Looking back at some of Serie A’s top performers in 2016/17

To the surprise of nearly nobody, Juventus made it six Serie A titles on the spin this season.

It was the minimum expectation for a side who had already won, having dominated Italy’s domestic game in recent years, bought the best players from the two sides most likely to challenge them for top spot – Miralem Pjanić from Roma and Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli.

So who else impressed in Italy’s top division this season?

Edin Džeko finished top scorer with 29 goals in what was a frenetic season in Serie A which saw six players finish with 23 goals or more; whilst the league averaged just under three goals per game.

Crotone completed possibly the greatest escape in Serie A history, surviving on the final day with a 3-1 win at home to Lazio after earning an incredible 20 points in their final nine games after accumulating just 14 points in the first 29 games.

AC Milan returned to European football after a brief hiatus by finishing sixth which earns them a spot in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, whereas their city rivals Inter will have to make do without continental action next season as they finished one place behind while also embarrassingly crashing out of their Europa League group which contained Sparta Prague and Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

But what individuals surprised us this season? Here are five players who took the league by storm against expectations in Serie A.

Papu Gomez

Playing for undoubtedly the surprise package of the season, Atalanta’s captain was the surprise individual too. The pint-sized forward racked up 16 goals and ten assists as he guided the Bergamo club to a very impressive fourth place finish.

His small stature made him very elusive and difficult to dispossess. A winger by trade, he easily adapted to playing up front partnering Andrea Petagna in Atalanta’s attack, contributing to more goals this season than in his first two season with the club. Interest will certainly be very high in the Argentine this summer.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

It would be wrong to say it’s a surprise that Milan’s teenage sensation performed so well again this season, but it is astonishing that someone so young could walk into the starting eleven of one of the world’s biggest clubs and not be phased in the slightest.

Most notably his sublime performances against Juventus in the league and the Supercoppa may have bunked up his value a notch. Not only has he made his mark at the Rossoneri but he is too gaining much attention by Europe’s powerhouses.

Talks of him being the heir to Gianluigi Buffon’s throne at Juventus have surfaced as well as a potential move to Real Madrid. When Mino Raiola’s your agent, anything can happen.

Dries Mertens

It has always clear that the Belgian is a top player, but he has always been associated with playing out wide. He was signed from PSV as a winger and had spent three years playing out wide with Napoli.

There was a 36-goal gap left at the focal point of Napoli’s attack going into the new season with Higuain moving to Juventus.

Arkadiusz Milik was signed for big money but didn’t even last two months after getting injured on international duty against Denmark. Manolo Gabbiaddini was also struggling with injuries and form, so Mertens, who became a bit-part player the season before, playing second fiddle to Lorenzo Insigne on the left, was used as a false nine and it went from there.

Twenty eight goals in 28 starts played a major part in earning Napoli a Champions League spot as they also finished as top scorers in the league with 94 goals.

His goal laden season playing out of position attracted a lot of interest but he has now signed a long-term contract in Naples.

Federico Fazio

Tottenham fans probably could not wait to see the back of the tall, slightly immobile Argentinian defender.

An unsuccessful loan at Sevilla last season saw Tottenham stuck with him so they loaned him out again, this time to Roma where he excelled and seemed to look even better than he did in his pre-Tottenham days.

He was one of the best centre-backs in Italy last season looking comfortable playing in a back three or a back four in the second-best defence behind the formidable Juve rear-guard.

Roberto Gagliardini

Most assumed that Gagliardini would be a signing for the future having played only nine top flight games in his career at Atalanta, but he instantly became a regular at Inter from January onwards after joining in the winter transfer window on loan with an option to buy.

He looked like a seasoned professional in the centre of Inter’s midfield and imposed himself in the side, something previous buys such as Geoffrey Kondogbia, Felipe Melo and Gary Medel struggled to do.

He was rewarded with his first Italian cap too at the tail-end of the season.

Author Details

Andrew Delaney

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