So the new season is fast approaching and as well as obviously taking a massive interest in what the English Football League is offering, I (like many others like me do) like to pick another league slightly further afield to follow. In past seasons I have chosen the likes of Ligue 1, the Bundesliga and even the MLS – but this season, there is one standout candidate.
This coming season in Serie A promises to be one of the most exciting and compelling competitions the footballing world has to offer. So what are you waiting for? Here are 15 reasons for you to whack on ESPN and follow Italy’s top division.
1) Quality new signings
Whilst lacking the superstar power it had in its days of old, world-class talent has been flying here there and everywhere into Serie A. Juventus have attracted Argentinian superstar (and professional golfer) Carlos Tevez into their ranks, as well as big names such as Fernando Llorente from Bilbao. Fiorentina have pulled off arguably one of the coups of the summer by bringing in Mario Gomez from Bayern Munich, and can look forward to the long awaited debut of Guiseppe Rossi following his lengthy lay off from injury. With other names such as Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol, Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon, Angelo Ogbonna, Kevin Strootman, Maicon, Lucas Biglia and Medhi Benatia all making either moves into or across Italy to their new clubs it sets up for a very interesting season, as we see how these big names fare with their new teams.
2) Rafa the Gaffer and his new look Naples legion
With the sale of Edinson Cavani, Napoli have had an influx of cash and newly appointed manager Rafael Benitez has certainly spent it more than aptly. Established world-class pros such as Pepe Reina and Gonzalo Higuain have been brought in, as well as exciting younger talent such as Dries Mertens from Ajax and Jose Callejon from Real Madrid to add to a squad already containing quite a degree of class. Although they did lose undoubtedly their star man in Cavani, this new Napoli side looks to have a better depth of talent across the whole squad and certainly looks to be a more balanced outfit. With the experienced and savvy Benitez at the helm, it will certainly be intriguing to see how well the “Partenopei” fare this season. You can certainly expect them to be right up there.
3) The Golden Boot race will be more heated than ever
Despite its reputation as Europe’s most defensive league, Serie A has no shortage of world-class striking talent on show. New superstars such as prolific Mario Gomez, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente will battle with current Serie A stars such as Antonio Di Natale, Pablo Osvaldo, Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Sharaawy in what promises to be Europe’s tightest golden boot race.
4) Inter’s long road to redemption
In stark contrast to their Champions League and treble winning all-stars in 2010, Inter endured a dreadful campaign last term, finishing a lowly 9th. It has been all change at the San Siro this summer however, with a new manager in (ex-Napoli boss Walter Mazzari joining -a widely regarded safe pair of hands) and a relative squad overhaul the club are gearing up to once again compete amongst the nation’s elite. Can they redeem themselves following the disappointment of last season?
5) One of the most open title races going
We can pretty well nail down two or three major contenders for the league title in all of Europe’s supposed “big leagues”. In the Premier League, you would be hard pushed to look beyond Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea this season. La Liga will be either Barca or Real Madrid. The Bundesliga, probably Bayern Munich- possibly Borussia Dortmund. Ligue 1 will almost certainly be PSG. However in Serie A, it is possible to say that any one of seven teams winning the league. Juventus, AC Milan, Napoli, Fiorentina, Roma, Napoli (and maybe Inter) could all lay significant claims to the title this year. This surely makes it one of the most interesting leagues to watch?
6) Anyone could be relegated (within reason)
As was proved last terms with the relegation of relatively established top-flight side Palermo- apart from the top seven or eight teams, anybody could find themselves scrapping for their lives down at the bottom. Newly promoted sides Sassuolo, Livorno and Hellas Verona will endure tough seasons, but other sides such as Genoa, Atalanta, Chievo Verona, Bologna, Cagliari and Torino will all have to be looking over their shoulders nervously as the season goes on to ensure they are not ensnared in a relegation battle.
7) Sizzling derbies
One of the major attractions of Serie A is the massive derby fixtures that fans get the chance to savour every season. Asides the Italian footballing calendars juiciest fixture, which is obviously the world famous Milan Derby, there is a vast array of local derbies littered across the fixture list. Look out for the Rome Derby (Lazio/Roma), the Turin Derby (Torino/Juventus), the Genoa Derby (Sampdoria/Genoa), the Emilia Derby (Parma/Bologna) and prepare for old city rivals Hellas and Chievo Verona to lock horns in the Verona Derby- just to name a few.
8) There will probably be a scandal at some point
Well its Italian football for gods sake, its bound to happen.
9) The league has no shortage of nutters
From loudmouth maverick Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentis, manager punching Adem Llajic, somewhat mental and match fixing Juventus boss Antonio Conte, Roma’s resident pirate look-a-like fruitcake Pablo Osvaldo to everyone’s favourite nutjob Mario Balotelli (see below), the league is ram packed full of volatile characters and maverick superstars. Brilliant.
10) Mario Balotelli is back, and in the form of his life
As aforementioned, any division in which Mario Balotelli plays his club football is worth a watch. Who knows what the mercurial striker will get up to. But whilst taking time off from driving through women’s prisons and throwing darts at youth team players, Balotelli has quietly been building the form of his life- and since joining AC Milan in January he has racked up an incredibly impressive 12 goals in just 13 appearances for the club. Back him to be the standout player in the division this season.
11) Up and coming outfits
Asides from the big boys stealing all the headlines- quietly further down the division, some smaller clubs are piecing together decent sides, and picking up decent results. Catania, based in Sicily have quietly been becoming a relative force within the division spearheaded by the likes of Alejandro Gomez and Pablo Barrientos- achieving a remarkable eighth place finish last term (above Inter). Also watch out for Sampdoria, Atalanta and Genoa to make an impact this season as a surprise package.
12) No shortage of minnows this season
Everyone loves a good underdog- and this year’s Serie A has not disappointed. Prepare for newly promoted Sassuolo to capture fans hearts across the Italian nations as the league’s very own minnows. Bless. On the same front look out other newly promoted teams Hellas Verona and Livorno, who are out to cause some upsets.
13) Young guns and golden oldies
Serie A is home to some of the world’s most exciting young talent- from Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli, the mercurial Stephan El Sharaawy of AC Milan aswell as young stars such as Adem Llajic, Paul Pogba and Mauro Icardi. But if the next generation of stars in not your area of interest, then you can see plenty of seasoned veterans still gracing Italy’s top division such as Francesco Totti, Esteban Cambiasso, Antonio Di Natale, Andrea Pirlo and Walter Samuel.
14) A New clique of promising managerial talent
In very much the same vein, Serie A is also a hotbed of new up and coming managerial talent. The prime example of this is Vincenzo Montella, the former Italy international striker who worked wonders with Catania before taking over at Fiorentina and guiding them into Europe last season. Also look out for at Chievo boss Eugenio Corini and recently sacked Andrea Stramaccioni to make an impact elsewhere in the future.
15) Finally, expect the unexpected
From clubs being kicked out of stadiums, to match fixing scandals, to miraculous results and surprise relegations. If there is one thing that characterises Serie A, it is its volatile and unpredictable nature.
And if that doesn’t make for good viewing, then I don’t know what will.