Picking an Opening-Day Best Serie a XI
This summer has seen some major departures from Serie A, with last season’s leading goal scorer, arguably the league’s best defender and highest-profile name all moving on. However, despite the loss of Ciro Immobile, Mehdi Benatia and Mario Balotelli, the peninsula remains home to some incredible footballing talent.
Over the following pages is the best XI players on show this weekend, with a slight twist in order to make the choices more interesting. Only one player per club has been selected, allowing the spotlight to shine on some lesser-known faces as well as some of the instantly recognisable ones.
They line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and please don’t hesitate to leave a comment with your thoughts on the team selected.
All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com unless otherwise stated
GK: Simone Scuffet (Udinese)
Despite featuring for a side expected to struggle this season, Simone Scuffet is likely to cement his reputation as the finest young keeper in Italy. He narrowly missed out on a place as an understudy to Gigi Buffon at the World Cup after establishing himself as the first choice at Udinese, despite the fact he only turned 18 at the end of May.
Stats site Squawka.com shows the youngster averaged two saves per game last term, keeping six clean sheets as he displaced Serbian Zeljko Brkic from the team.
RB: Matteo Darmian (Torino)
Perhaps Italy’s best player in what was a dire World Cup showing by the Azzurri, Matteo Darmian is certainly a player to watch in the forthcoming campaign. The Torino full-back can play on either flank, and is solid in defence while contributing a steady stream of accurate crosses when pressing forward.
Some of his high-profile team-mates have already moved on, and a repeat of last season’s form is likely to see the bigger sides also making an approach for the talented 24-year-old.
CB: Nemanja Vidic (Inter)
Unlike the two previous names, Nemanja Vidic is unlikely to need any introduction, the former Manchester United skipper having already enjoyed a hugely successful career. He arrived at Inter this summer on a free transfer, and the Nerazzurri will hope he can bring some much-needed leadership to their defence.
There may be questions over how effective he can be in Walter Mazzarri’s three-man back line but, still only 32, Vidic can surely make an impact in Serie A.
CB: Gabriel Paletta (Parma)
The form of Gabriel Paletta was vital to Parma’s surprising sixth-place finish last term, and helped the 28-year-old win a call up to represent Italy at the World Cup. The former Liverpool defender averaged 2.7 tackles, 1.6 interceptions and 5.3 clearances for the Gialloblu in 2013-14.
LB: Mattia De Sciglio (Milan)
Much like Darmian, the reputation of Mattia De Sciglio was one of very few to emerge intact from this summer’s World Cup. The Milan youngster looks set to remain an integral part of the Rossoneri setup despite yet another coaching change, with Pippo Inzaghi sure to regularly call upon him.
The 21-year-old has already made almost 60 first-team appearances, averaging 2.0 tackles and 0.9 interceptions despite an injury-ravaged 2013-14 campaign. Narrowly edged out Stephan El Shaarawy for the Milan selection, and the striker could thrive in an increasingly important role now Mario Balotelli has been allowed to leave.
CM: Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
With a move to Manchester United touted all summer long, many will express surprise that Arturo Vidal remains in Turin. For fans of Juventus however, his presence will elicit a huge sigh of relief, the Chilean so central to their play over the past three years.
No player has scored more goals for the Bianconeri since he arrived at the club back in 2011, while WhoScored shows that only one player in Serie A made more tackles than him last term. He remains the quintessential box-to-box midfielder and perhaps the finest player on the peninsula.
CM: Miralem Pjanic (Roma)
With Mehdi Benatia no longer with the Giallorossi, it was tough to choose a Roma player for this XI, so plentiful are the options available to coach Rudi Garcia. Francesco Totti continues to defy Father Time, Kevin Strootman is one of the finest midfielders around, while Gervinho and Juan Iturbe will terrorise defences all season long.
It is Miralem Pjanic who takes the berth however, his performances essential to everything positive in the side last term. Contributing six goals and six assists, WhoScored.com show the 24-year-old also averaged 2.1 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game, whilst completing 88.3 per cent of his pass attempts.
He enjoyed a good World Cup despite Bosnia’s early exit, and getting his signature on a new four-year contract—per the club’s official website—was essential this summer.
RW: Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo)
Undeniably the breakout star of last season, Domenico Berardi is once again a player to monitor closely in 2014-15. His 16 goals and six assists were vital in securing Sassuolo survival in Serie A, and are even more impressive considering he is still just a 20-year-old.
With Juventus agreeing to extend his co-ownership deal, the Neroverde will once again benefit from his talent, although a future move to Turin is somewhat inevitable for all concerned.
AM: Jose Callejon (Napoli)
While Gonzalo Higuain’s 17 goals drew huge praise, the performances of his former Real Madrid team-mate Jose Callejon were just as vital for Napoli. The Spanish star netted 15 times in the league, adding six assists as he helped the club finish in third place despite a complete overhaul under Rafael Benitez.
He weighed in with a further six goals in the Champions League and was always excellent to watch, while it remains incredible that he is still without an international cap.
LW: Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina)
Like with Vidal, it remains something of a surprise that Juan Cuadrado is still at his current club, with links to moves away seemingly ever-present this summer. The 26-year-old was sensational last term, recording 11 goals and five assists, drawing serious interest from Manchester United, as per Joe Strange of The Daily Mail.
Yet he will once again represent the Viola as they start their campaign against Roma on Saturday evening, providing a huge boost to Vincenzo Montella’s entertaining side.
S: Miroslav Klose (Lazio)
With Giuseppe Rossi expected to miss the opening weekend with a slight setback to his recovery from injury, per Football Italia, the most noteworthy striker is perhaps Miroslav Klose. He starts 2014-15 fresh from a summer in which he became both Germany’s leading scorer and the player with the most World Cup goals in history.
With 35 goals in 81 Serie A appearances for the Rome-based club already to his name, it is clear the form of the 36-year-old will be key to their campaign once again.