Ranking the Best 50 Players in Serie A in 2017

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2018

Juventus' Gonzalo Higuain, left, celebrates with his teammate Paulo Dybala after scoring his side's second goal during an Italian Cup round of 16 soccer match between Juventus and Genoa, at Turin's Allians Stadium, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (Alessandro di Marco/ANSA via AP)
Alessandro Di Marco/Associated Press

50. Jakub Jankto (Udinese)

The latest in a long line of unheralded players to emerge via Udinese's wide scouting network, Czech midfielder Jakub Jankto could well be moving on to a bigger club soon.


49. Simone Verdi (Bologna)

On the list of youngsters discarded by AC Milan, Simone Verdi has suddenly emerged as a prolific goalscorer, helping the Rossoblu earn some surprising results.


48. Stefano Sorrentino (Chievo)

He might not be a household name, but veteran goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino deserves immense praise for his impact on a Chievo side that continues to surprise.

Scot Munroe @scot_munroe

Sorrentino turning into Superman #ChievoRoma https://t.co/5J2XbNk8nC


47. Bryan Cristante (Atalanta)

Left holding the fort after the departure of some high profile team-mates, AC Milan youth product Bryan Cristante is beginning to attract attention from many bigger clubs around Europe, with the Daily Express' James Cambridge reporting Manchester United are interested in the midfielder.


46. Federico Fazio (AS Roma)

It might surprise many Tottenham Hotspur fans, but Argentina international Federico Fazio has become a solid defender who is crucial to AS Roma's hopes of ending their wait for silverware.


45. Roberto Gagliardini (Inter)

A member of last season's surprising Atalanta team, Roberto Gagliardini is quietly continuing his progress even after moving to one of Serie A's biggest clubs.


44. Giovanni Simeone (Fiorentina)

Part of a promising young Fiorentina side, Giovanni Simeone is a hardworking, tenacious force who is relentless in hunting goals or seeking to win back possession high up the pitch.


43. Blaise Matuidi (Juventus)

Arriving late in the summer, former Paris Saint-Germain star Blaise Matuidi has become a vital cog in coach Massimiliano Allegri's Juventus side as they bid for a seventh consecutive league title.


42. Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

His advancing years have not blunted veteran forward Fabio Quagliarella's prowess in front of goal, and he often proves decisive for the Genoa-based club.

B/R Football @brfootball

Fabio Quagliarella’s Napoli homecoming was a dream come true. A stalker turned it into a nightmare | @KellyNaqiUK https://t.co/DcvT61p5pD https://t.co/6euGUYcoV4


41. Jose Callejon (Napoli)

The Partenopei front line needs little introduction, yet Spanish star Jose Callejon remains an underrated force on the right flank, weighing in with key goals and assists.


40. Mattia Perin (Genoa)

While his progress has been hindered by a couple of serious injuries, Mattia Perin continues to develop into a superb goalkeeper.


39. Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria)

Quickly emerging as a wanted man, Lucas Torreira has begun to make a name for himself with Sampdoria.


38. Antonio Candreva (Inter)

He might not catch attention as much as some of his team-mates, but former Lazio man Antonio Candreva is vital to any hope of success in the black-and-blue half of Milan.


37. Jordan Veretout (Fiorentina)

Having failed to make an impact at Aston Villa, French midfielder Jordan Veretout has been a difference-maker for La Viola under Stefano Pioli.


36. Aleksandar Kolarov (AS Roma)

Rediscovering his best form both as a defender and a set-piece specialist, Aleksandar Kolarov has been a vital performer in the Italian capital since leaving Manchester City last summer.

Rossé Marrai-Ricco @RossellaMarrai

Kolarov with another goal for Roma. Proving to be an incredible signing for the Giallorossi.


35. Stephan El Shaarawy (AS Roma)

A force on the wing or through the middle, former Milan man Stephan El Shaarawy has repeatedly forced his way back into the starting XI at Roma and fully deserved his Italy recall.


34. Duvan Zapata (Sampdoria)

Stepping into the void left by Luis Muriel's sale, Duvan Zapata has led the line effectively for the Blucerchiati and formed an excellent partnership with Quagliarella.


33. Cyril Thereau (Fiorentina)

Moving from Udinese this summer, Frenchman Cyril Thereau has been a strong veteran presence in Pioli's promising young Viola side.


32. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)

Despite no longer being the imperious force he once was, Giorgio Chiellini remains a leading figure at the heart of the Bianconeri defence.


🙌 "Football is joy" 🙌 💬 @chiellini 👕 @juventusfc 🏆 @ChampionsLeague #⃣ #EqualGame #UCL 📲 https://t.co/ABDcLO70Ly https://t.co/R7IEyhWecS


31. Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli)

Providing balance and defensive cover behind Lorenzo Insigne, a recent spell on the sidelines with injury underlined the importance of impressive left-back Faouzi Ghoulam.


30. Stefan de Vrij (Lazio)

A key figure in Lazio's resurgence under manager Simone Inzaghi, expect Stefan de Vrij to be linked with a plethora of other clubs both in January and next summer.


29. Franck Kessie (AC Milan)

Having emerged as a promising force with Atalanta, the 21-year-old has—like many of his team-mates—struggled to match that form this term, but Franck Kessie's talent remains obvious to all who watch him play.


28. Edin Dzeko (AS Roma)

Finishing last season as Serie A's leading goalscorer, former Manchester City man Edin Dzeko has bagged eight league goals in 2017/18.


27. Samir Handanovic (Inter)

One of the world's most underrated goalkeepers, Samir Handanovic will hope to make his long-awaited UEFA Champions League debut in the competition proper with a resurgent Inter next term.


26. Alessandro Florenzi (AS Roma)

Battling back from two major injuries, Rome native Alessandro Florenzi is left to carry the club's proud tradition of homegrown leaders following Francesco Totti's retirement.

AS Roma English @ASRomaEN

Rome born and bred - Alessandro Florenzi makes his 2⃣0⃣0⃣th appearance for AS Roma today! #ASRoma @Florenzi https://t.co/HLy8jOWFDm


25. Suso (AC Milan)

For all the money spent on attacking players in the summer, former Liverpool man Suso arguably remains Milan's most potent weapon.


24. Elseid Hysaj (Napoli)

A diligent defender and a useful attacking weapon, Napoli right-back Elseid Hysaj has been a reliable performer throughout the year.


23. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

A prolific goalscorer over the past 18 months, Lazio striker Ciro Immobile has found the back of the net 22 times in all competitions this term.


22. Gigi Buffon (Juventus)

Set to retire at the end of the season and turning 40 on January 28, Juventus skipper Gigi Buffon remains a formidable force between the posts.

B/R Football @brfootball

Gianluigi Buffon has now played approximately 27.5 days worth of Serie A football for Juventus https://t.co/vlwRzG9HB3


21. Alex Sandro (Juventus)

Arguably the best left-back in the world in the first part of 2017, Alex Sandro was subpar in the first half of this season.


20. Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan)

Another player suffering a dip in form, Leonardo Bonucci has been unrecognisable in an AC Milan shirt. Clearly struggling to adapt to new team-mates and the toxic environment at the San Siro, the joint-best-paid player in Serie A has not been earning his money thus far.


19. Marek Hamsik (Napoli)

Napoli skipper Marek Hamsik recently surpassed Diego Maradona as the club's all time leading goalscorer, a testament to both his longevity and the important role he continues to play for Maurizio Sarri's men. Whether finding the back of the net or making crucial passes, the Slovakia international remains a driving force in the Napoli midfield.

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

🇦🇷 Diego Maradona - 115 🇸🇰 Marek Hamšík - 116* The Slovakian etches his name into Napoli folklore... https://t.co/4FUkYM4qGV


18. Andrea Conti (AC Milan)

Another member of Atalanta's thrilling 2016/17 side, wing-back Andrea Conti unfortunately suffered a serious injury before he could make the same impact at Milan. But the Rossoneri will be glad to welcome him back. The 23-year-old provides defensive solidity and is a great attacking outlet for club and country.


17. Mattia Caldara (Atalanta)

Already owned by Juventus, central defender Mattia Caldara has been allowed to remain on loan with Atlanta, gaining vital experience as the Orobici progress in the UEFA Europa League. A commanding presence at the back, he is also a force in attack and regularly weighs in with crucial goals both from set pieces and open play.


16. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

A towering centre-back, Sengal international Kalidou Koulibaly is the rock upon whom the Partenopei defence is built. Strong in the tackle and a diligent man-marker, he is also comfortable on the ball and is vital to Napoli's patient, possession-based approach under Sarri.


15. Papu Gomez (Atalanta)

Skipper and one of few veteran players in a young, entertaining side, Papu Gomez is the creative hub of the Bergamo-based side, and his play has seen him called up by Argentina. His ability to conjure goals from seemingly nowhere and his iconic celebrations have made him a cult figure for fans of the underappreciated northern club.

Matteo Bonetti @TheCalcioGuy

Atalanta's Papu Gomez released his own music video with his signature dance move. Now at 3.5m YouTube views. https://t.co/gl24XZjmQW


14. Milan Skriniar (Inter)

Having shone at Sampdoria, Milan Skriniar made the move to Inter in the summer without skipping a beat. He has slotted into Luciano Spalletti's team perfectly, helping transform a previously porous defence into one of Italy's most robust units, which has been crucial to their resurgence under the former AS Roma boss.


13. Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina)

The jewel in the Viola crown, Federico Chiesa—the son of former Fiorentina and Sampdoria forward Enrico Chiesa—burst on to the Serie A scene last term and continues to improve. Goals, assists, tireless running and a tactical versatility all help make the 20-year-old stand out as a player to watch closely in the coming months.


12. Ivan Perisic (Inter)

Long a target for the Premier League's biggest clubs, Ivan Perisic looks ideal for the likes of Manchester United. Yet the club refused to sell him last summer, and he's helped the Nerazzurri push for honours. Whether scoring himself or creating for others, he is a handful for any defence and a perfect foil for club captain Mauro Icardi.


11. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)

It is hard to believe Gianluigi Donnarumma is still only 18, but he has already made over 100 appearances for the Rossoneri and looks certain to replace the retiring Buffon as Italy's No. 1 for years to come.

OptaPaolo @OptaPaolo

100 - Gianluigi #Donnarumma plays today his 100th game for AC Milan (all competitions): 33 clean sheets and 313 saves in his first 99 matches. Milestone. #FiorentinaMilan https://t.co/hixvGqnnUk


10. Jorginho (Napoli)

Nobody in Europe's top five leagues made more passes than Jorginho in each of the past two seasons, and according to WhoScored.com, he leads the way once again this term.

Connecting with 105.7 per 90 minutes, he is the beating heart of Sarri's Napoli, the player who keeps their free-flowing style ticking over. He rightly received a long-overdue Italy call-up earlier this season.

The midfielder deserves far more attention than he has received to date, with his understated manner crucial to the Partenopei as they push for the league title that has eluded them since Maradona graced the Stadio San Paolo.


9. Miralem Pjanic (Juventus)

In a midfield that has lost the likes of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba in recent seasons, Miralem Pjanic has been a vital addition for the Bianconeri. Able to dictate play from a variety of positions, he has delivered goals and assists with aplomb, proving particularly deadly from set pieces.

Juvefc.com @juvefcdotcom

Lovely goal from Pjanic!!!! https://t.co/WjqWFsAfwQ

His right boot has been the source of much of Juve's good play this term, with Pjanic clearly enjoying the fact his move from Roma paid off, as he won a league-and-cup double last term. Also featuring in last season's Champions League final, his €32 million (£28 million) fee looks like an absolute bargain.


8. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio)

Unquestionably a star in the making, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic  has begun to attract attention from across the continent after a steady stream of incredible performances. Michael Yokhin reported for ESPN FC that Manchester United are among his suitors. Able to play in a variety of positions, he possesses relentless energy, a wonderful range of passing and is a good source of goals for the Rome-based side.

Inzaghi has lent on Milinkovic-Savic more and more, building the team around him as Felipe Anderson struggled for fitness and Keita Balde left for AS Monaco. Expect to hear his name continue to be linked with high-profile clubs both in January and the summer.


7. Andrea Belotti (Torino)

Living up to a €100 million (£89 million) buyout clause was never going to be easy, but Andrea Belotti has seemingly managed it, remaining one of Serie A's most deadly marksmen and enjoying yet another excellent year.

With 28 goals last season, the 24-year-old ensured he would be a hot commodity in the summer, but Torino refused to negotiate with anyone not willing to meet that lofty valuation, so he remained with Sinisa Mihajlovic's side. The team has struggled this term, but Belotti's combination of pace, power and accuracy is too potent to remain subdued for too long, and fans should expect to see him shine again in 2018.


6. Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)

Unquestionably the most gifted Italian of his generation, it is no surprise Lorenzo Insigne is the highest native player on this list. Continually bamboozling defenders both in Serie A and across Europe with his close control and sharp changes of direction, the 26-year-old is a potent weapon for his hometown club.

B/R Football @brfootball

💯 club goals for Lorenzo Insigne 🙌 https://t.co/G1I7EWvTBS

Last term, he weighed in with 18 goals and nine assists. He has netted nine times in all competitions this season. If the Partenopei are to end their long trophy drought, it will be with Insigne firing on the left flank.


5. Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

Paulo Dybala's 2017 began in some style, netting a brace against Barcelona that helped pave the way to another Champions League final. Juventus may have fallen short there, but the defeat seemed to inject a fury into the Argentina international, who began this campaign in blistering form.

Even now, after a minor blip, he has bagged 17 goals in all competitions, prompting much speculation about his future as he continues to lay waste to opponents both at home and abroad. Seemingly happy to be the latest in a long line of iconic No. 10s, the Bianconeri will do all they can to hold on to Dybala for years to come.


4. Radja Nainggolan (AS Roma)

A player who can seemingly do it all, the fact Radja Nainggolan has routinely been left out of Belgium squads defies belief among anyone who has watched him play for Roma. Flying into tackles, never caught out of position and capable of scoring sublime goals, the 29-year-old always makes an impact.

He is a devastating force every time he steps on the field and plays with a fighting spirit absent from many of his peers, yet the quality of Nainggolan's skill should not be overlooked. He is a complete midfielder who would be worthy of a place in any side.


3. Mauro Icardi (Inter)

A potent goalscorer who needs only the slightest chance before he buries the ball in the back of the net, the Nerazzurri captain is a devastating player. Icardi has scored more than 100 goals despite still only being 24, yet somehow his reputation as a troublemaker continues to overshadow his on-field exploits.

That opinion is—as discussed in this previous post—hugely flawed, with the growth and maturity he has displayed in the past few years far greater than any previous misdeeds. Even while arguing with Inter ultras, he has scoring at an impressive rate. It is incredible he has yet to experience Champions League football.


2. Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus)

Like compatriot Icardi, the big No. 9 in Turin has spent 2017 disproving every misconception of him. Viewed as unfit and overweight, Gonzalo Higuain started more games and played more minutes than any of his team-mates over the calendar year while continuing to score at a staggering pace.

Netting 32 goals in all competitions last term, this campaign has seen him bag 12 more, and he has done so in the biggest matches. It was Higuain's goals that pushed Juve into last season's Champions League final, and he has also struck repeatedly against former side Napoli as well as Serie A's other top clubs.


1. Dries Mertens (Napoli)

When Higuain left Naples in 2016, it seemed he would be impossible to replace. Arkadiusz Milik was struck by injury and, when Manolo Gabbiadini tried and failed to fill the void, Sarri surprisingly turned to Dries Mertens. Standing just 5'7" and previously little more than an above-average winger, the results have been simply breathtaking, as the Belgium international leads the line with devastating prowess.

B/R Football @brfootball

Dries Mertens tells it how it is 👀😂 https://t.co/eMAb968dRo

He has stunned defences across Europe, netting a league-high 28 goals last term. He has added 13 more this term. No longer an experiment or stopgap solution, the 30-year-old is the undisputed star of the Napoli team that ended 2017 at the top of the Serie A table.


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