Another season of Serie A is progressing along nicely, and this one could prove to be the most exciting of the previous decade.
Whilst the top flight has been dominated by the Monopoly of Juventus since 2011, the chasing pack have steadily stitched together sides and appointed managers more than capable of wrestling the Scudetto back from its Turin summer home.
With the Bianconeri entering a potentially transitional season under rookie coach Andrea Pirlo, now could be the year to strike.
With the likes of Inter Milan, Lazio and Atalanta all harbouring ambitions of topping the table, among a smattering of other outsiders, we’re going to take a look at ten players to watch this season in Serie A to keep you on your toes, as an exciting title race hopefully hots up.
Victor Osimhen (Napoli)
Much is expected of players who shine at youth level – and Victor Osimhen is no different.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Cesc Fàbregas and Carlo Vela, Osimhen was the top scorer at an under-17 World Cup, as Nigeria eased to their 5th title in 2015, earning the teenager a move to Wolfsburg the following January.
Whilst his time in Germany failed to bear fruit, a 2019 switch to Lille brought the best out of Osimhen, as he starred in Northern France with 18 goals in all competitions before a €70m move to Napoli – making the Nigerian the most expensive African of all time.
Tall, quick, strong and an eye for goal, Osimhen should shine in a side that has already notched 14 goals in just five games so far this term.
Acraf Hakimi (Internazionale)
After two exceptional seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund, many expected Moroccan full-back Acraf Hakimi to finally make a breakthrough at the Bernabéu this term, as Dani Carvajal creeps towards his 30th birthday.
Instead, Zinedine Zidane decided to stick with the long-serving Spaniard and move Hakimi on for around €40m – but Los Blancos’ loss is very much Inter’s gain.
The young African is tailor-made for Conte’s 3-1-4-2 setup, settling in nicely on the right side of midfield and already contributing one goal and two assists in just three Serie A starts so far this term.
Blessed with blistering pace, good decision making, incredible technique and a seemingly never-ending engine, there is no doubt the Nerazzurri have the very best in the business to dominate their right side for years to come.
Brahim Diaz (AC Milan)
The curious case of Brahim Diaz. Perhaps undervalued at Manchester City, seemingly unwanted at Real Madrid, but not short of suitors in the summer, and he now adds AC Milan to his globetrot of Europe’s most successful clubs.
Whilst his time in Madrid was limited to just five league starts, there is no doubting Diaz’s ability. When in full swing, the Spaniard is a terrific dribbler who, in his fleeting appearances in both Madrid and Manchester, showed an ability to pick out runners and make good decisions when in possession.
He is still very raw, but that’s all the more reason to watch him and Milan this season! Both Diaz and the Rossoneri should develop and improve as the season progresses, but three goals in four appearances is a fine start for the 21-year-old.
Luis Alberto (Lazio)
Whilst Liverpool have enjoyed some incredible recent success amid a flurry of exciting and meticulous purchases over the past few years, a handful of players appear to have slipped through the Anfield net and enjoyed success elsewhere, with Luis Alberto being the best example.
Sold to Lazio by the Reds in 2016 for just under £4m, Alberto has proven to be one of the best bargains in Europe since his arrival in the Eternal City – going on to score or assist 67 times and lift the Coppa Italia.
Lazio and Alberto may well be finding their feet in 20/21 – with The Eagles sitting 12th in Serie A at the time of writing – but once they inevitably kick into gear, I predict the once capped Spaniard to be at the heart of it.
Nicknamed ‘the Magician’ by the Lazio faithful, Alberto operates well in tight spaces, picking passes that few players in world football would be able to find, typically setting up the red-hot Ciro Immobile. If you see Lazio during a channel surf this season – keep an eye on their mercurial number 10.
Aaron Hickey (Bologna)
I’m not sure what they’re drinking up in Scotland, but whatever it is, it’s producing some absolutely quality left-backs, with Hickey joining the likes of Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson in that area of the field.
Where Hickey differs however is his age – with the 18-year-old already embarking on a journey outside of Scotland far earlier than any of his counterparts, which perhaps best displays the man’s ability.
Spotted from a young age due to his technical and mental ability, Hickey rose to prominence at Hearts where he became the youngest player since 2008 to start a Scottish Cup Final at just 16, and the youngest ever Hearts player to score in a Edinburgh Derby match aged 17 years and 104 days.
Fans of Bologna can look forward to seeing a player who is both composed on the ball and mature on the field, allowing Hickey to potentially move into the centre of the park as he gets older. Brits abroad are always an interesting watch, and with Bologna facing Cagliari this coming weekend, it would be a great chance to see the ‘wonderkid’ in action.
Jérémie Boga (Sassuolo)
Looking around Europe’s top league these days is like a Who’s Who(?) of Chelsea academy graduates who are either out on loan, or have had to make it elsewhere. But if you flick through the likes of Gaël Kakuta, now at Lens in France, or Kenedy, now plying his trade at Granada in Spain, you find Jérémie Boga – quietly lighting up Serie A at Sassuolo.
Last season, the 23-year-old scored 11 times in the league – including strikes against Inter Milan, Roma and Juventus – as well as providing three assists for teammates. Unfortunately, the Ivorian is yet to make a Serie A start this season due to a six-week battle with Coronavirus, but he returned to the bench to face Torino last week.
Assuming he starts this weekend against Napoli, expect to see a player who loves to dribble – with his 66% success rate from 210 dribbles bettering any other Serie A player last season – but also one who has an eye for goal. These traits have earned him a likeness to Allan Saint-Maximin at Newcastle, or Wolves speed merchant Adama Traoré.
Whilst a reported buy-back option of £13m is available for Chelsea, a host of other top clubs are monitoring his situation, meaning you probably haven’t got long left to watch him in Italy.
Papu Gomez (Atalanta)
The Atalanta fairytale of 2019/20 was truly special. A team who were playing in Serie B just ten years ago, a club whose only major honour is the 1963 Coppa Italia, a side who finished in the bottom half in each season from 2011-2016, reached the Champions League quarter-final, and were a matter of moments away from the final four.
Papu Gomez has been at the heart of the club’s meteoric rise, after signing from Metalist Kharkiv in 2014, with the most prominent uplift in the clubs fortunes coming after the appointment of Gian Piero Gasperini in 2016.
Since then, Papu and the Nerazzurri have gone from strength to strength, with Gomez becoming the first player this century to record 16 assists in a single Serie A campaign during their unforgettable 2019/20 season.
When looking at the options Gomez has to supply this season – with the likes of Duván Zapata, Luis Muriel and Josip Iličić all enjoying fruitful 19/20 campaigns – there should be another year of magic to come from the little Argentine.
Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus)
It really was a Tombola pick of exciting players to choose from at Juventus, but eventually I landed Dejan Kulusevski, a 20-year-old winger who was signed from Atalanta in January of this year in a deal worth a potential €44m.
Despite the fact he was signed in January, the Swede spent the remainder of the 19/20 campaign on loan at Parma, where he also spent the first half of the season on loan from Atalanta. Whilst his transfer history at such a young age is fairly complex, his form really wasn’t, as he registered ten goals and eight assists for The Crusaders last term.
That impressive form carried into this campaign, too, as Juve’s number 44 slotted a delightful left-footed effort into the bottom corner on debut against Sampdoria on opening day – becoming Juve’s fifth youngest ever Serie A scorer.
Even though this could prove to be a transitional season for the Bianconeri, there is no doubt that they should still be right up there come May, and Kulusevski is one to watch this time round, along with Ronaldo and co.
Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina)
When thinking about the top Serie A midfielders, your mind probably drifts to the class of Nicolò Barella, or the boundless energy of Rodrigo Bentancur. But last season, Sofyan Amrabat was so impressive for Hellas Verona that he earned comparisons to the likes of N’Golo Kanté and Naby Keïta, as his stock continued to rise.
Whilst the Moroccan shone for the Gialloblu last term, he was actually on loan from Club Brugge, before signing permanently in January, ahead of an immediate sale to Fiorentina, and a loan back to Verona. Once again, it’s needlessly complicated, but the 24-year-old’s quality is far easier to understand.
Amrabat is a capable box-to-box or defensive midfielder who has an attacking edge to his game, prompting comparisons to Tottenham’s Tanguy Ndombele due to his ability to progress the ball forward from deep.
So far this term for La Viola, he has attempted 3.5 dribbles and 2.3 tackles, as he looks to cement his place as one of Serie A’s most desirable midfielders for another season.
Marash Kumbulla (Roma)
To round off our list of Serie A eye-catchers is Marash Kumbulla, a centre-back who, like Amrabat, starred for Verona last term before moving to another Serie A giant in the shape of Roma. But what did Kumbulla do last year to make Roma oblige to pay around €25m for a player with just 25 senior appearances to his name?
Whilst the fee is fairly substantial, so is the Albanian’s potential. At just 20, he has displayed an ability to carry and distribute the ball that is highly sought after by modern coaches, especially ones who play forward – with nearly half of his passes from last season going in that direction.
He is more than capable when facing his own goal, too, making 1.6 tackles and two interceptions per game last season for Verona, as well as 3.3 clearances. With the help of the aforementioned Amrabat, Verona had the fourth best defensive record of sides outside of the top four last term, with Roma hoping he can bring that sort of solidity to the Eternal City.