A January Transfer Need for Every Serie A Team
It's been a topsy-turvy season in Serie A.
Internazionale, who haven't been to the Champions League since the 2011-12 season and are enduring their second year of the last three out of Europe entirely, are leading the way. Four-time defending champions Juventus have already lost more games than they did all of last season but have still closed to within three points of the lead on the back of a seven-game winning streak.
Teams such as Sassuolo and Empoli are making surprising runs at the Europa League spots while heavyweights such as AC Milan and contenders Lazio and Sampdoria are struggling.
As Italy goes into its the winter break, it's time for the real excitement to start—the impending arrival of the January transfer window.
Italian fans put almost as much value on the silly season as they do the actual season. But while the rumors will fly, it's unlikely many will bear real fruit. The winter window is a time to address any pressing needs and gear up for the second half of the campaign. Big moves tend to be put off until the summer. Megadeals—for example, Fernando Torres' move from Liverpool to Chelsea in 2011—don't often happen when there's snow on the ground.
That said, every team in Italy's top flight has some sort of need. The questions relate to where and whether they can be filled immediately.
Today, B/R will go through every team in Serie A and identify their biggest transfer need. Teams will be listed in reverse order of the table.
What does each team need to achieve its goals? Read on to find out.
Biggest Need: Goalscoring help
Boy, are Hellas Verona hurting.
The Mastiffs are the only team in Serie A winless up to this point. The eight draws they've managed have kept them within touching distance of Carpi directly above them, but the gap between themselves and safety is double their current point total.
It hasn't helped that team captain and talisman Luca Toni has missed roughly half of their games this season. The defending Capocannoniere, who announced early in December that he will retire at the end of the season after a career that spanned 20 years, 16 clubs and a total of 317 competitive goals (and counting) for club and country, has been sorely missed.
Despite only playing in nine of his team's 17 games Toni still leads their scoring chart with three—a full quarter of Verona's scoring output this season. Only one other player has scored more than once this season: full-back Eros Pisano.
If Verona is to make a run at survival, they need someone to help Toni score. Giampaolo Pazzini hasn't excelled since arriving on a Bosman from Milan over the summer, scoring only once. Juanito Gomez, who has scored 11 times over the last two years and netted some important goals last year, hasn't gotten off the mark at all.
The lack of goals may not be Verona's only need—they're the third-worst defense in the league—but it's their biggest. They won't get points if they don't score, and they need to give Toni some major help up top.
Biggest Need: Defense
Serie A debutants Carpi have put up a good showing so far. They've only won twice but have held their own in defeat against the likes of Inter, Fiorentina and Juventus, and they held Napoli and Milan to goalless draws. The undoubted high point of their year came on Dec. 16, when they went to the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence and came out with a 1-0 win that propelled them to the Coppa Italia quarterfinals.
But they need some help on the defensive end. They're the second-worst defense in Serie A, and for every 0-0 with Napoli or 1-0 loss to Sassuolo, there's been a 5-1 thrashing by Roma or a 5-2 demolition by Sampdoria.
Director Giancarlo Romairone told Radio Crc (h/t Football Italia) on Tuesday that he was interested in a trio of Napoli players, including Rafael Cabral, who was the starter for the Partenopei last year but seems to have fallen behind both Pepe Reina and Gabriel in the pecking order this year.
The Biancorossi haven't been solidly connected with an outfield defender, but getting Rafael couln't hurt them. Carpi have used three goalkeepers this season, and according to WhoScored.com, two of them are among the team's worst-rated players.
Some help with the back line would be good as well, but Rafael would be an excellent start to a defensive rebuild.
Biggest Need: Defense
The other team making their maiden appearance in Serie A, Frosinone has done even better than their fellow debutantes. They may be in the relegation zone, but with a two-point deficit on Genoa in 17th, they're only one win away from getting out of the drop zone.
The Canarini have already come up with a statement result this season when they went into the Juventus Stadium and hung with the four-time champs before turning a corner kick into a last-gasp equalizer for a 1-1 draw in September.
But like Carpi, their defense is holding them back. They've given up more goals than any other team in the league this term, and it's been two months since they conceded less than two in a game.
It's not the fault of Juve loanee Nicola Leali, who has continued to develop with consistent playing time. His performance against his parent club is what put his team in position for that draw. He's simply been exposed repeatedly, and there are only so many times any 'keeper, whether he's in a beer league or he's Gigi Buffon, can keep a clean sheet when seeing so many shots.
There could be players available. Lazio center back Santiago Gentiletti has fallen down Stefano Pioli's pecking order since suffering an injury last season, and Il Tempo reported on Wednesday (h/t Football Italia) that he has asked to be loaned out for playing time.
The same report claimed Lazio have received an offer for a loan from Frosinone, and while there are other teams that might be in contention, he could have a better chance at playing time here than anywhere else. It also has the added bonus of not forcing Gentiletti to uproot, as Frosinone is only 47 miles from Rome on the A1 highway.
Frosinone have shown they can hang with the big boys this season. If they manage to upgrade their defense to any degree, they may have a shot at staying in the top flight.
Biggest Need: A goalscorer
Seventeenth is a spot in the table Genoa knows. In 2011-12 and 2012-13, the Grifone barely escaped relegation but have since improved to the point where, had they not included the dilapidated Stadio Luigi Ferraris in their UEFA application last season, they would have played in the Europa League after finishing last season in sixth.
Why are Genoa so far down in the table? There are two reasons. One can be addressed through the transfer window; the other can't.
The former reason? They are getting red cards at an alarming rate. They've had eight players sent off this season so far. Amazingly, that's only good for second place (Atalanta has seen 10 players receive their marching orders).
The other is they're not scoring. They've only scored 15 times in 17 matches. The red cards could be a factor in that, but they've scored multiple goals in two of the seven games they've been down a man, so it's not the be all and end all.
A third of those goals have come from one man, Leonardo Pavoletti. He's gotten little help from Diego Perotti on the wing (one goal, one assist) and none whatsoever from veteran striker Goran Pandev.
Gian Piero Gasperini's defense has played well enough to be decently mid-table if the attack could score. But between Iago Falque, Alessandro Matri and Andrea Bertolacci, he lost his top three scorers in the summer, and they haven't been adequately replaced.
Reinforcements might be in the offing. A loan move for Milan's Suso, an attacking midfielder and winger, is all but official. Milan chief Adriano Galliani told Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia) that personal terms are the only thing yet to be decided.
Another option could be Giuseppe Rossi. The oft-injured striker is healthy again but hasn't been given the opportunity to prove it by Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa. He wants to finally play in a major international tournament, and to do that, he needs to play his way into contention for Euro 2016. A Monday report from Il Corriere Fiorentino (also via Football Italia) placed Genoa as one of the teams in contention for his services on loan.
If they manage to find someone who can augment Pavoletti in front of goal, they have what it takes to get clear of the drop zone and prepare for another run at the Europa League next season.
Biggest Need: A striker
Franco Vazquez will be the most sought-after player in next summer's transfer window. An excellent attacking midfielder, Vazquez dovetailed perfectly with Paulo Dybala last season. Now that the Argentinian is at Juventus, he's got much less to work with.
The Rosaneri started the season with seven points out of three matches, but they've only managed three wins since. The culprit for this slide is clear: they can't finish. They've only scored more than one goal in a game four times. They've only done it once since their first game in October—and that was against Frosinone's league-worst defense.
Alberto Gilardino leads Palermo's scorers with four goals and has looked lively, but at 33 years old, his time as a true leading striker is probably over. Calciomercato speculated (h/t Football Italia) Palermo may look to snag Manolo Gabbiadini on loan from Napoli—something that could be a great shot in the arm for both the club and the player.
Owner, Maurizio Zamparini needs to get someone in who can score consistently, otherwise Vazquez's seemingly inevitable departure could well be followed by a second demotion in four seasons.
Biggest Need: A creative attacker
This doesn't necessarily have to be an striker, but Bologna need someone who can create chances for them.
Whether it's a midfielder or a forward, some player who can get Mattia Destro scoring chances is imperative. According to WhoScored.com, the team leader in key passes is Franco Brienza with only 1.5 per match. By contrast, the leader on the league's top scorers, Fiorentina, is Borja Valero with 2.1. The leader of hard-charging Juventus is the injured Roberto Pereyra with 2.9.
Destro has come alive since the arrival of coach Roberto Donadoni in October—as has the team as a whole. But he needs better service—and maybe someone to play off and supply himself.
They may be getting an unexpected treat in January thanks to an empty non-EU roster spot. Inter is almost certain to lock down Boca Juniors striker Jonathan Calleri in January, but they won't be able to keep him on their squad because they don't have any more non-EU slots left. According to a report from Corriere dello Sport (h/t Football Italia), their solution could be to loan him to Bologna for the remainder of the season.
Donadoni has this team singing. If they get one more creative player, they could be in really good shape.
Biggest Need: A smart defender
Sampdoria have had a strange season. They won three of their first five games but have nosedived since. Since September 28, they have a W-D-L record of 2-3-6. Coach Walter Zenga didn't last three months, being replaced by Vincenzo Montella.
Montella has had a hard time with the scraps. Particularly troublesome is the fact their defense is an absolute mess. There are gaping holes for teams to play through, and even a good goalkeeper such as Emiliano Viviano will concede goals when he's that exposed.
The Blucerchiati lack defensive intelligence. They had a good measure of it last season when Alessio Romagnoli was on loan from Roma, but now the youngster is at Milan, the line can't get cohesion. What they need is an intelligent defender who can help the line stay together and remove the gaps. If they can do that, they have the strike force in Eder and Luis Muriel to move higher up the table.
Biggest Need: Plan for the future
Udinese isn't going to be going anywhere this season. They'll most likely be gearing up for another mid-table finish.
Provided they don't end up in a relegation battle, what the Zebrette should do is look toward the future. Antonio Di Natale's career is coming to an end. He has been Udinese's talisman for years, but it's almost time for the 38-year-old to hang up his boots.
In November, there were shock reports in Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia) that Di Natale would quit at the winter break. That has obviously not happened, but while no one has confirmed it, it's likely the summer will see the striker retire.
Udinese needs to start thinking of the future. Colombian striker Duvan Zapata is a promising talent, but he's been injured since September and is only just coming back now.
What Udinese needs to do is start looking for Di Natale's replacement. Whether that is a talent from a lower-division club or perhaps someone from their academy, it's time to start getting ready for the future. The search is on.
Biggest Need: Depth
Over the last two years Torino has done some great things. A year ago, they became the first Italian team to defeat Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames. And after years of languishing in Serie B, they are perennial contenders for the Europa League places.
If they win their game in hand against Sassuolo in January, they could move up to ninth place—well within striking distance of the Europa spots, especially if sixth comes into play. In Giampiero Ventura, they also have one of the best coaches in Serie A, but their problem is depth.
If their best players go down, there isn't all that much Ventura can call on to replace them. That's particularly true of the midfield, where Daniele Baselli is key, and especially on the wings, where the marauding Bruno Peres has no real replacement on the left.
The gap is fairly wide between Ventura's starting set and his backups. For Torino to be able to continually contend for a European place, they're going to have to tighten up that divide. Of particular interest will be someone who can effectively play understudy to Peres, because if he's out for an extended period of time, a major part of Torino's attack would be gone.
Biggest Need: General upgrades
Chievo is that annoying kind of team in an article such as this that is so solidly mid-table it's hard to truly identify major strengths and weaknesses. They've got a plus-three goal differential and are in the middle of the pack both in terms of goals scored and goals conceded.
In order to have any sort of positive movement, Chievo just have to start finding quality players to plug into the squad, either now or in the future. Alessandro Gamberini, for instance, is playing fairly well this year but is 34 years old and won't be hanging around too much longer. Finding a quality long-term replacement for him would be a good move.
Without the pressures of last year's relegation fight, the Flying Donkeys can look toward the future this January if they so choose.
Biggest Need: A defender
In May, Lazio were the toast of Serie A. They took Roma to the brink in the fight for second place and were two goalposts away from beating Juventus in the Coppa Italia final. Stefano Pioli was being hailed as Italian coaching's next big thing.
Now, the capital club is 10th and in free fall. Sunday's win over Inter was their first since October 25. Of the seven games in between, they lost five, including 2-1 to Atalanta, 1-0 to Empoli and an always-galling 2-0 loss to Roma in the Derby della Capitale.
Lazio's biggest problem has been leakiness at the back. They have a minus-six goal difference, worse than four of the teams below them in the table. A large part of that number is due to the absence of Stefan de Vrij, who is injured and out for the foreseeable future.
That defensive problem has Lazio on alert for a defender. The links have been everywhere. Il Messaggero linked them (h/t Football Italia) with Empoli's Lorenzo Tonelli and with former Liverpool center back Daniel Agger and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's Douglas. La Lazio Siamo Noi reported (h/t Football Italia) that an intermediary approached them about a deal for Chelsea's Kurt Zouma.
Marseille defender Nicolas N'Koulou, who is out of contract this summer, is similarly linked through Calciomercato (h/t Football Italia).
With all these rumors going around one of them is bound to bear something. Unlike many other teams for whom a buy would be an abstract concept of upgrade or replacement, getting a defender is going to fix a major hole in this team left by the injury to De Vrij. Expect someone to come in during January.
Biggest Need: A forward
It's astonishing Atalanta are this high in the table. Their top strikers, Mauricio Pinilla and German Denis, have only combined for six goals this season. They've absorbed a league-leading 10 red cards—including a pair of games in which they ended the 90 minutes with nine men.
Yet here they are in ninth.
It's that lack of an effective striker that's going to be a thorn in La Dea's side. Denis is old and Pinilla inconsistent—they've had to rely on wingers Alejandro Gomez and Maximiliano Moralez for the bulk of their production.
This is a team that could very well be stripped down this summer. Gomez and Moralez could both be targets, as will Marten de Roon and especially goalkeeper Marco Sportiello. Adding a consistent striker will not only fortify Edy Reja's men for this season but help build toward the next.
Biggest Need: A regista
Empoli has done some big things this year on the back of trequartista Riccardo Saponara, but the attacking midfielder can't do everything. There will be times when teams will key on him and force him to divulge the ball, forcing one of this teammates to try to create.
The midfield behind him isn't of a creative bent, but they could change that. If the team considers themselves to be in serious contention for Europe by the middle of January, a deeper-lying playmaker could help ease the pressure of Saponara, who is already a major target for defenses. That would give Massimo Maccarone and Manuel Pucciarelli much more service to use—and could see Empoli reach new heights.
Biggest Need: Box-to-box midfielder
In two-and-a-half seasons, Sassuolo have gone from Serie A debutant to a team that, until November, had hold of a Europa League qualification place. They could very well still get back there, but they'll need one or two adjustments.
Specifically, the Neroverdi need a strong box-to-box midfielder. When they do lose, they tend to get overpowered in midfield. They can have problems linking their back line with the forward unit led by Domenico Berardi and Nicola Sansone.
Those problems explain why they've only scored more than once in a game twice since the end of September—and even both of those games had mitigating circumstances. Lazio had a man sent off when Sassuolo beat them 2-1, and they caught Sampdoria at their lowest stretch in the season in early December to win 3-1.
A good box-to-box midfield man would solve that link-up issue. No one specific has been linked to Eusebio Di Francesco's men, but this is one of the best-run clubs in Italy, and if they manage to find the right player, they'll probably find a way to snag him.
Biggest Need: Creativity
Carlos Bacca is having a phenomenal season. According to Squawka, he's been accurate with an absurd 71 percent of his shots this season.
By right, he should have more goals than the eight he has. Why doesn't he? Because he rarely ever gets to take those shots.
Bacca's problem is there's really only one creative outlet on the team: Giacomo Bonaventura.
Simply put, he cannot be expected to shoulder the team's entire creative burden. The Rossoneri are, according to Rai Sport (h/t Football Italia), in pole position to sign Palermo's Franco Vazquez, but he's not likely to move until July.
Unless they get someone to augment Bonaventura, their entire attack—and their hopes of returning to European competition—will be an all-or-nothing bet on the 26-year-old. That's not a situation that's fair to anyone.
Biggest Need: Goalkeeper
The goalkeeping situation at Roma has been unsteady for years. If they ever want to vault into the elite alongside Juventus, the Giallorossi will need to finally get a steady hand between the sticks.
That player isn't on the roster right now. Morgan De Sanctis is simply too old, and Wojciech Szczesny has made it clear his focus is on returning to Arsenal rather than being a long-term solution in the Eternal City.
France Football magazine reported this summer (h/t Football Italia) that Roma was interested in Salvatore Sirigu, who has been bumped off the starting sheet at Paris Saint-Germain by the arrival of Kevin Trapp. Italy's No. 2 goalkeeper has since told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia) he is open to leaving to get more playing time.
Roma also has the option of waiting until the summer for a longer-term investment—Genoa starlet Mattia Perin's agent told Tuttomercatoweb recently (again via Football Italia) that Roma was "a good idea" as the next destination for the presumed heir apparent to Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy shirt.
But Sirigu is more than adequate for a top-level team, and he could prove far cheaper. If Roma wants to make a run back to the Champions League places, they may want to pull the trigger now.
Biggest Need: Attacking midfielder
Juve fans have been begging for an attacking midfielder since Massimiliano Allegri changed to a 4-3-1-2 formation last year.
Of the current squad, the only man really able to play that role is Roberto Pereyra. He has had some success there, but he's out with a leg injury.
One way or the other, it's going to fall to general director Giuseppe Marotta to find a trequartista from the outside. Several options have been bandied about. Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan has been on the team's radar since the two clubs met in last season's Champions League, but La Gazzetta dello Sport reported (h/t Football Italia) on Wednesday a move for the Germany international will likely wait until the summer.
Another recent Champions League foe might be more immediately obtainable. Juve have been monitoring Sevilla's Ever Banega. According to Tuttosport (h/t Football Italia), the Argentinian might be available for much cheaper than Gundogan because of his expiring contract and is at the top of Juve's list.
He would be cup-tied for the rest of the season in the Europe, but he could be a great help in the league and allow Allegri to move back to his preferred four-man back line, a system he knows much better than the 3-5-2 he has been running in part due to the lack of a natural attacking midfielder.
Biggest Need: Defense
Napoli boast one of the most dynamic attacks in Europe. With Jose Callejon on one side, Lorenzo Insigne on the other and Gonzalo Higuain in the middle—not to mention a bench featuring Dries Mertens and Manolo Gabbiadini.
On the other end of the field, however, there can still be problems.
Napoli's occasional defensive wobbles have been an issue dating back to Walter Mazzarri's tenure between 2009 and 2013. It cost them in the first three games of the year, when they conceded six goals and started the season with a loss and two draws.
It also very nearly cost them three points in October against Juventus, when the back line allowed Mario Lemina to nip in for a goal moments after Higuain had put them up 2-0. The goal set up a tense half-hour for the hosts. Bologna were the latest team to exploit these weaknesses, going up 3-0 and then holding off a furious comeback.
Napoli need a defender who can tie the back line together. And they know it. The Partenopei have been repeatedly linked with Juventus prodigy Daniele Rugani. The most recent report from Sportitalia (h/t Football Italia) put forward the idea of a swap between the teams—Rugani for Juan Camilo Zuniga in corresponding loan deals.
It's highly unlikely Juve would allow Rugani to get away permanently—both Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini are on the wrong side of 30, and he will be the present for the Bianconeri sooner rather than later.
But the fact Napoli have been repeatedly linked to him is telling. It's clear Napoli know that their back line can be a liability, and they're trying to address it. It will be interesting to see just how they manage to do that in this window.
Biggest Need: An elite striker
Nikola Kalinic has done exceptionally well in his first season at Fiorentina. The 27-year-old Croatian has scored 10 times this season, good for a second-place tie with Eder on the Serie A scoring chart.
But it remains to be seen whether he is the elite striker Fiorentina needs to truly take the next step.
There are some possible answers to this position on the roster. Kalinic is certainly one. If Giuseppe Rossi is allowed the chance to prove he is the man who scored 14 times in six months two seasons ago, he could be as well.
If neither manages to be that guy, it's time to look elsewhere. In order to take the next step, they need an elite-level player to complement the rapidly improving Federico Bernardeschi. Basically, they need what Mario Gomez was supposed to be before injuries turned him into a shell of the player he was at Bayern Munich.
High-level strikers rarely move in this window unless there are major contract concerns, but if Fiorentina can wiggle something out of nowhere, they could end the season with the Scudetto.
Biggest Need: Creativity
Inter is leading the league, and they're doing it in a throwback kind of way. As ESPN FC's Gabriele Marcotti noted in an excellent article in early October, Roberto Mancini has built an Inter high on size, strength and athleticism but low on creativity.
As Marcotti pointed out, Inter are a bunch of big guys—the average height of the normal starting XI is 6'1", which is three inches taller than the Barcelona team that beat Juventus in the Champions League final in June—who run all day and can destroy you physically if necessary.
But they're low on technique. This puts a lot of pressure on the front line of Ivan Perisic, Stevan Jovetic and Mauro Icardi to create their own chances.
Roberto Mancini seems to be backtracking on his physical focus. Corriere dello Sport reported on Wednesday (h/t Football Italia) that the Nerazzurri have inquired after Napoli's Mirko Valdifiori, who has only played four times for the Partenopei.
The question is whether Aurelio De Laurentiis would be willing to reinforce a direct competitor Scudetto. But if no one akin to Valdifiori signs this winter, Mancini is going to have to continue grinding games out with physical might—which could produce more results such as the recent defeat against Lazio.
Mancini has some great forwards at his command—now he needs to get them the ball.