This piece is part of a preview series where we speak to journalists covering Europe’s top leagues. In this edition, we talk to AS Roma Press Editor, John Solano, as he shares his thoughts on the upcoming Serie A season.
Title winners and Champions League qualifiers:
It would take a colossal meltdown for Juventus not to win their eighth consecutive Scudetto. The Bianconeri were the favorites before the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and only cemented their status as the league’s best once the Portuguese legend arrived. Following Juve, Inter, Roma, and Napoli appear to be the favorites to qualify for the Champions League, though, Milan’s acquisition of Gonzalo Higuain could help push the Rossoneri towards the first four.
Best player and Golden Boot winner:
There’s no question as to who the league’s best and favorite to win the title as capocannoniere is: Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Manchester United star has the quality to eclipse the 40 goals mark in Serie A. The only thing that may hinder him in the race for the league’s top scorer is if Juve tactician Max Allegri opts to prioritise the Champions League this season, which could mean Ronaldo is rested for a variety of Serie A fixtures.
Best players under the age of 23 to watch out for and those who could have a breakout campaign:
Alban Lafont: The former Toulouse man, who was even eyed by Roma to replace Alisson, moved to Firenze this summer to join Fiorentina. The highly touted shot-stopper has the physical attributes mixed with fantastic reactions that could see his named catapult into the conversation of best goalkeepers in Italy.
Jakub Jantko: The Czech international moved to Sampdoria this summer after the Blucerchiati sold Lucas Torreira to Arsenal. Strong performances at Udinese saw him draw interest from the Premier League and he could take another step forward under Samp manager Marco Giampaolo.
Justin Kluivert: The 19-year-old Dutchman is going to be handed a huge role under Eusebio Di Francesco at Roma following his big-money move from Ajax.
The best signing, as previously mentioned, is undoubtedly Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus. Ronaldo possesses the star-power that has been lacking in Italy for some time and he will undoubtedly raise the level of the Bianconeri on the pitch. However, Milan’s signature of Gonzalo Higuain on loan with an option to buy was also fantastic business by newly appointed director Leonardo.
The gulf between the top half versus the bottom half of the table in Serie A continues to grow, however, the teams that will likely fight for relegation are pretty clear: SPAL, Frosinone, Chievo Verona, Parma, and Empoli have all failed to properly reinforce and each has glaring holes in their sides.
Possible over and under achievers:
Bologna – An awkward club who haven’t done spectacular work in the transfer market in recent seasons. Given how poor the bottom 5-6 are in the table, it’s probable that the Rossoblu’s final finish in the table is more flattering than deserved.
Paulo Dybala – If Juve decide to prioritise the Champions League, the Argentine could be the beneficiary of becoming the focal point in the attack as the Bianconeri could opt to rest Cristiano Ronaldo.
Milan – The Rossoneri have done fantastic work in the transfer market, but one big question mark remains Gennaro Gattuso: does he have what it takes to guide Milan into a Champions League place?
Duvan Zapata – The Colombian made a huge move from Sampdoria to Atalanta after a strong season in Genova. La Dea will have Europa League football this season so it’s possible that Zapata takes a step back this season given he’ll be playing more matches.
Possible managerial revelation:
Leonardo Semplici: The former Fiorentina Primavera boss pulled off the improbable last season as he managed to achieve survival for a very, very poor SPAL side. Semplici has a very strong tactical acumen and proved he get more out of his players than many thought possible. Should the Italian boss manage to stave off relegation for a second consecutive season, there is no doubting bigger sides will be eyeing him.