Feature Photo: Juventus FC via Getty Images
For one month, we talked about the best players, those that drove us crazy during the World Cup. We analyzed dribbling, tiki taka, heart and soul, and of course, amazing goals. Russia 2018 was a showcase for many talented actors, such as young Tsar Aleksandr Golovin, or Napoli’s midfielder Piotr Zielinski.
But let’s stop for a moment, and ask ourselves: Was Russia 2018 only about football? Of course not. We all know that. The world competition was mostly a stage to kick off the summer transfer market. Football agents swam in the Russian waters like sharks, ready to strike, and steal the stage. The most exposed one was – guess who? – Jorge Mendes.
The Portuguese was already known as one of the most powerful agents in the football landscape, and this early Summer he successfully concluded one of the most shocking transfers in the last 20 years. Which one? A four-year deal by which Juventus’ President Andrea Agnelli will wire 30 million euro per year into some Cristiano Ronaldo’s bank account, of course. Dreams are made of…money.
As the Serie A transfer market session unfolds, there is so much gossip circulating that it’s even difficult to keep track of all of them. Some even go as far as causing mass-hysteria among crazed supporters, like the one according to which Edinson Cavani was seen in Napoli today to buy some fish at the market. Not the transfer market, a real Italian mercato. A further confirmation of an allegedly ongoing negotiation between Napoli and Paris Saint Germain to bring the “prodigal son” Matador back to Italy.
Some other transfer rumors do get confirmed, in the end. Like the one who had Roma’s goalkeeper Alisson Becker on a plane to Liverpool to concretize his transfer to the Reds. The deal was closed, and the Brazilian goleiro will join Anfield Road with the goal of making his fans forget Loris Karius’ embarrassing performances. Alisson left the Giallorossi, but their Director of Football Monchi cashed some 62 million euro. Not bad.
Liverpool gained a solid goalkeeper, but lost an important piece of their midfield, Turkish Emre Can, who left as a free agent to follow Alisson’s path the other way around, from England to Italy. Emre landed at the court of what is already the queen of this transfer market window, the ubiquitous Bianconeri. Juventus have just closed a cycle, but are more than willing to open a new one, still with the same goal: Bringing back to Turin the Champions League.
President Agnelli said goodbye with gratitude to his most prominent free agent, 40-year-old Gianluigi Buffon, who will also continue chasing the Champions League dream, but will do it wearing the jersey of Paris Saint Germain from now on. Together with Buffon, defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner (34 years old) and Kwadwo Asamoah (29) also left. Lichsteiner will join Arsenal, while the Ghanaian will move to Luciano Spalletti’s Inter.
But Juventus’ transfer market session has just begun. After all, the purchase of Cristiano Ronaldo must be paid somehow. According to Italian newspapers, there are at least three more names ready to pack and leave: Gonzalo Higuain (30) and Daniele Rugani (23), both allegedly promised to Chelsea, and Miralem Pjanic (28), whose destination should also be somewhere in the Premier League.
Not that the Bianconeri supporters would be crying much at that, as their Director of Football Giuseppe Marotta has already replaced all the leavers, and doesn’t seem to be willing to stop. Aside from CR7, Juventus brought to Turin right back Joao Cancelo (24), just out or a very positive season with Inter, and redeemed Douglas Costa (27) from Bayern Munich. They also added to their squad goalkeeper Mattia Perin (25), as well as the afore mentioned Emre Can.
If Juventus keep delighting their supporters and drive their opponents crazy, their main rival Napoli have not been sitting on their hands. The Partenopei tried to reduce the gap versus the Italian Champions adding fresh forces to their roster, but moreover the experience of the most winning coach in Europe – welcome back home, Carlo Ancelotti.
The signing of Carletto gave a boost of optimism and confidence to Napoli. One month ago, the team seemed on the verge of being dismantled. Today, facts tell a different story. Only Juan Manuel Reina (35), Christian Maggio (36), and Jorginho (28) – for which Chelsea paid 63 million euro – left. There was no revolution whatsoever, and so, as of today, Napoli are keeping the core players that brought them close to the Scudetto, to which President Aurelio De Laurentiis added Ancelotti’s wisdom, as well as the energy of midfielder Fabian Ruiz (25), young goalkeeper Alex Meret (22), and winger Simone Verdi (26).
Inter don’t seem to have any intention to joke either. After conquering a Champions League slot and breaking a six-year absence from the top European competition, the Nerazzurri need a transfer session in line with the main Italian clubs. Inter has managed to keep with themselves Mauro Icardi (25) so far, and cleverly bought from their direct contenders Roma, Lazio, and Juventus players like Radja Nainggolan (30), Stefan De Vrij (26), and Kwadwo Asamoah (29). Coach Luciano Spalletti does have a clear project, and the gap from Juventus and Napoli doesn’t seem so big anymore.
Roma are an intriguing question mark. Director Monchi chose to let go two of his key players, but courageously decided to bet on young players – just like he did in Sevilla, where the result was winning the Europa League three times. Thus, coach Di Francesco was provided with the creativity of Javier Pastore (29), but also with the exhuberance of Justin Kluivert (19), the intelligence of Ante Coric (21), and the physical dominance of Bryan Cristante (23). Together with Patrick Schick (22), confirmed despite a disappointing season, Roma are sending a clear message to Italian football dinosaurs: We want to win, and we want to do it valorizing young talents.
Quite a different situation on the other bank of the Tiber river, where we are witnessing a real transfer market drama. President Claudio Lotito’s Lazio have not been able to conclude any significant deal so far. The Biancocelesti lost some key pieces like De Vrij and Felipe Anderson (25), and replaced them with Francesco Acerbi (30) from Sassuolo, and Valon Berisha (25) from Red Bull Salzburg. That’s not enough for a team that, even if they managed to keep their jewel Sergej Milinkovic Savic, will not be as competitive as their president claims.
If Lazio have been mostly inactive on the market, Milan are limited by the heritage of their gargantuan transfer campaign from one year ago. The Rossoneri acquired the experience of Pepe Reina and of World Cup finalist Ivan Strinic (30), but risk losing Gianluigi Donnarumma’s (19) talent, and the skills of Captain Leonardo Bonucci (31). London (and, specifically, Chelsea) seems to be calling both. But there is still one full month of transfer window available, and the summer market session has still many stories to tell.
Translated by Matteo Carnevale