The Serie A mercato has really kicked into gear in the last few weeks with AC Milan’s ambitious spending, headlined by the arrival of Leonardo Bonucci at Milanello, Juventus attacking additions and Inter’s quietly effective strengthening. Therefore, David Selini discuss his view of the most intriguing transfers this summer with Federico Bernardeschi in the brightest spotlight.
We start with the latest big transfer in Italy, namely that of Fiorentina’s home-grown fantasista Federico Bernardeschi. We’ve profiled the 23-year-old Italian quite a few times on this site, like here in 2015 and last year after a stunning display against Napoli, and the Carrara-born attacker will only see media attention increase following his move to Turin. Juventus have purchased Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a fee of 40 million euros which, in the circumstances, represent a good deal for both clubs. Fiorentina get a hefty profit on a former youth team player who wanted to leave while Juventus get Italy’s most exciting player for a price that they likely deem a bargain.
Bernardeschi came through the ranks at Fiorentina and established himself under Paulo Sousa as a right wing-back in 2015/16 before shifting to his preferred position as a trequartista (number 10) last term. The positional change saw Bernardeschi thrive with 11 goals in Serie A as a result of his impressive form. Bernardeschi’s consistency levels grew last season compared to his first and he established himself in the senior national team before starring for Italy at the U21 Euro’s this summer. At his best, Bernardeschi lived up to Florence’s proud tradition of artists and some of his goals and trickery on the pitch provided magical moments for the fans. “Berna” was the architect behind most of La Viola‘s attacking play and became revered by his fans.
So when news started to surface that their beloved son was close to a move to eternal rivals Juventus, following in the footsteps of fellow artist Roberto Baggio in changing purple for black and white, made Bernardeschi go from hero to villain in a blink of an eye. As the transfer now is completed, the attacker can look forward to a hostile reception upon his return to Florence this season.
Now to the important question; why were Juventus so keen to sign Bernardeschi and how will he fit in at the club? Simply put, Bernardeschi is the best young attacker in Italy at the moment and for the aforementioned price it’s simply a no-brainer. If Juve wouldn’t have made their move, you can rest assured that either Milan or Inter would have gone for Bernardeschi. In completing the signing, Juventus get a supremely talented attacker capable of playing both wide as an orthodox winger, preferably on the right cutting in onto his magical left foot, and centrally as an attacking midfielder or second striker. Regardless of his position, Bernardeschi will provide creativity in abundance and will link up perfectly with players like Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic. His close control and dribbling is sublime which will see him thrive both in tight spaces against packed defences and in games when there will be more space to counterattack.
Juventus coach Max Allegri rotated between a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1 at the end of the season and Bernardeschi will provide an option in both. In the former it will most likely be as a winger, competing with Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic for a spot, and in the latter as a ‘double number 10’ alongside Dybala behind Gonzalo Higuain. Given Allegri’s preference to set up in a 4-3-1-2 formation previously in his career at Cagliari, Milan and Juventus (notably 2014/15), it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bernardeschi lining up as the trequartista behind Dybala and Higuain.
The options at the Allegri’s disposal are almost limitless and it will be intriguing to see how he fits all his pieces together during the campaign. Juve will make another assault on the Champions League-trophy and in order to that the squad needs to be strong with many options with different characteristics. Allegri now has this and has to puzzle everything together. For Bernardeschi, patience will be needed. He won’t demand an immediate place in the eleven and will be forced to work for his chance, just like Dybala had to when he joined. If he does that and takes his chance then he will have every chance of fulfilling a potential that promises so much. Football is an art form, and Bernardeschi at his best is a true artist.
About an hour away from Turin, both Milan clubs have made moves of their own. AC Milan have been by far more active in the market and has really caught the eye by completing the signings of, in order, Mateo Musacchio, Franck Kessie, Ricardo Rodriguez, Fabio Borini, Andre Silva, Hakan Calhanoglu, Andrea Conti, Leonardo Bonucci and Lucas Biglia. While most of them have been heralded as sublime signings which has really been attracting attention, none has been more discussed than the capture of Juventus centre-back Bonucci. Milan’s signing of one of the best defenders in the world from Italy’s best team is obviously the main talking point and is a major coup for the club.
Still, as important as Bonucci will prove to be, I can’t help think the arrival of Lucas Biglia is more important for Milan. Yes, Bonucci is a statement of intent, he is sublime and improves the defence massively. Yet, Milan already had a strong centre-back setup with Musacchio and Alessio Romagnoli set to start prior to Bonucci’s arrival. They are definitely better now than before he signed, but his capture was more an opportunity to good to turn down rather than an absolute necessity. The arrival of Biglia, however, is integral to coach Vincenzo Montella’s plans.
Biglia has been superb at Lazio and will be the base of Milan’s attacking play. From his defensive midfield position in Montella’s likely 4-3-3 Biglia will control the tempo of Milan’s play and will be the man to progress the play from back to front. Biglia’s passing ability and calmness in possession is the key. He always remains calm and assesses his options and never panics despite being pressed. This is vital to a team wanting to pass their way from back to front. Already in his first match was this ability evident as can be seen in the video below.
The Argentine regista will be the key to everything Milan do in possession and, despite his arrival being overshadowed by the likes of Bonucci, Silva and Calhanoglu, Biglia might prove to be Milan’s most important signing.
Neighbours Inter have been quietly efficient in the market too, completing the signings of Borja Valero from Fiorentina and Milan Skriniar from Sampdoria. Considering the appointment of Luciano Spalletti as head coach, both signings makes perfect sense. Spalletti prides his football on cleanly progressing the play out from defence and needs players capable of dictating the tempo of the match. Skriniar is an upgrade on Jeison Murillo and Miranda in terms of ball retention and breaking lines with his passing, and will likely partner the Brazilian in defence. After getting a solid education by Marco Giampaolo at Samp last year, the Slovakian could turn out to be an inspired buy for sporting director Piero Ausilio.
Borja Valero is the main arrival though, as his passing and creativity in midfield fills a void in the squad from last year. Inter had strong box to box midfielders like the excellent Roberto Gagliardini, Marcelo Brozovic and Geoffrey Kondogbia last year, but lacked a playmaker in the mould of Valero. Similar to Biglia at Milan, Valero will be key in ensuring Inter can improve their play in possession and the Spaniard will be the key to linking everything together for the nerazzuri as Spalletti makes his mark on the playing style. Valero can circulate possession as well as playing incisive passes to create chances and is just as calm in possession as Biglia. Like the Argentine, he never hides from the ball and will be a perfect partner for Gagliardini in midfield. Inter fans have been forced to see Milan complete signing after signing this summer, but the fact is Inter already have an excellent squad that just needs a clear identity and the right tweaks in terms of personnel. If Ausilio can find a good full-back for Spalletti as well, Inter will be well set for the new campaign.
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As you can see, the new Serie A season can’t come quick enough with the champions Juventus strengthening their attack, Roma have a new coach in Eusebio Di Francesco, Napoli have hardly made any changes to their superb team from last year, Milan have an entirely new starting eleven, Inter are making interesting moves and we can’t forget Atalanta and Lazio that will both try to upset the big clubs again. It will be dramatic and it will be exciting like always when the league matches return.
Bring it on.