Serie A has been one of the closest fought campaigns in recent memory, with the battle for the Scudetto, fourth place and relegation spots all coming down to the last couple of games. Juventus have been the most disappointing team this season, yet their stumbles have enabled other teams, and players to showcase their considerable talents.
“You heard? We’re both in!”
Palermo, Sampdoria, Napoli, Bari and Parma have all far exceeded expectations much to their fans delight, while Genoa, Fiorentina and Lazio join Juve in leaving their fans wondering what might have been.
But just who were the stand-out performers who lit up Serie A in 2009/10? Al Volo’s Team of the Season points the spotlight on 11 who made the most impact to their sides fortunes.
Goalkeeper: Salvatore Sirigu (Palermo)
Now 23, Sirigu managed just 15 appearances while on loan at Serie B side Cremonese last season, but the youngster has been a revelation since replacing Brazilian Rubinho in the Palermo goal late last September, his excellent form securing him a place in Marcello Lippi’s 29 man Pre-World Cup Squad. He boasts amazingly sharp reflexes and in his first season as a regular starter is already developing an impressive command of his area.
Sirigu: Italy’s Number 2?
RightBack: Douglas Maicon (Inter)
Seemingly able to play as a right-sided defender and winger at the same time, invoking many comparisons with Cafu, the Brazilian has been arguably one of Europes best players this season. If the Inter man came second to Messi in the voting for the Balon d’Or few would complain. Goals, assists and great defending from one player have taken Inter to the brink of an historic treble.
Centre Back: Leo Bonucci (Bari)
The Southern teams lightening quick start to the season, which basically ensured their safety before Christmas was in no small part down to their rock-solid defence. Bonucci was at the heart of this, alongside Andrea Ranocchia, giving Bari one of the best defences in Serie A this season. Despite his partner’s injury, he continued his excellent form and has played his way into Lippi’s thoughts for the World Cup.
Centre Back: Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
Where the Bianconeri would be without the big central defender is unthinkable. Even in this nightmare of season, Chiellini has been one of the few bright spots. He has seemingly defended by himself at times as Grosso, Cannavaro and Zebina have all been woeful. Now a much calmer figure, he still flies into tackles and challenges only with much better timing. Also a major contributor at the other end of the field, he has scored more goals than Amauri and Trezeguet this term.
Chiellini: Defending the indefensible
Left Back: John Arne Riise (Roma)
Back to the form that saw him become one of the Premier Leagues most admired defenders. Strong runs down the flank, great crosses, all allied to that fantastic left foot, he has scored invaluable goals against Milan, Inter and Juve while being a part of the amazing unbeaten run that took Roma from bottom to top of Serie A.
Defensive Midfielder: Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria)
While team-mates like Cassano and Pazzini steal the headlines, ‘Doria’s challenge for fourth place would never have materialised. The club captain quietly goes about his job of protecting the defence, doing all the things that while essential usually go un-noticed. Fortunately Marcelo Lippi pays attention and the replacement for Gattuso is already in place.
Midfield: David Pizarro (Roma)
The Chilean has showcased his talent brilliantly over recent months, in his deep-lying playmaker role, similar but far more in form than Andrea Pirlo of Milan. Another player discarded by Inter, like Burdisso, who has pushed their former club to the limit in 2 competitions. His vision and creativity have been essential to Roma’s rise up the table.
Midfield: Marek Hamsik (Napoli)
The combative attacking player has undoubtedly been the catalyst behind Napoli’s impressive season, either creating chances for team-mates or scoring vital goals for himself. Linked with a move to a bigger club, most recently Manchester United, he is expected to command a fee of around €30m. This could soar with an impressive showing for Slovakia – in the same group as Italy – at this summer’s World Cup.
“Show me the money!”
Forward: Fabrizio Micolli (Palermo)
The “Romario of the Salento” has found a home for himself on the southern isle. Captaining the Rossanero to the brink of the Champions League as they chase Sampdoria for the final berth, no player has been as vital to their play as the only striker who can challenge Antonio Cassano as the least likely member of Marcello Lippi’s Azzurri squad.
Forward: Antonio Di Natale (Udinese)
His sensational scoring form, lasting all season, has been the difference between relegation and survival for Udinese this season. Di Natale has struck 26 of his sides 50 goals and is certain to be named Capocannoniere at the seasons conclusion.
Forward: Diego Milito (Inter)
The signing of the season. While the summer’s column inches were spent discussing the Eto’o/Ibrahimovic swap or Wesley Sneijder’s arrival from Real Madrid, Inter quietly added last seasons second leading scorer Milito. He has continued in the same vein, adding vital goals in big games which Ibrahimovic never seemed to. If Roma or Milan had such a prolific striker, Inter’s position of dominance would be over.