that he can still make Italy's squad (via ESPN.com), but the fact that he's just coming back to fitness now makes that an unlikely prospect. A triumphant return in the upcoming Milan derby might help, but it won't make up for more than a year of woes.
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