Let’s talk about Juventus. The Vecchia Signora started the defence of the Italian Serie A title in an uncharacteristic manner, losing against Udinese and AS Roma in the first two fixtures of the season. Not a desirable start for Allegri’s pupils, who weren’t showing any signs of the quality exhibited in the previous season. Sure, letting Vidal, Tevez and the icon Pirlo go was a risky move, which the signings of some talented players such as Zaza, Khedira, Hernanes and Dybala tried to compensate for. But the wins didn’t come.

The manager wasn’t happy – and neither were the supporters. Something had to be changed, to compensate for the lack of irreverence in the Juve’s offensive: Mandzukic is a top player, and Morata really has a great future in front of him, but the two together were just not keeping up to the very high standards expected of the Itailians. And Zaza… Let’s just say the competition was too fierce for the striker. Someone needed to shine, and quickly.

And then the 22-year-old boy became a man. Many had questioned the high amount invested in the former Palermo attacker Paulo Dybala (around €32Million), but when the striker started scoring (eventually becoming the top scorer for the Juventus side, with 12 goals in 20 matches), the supporters quickly forgave Allegri for the bad results. Dybala quickly adapted to the role of Secondary Striker in the Juve’s 3-5-2 flat, working along Mandzukic in the Vecchia Signora’s attack. And the results were quick to come: Juventus have recorded 12 wins in their last 12 matches in all competitions with Dybala scoring 9 goals. They are currently in Second place in the Italian Serie A, and it now seems like the club’s stuttering start is becoming nothing more than a distant memory.

It’s no wonder that Barcelona are after this world class wonderkid. News reports indicate that Luís Enrique’s team offered €80Million for Dybala, an offer which was said to have been quickly declined. Nevertheless, the striker apparently said that his biggest desire is to play alongside Lionel Messi, an Argentinian such as Dybala.

Any little boy’s dream: the chance of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the World, a chance that only a crazy man would say no to. But the last word belongs to Juventus, and the player’s current form is blocking his exit. It will be interesting to see how long Juventus will be able to keep hold of Dybala, of whom many are suggesting could be the heir to Lionel Messi’s throne of not only Argentina’s, but also the World’s best player.

About the author – Luis Costa

Luis has a great passion for football and has been playing Soccer Manager for 5 years. He played semi-professional football for 13 years and is currently a regional referee in Madeira’s football association.


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Most players would simply have thrashed a shot at goal, but Giacomo Bonaventura had other ideas.

Off-balance and with Palermo defenders rushing towards him, the 26-year-old demonstrated remarkable composure to flick the ball to Carlos Bacca, who hit a fine finish into the top corner with the outside of his foot to give Milan the lead. Palermo gave the Rossoneri a few scares for the remainder of the match, but Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side ultimately deserved all three points as they held on for a victory that lifted them into the top half of the Serie A table.

Bonaventura, who grabbed his team’s second goal in their 3-2 win with a sumptuous free-kick just before half time, was the best player on the San Siro pitch. If Milan are to return to the top three this season and the Champions League next, they will need to keep the Italy international fit and firing over the next eight months.

Signed from Atalanta for €7 million on the final day of last summer’s transfer window, Bonaventura enjoyed a positive debut campaign in the red-and-black stripes of Milan; alongside Nigel De Jong, Jeremy Menez and Diego Lopez, Bonaventura was one of only a handful of players to emerge with any credit following a disastrous season for the 18-time Italian champions, who finished 35 points adrift of top spot and just 18 ahead of the relegation zone in tenth place.

There has been a concerted effort to ensure that a repeat of such a miserable year is avoided this term, with €86.5 million spent on new additions in the summer. Bacca, Luiz Adriano, Juraj Kucka and Alessio Romagnoli have all already shown they will add something to this team, but strong and consistent displays from some of the club’s existing stars will be needed if Milan are to win their battle with the likes of Napoli, Inter, Lazio and Fiorentina and break back into the top three.

Fielded next to Kucka in a midfield diamond – with Ricardo Montolivo at the base and Keisuke Honda at the tip – Bonaventura provided a vital link between defence and attack, picking up the ball in central areas and moving it forward via either a pass or a dribble. His distribution was incisive and intelligent as he combined well with both Montolivo and Honda, as well as slipping accurate balls towards strike duo Bacca and Adriano.

An excellent technical player, Bonaventura also showed his willingness to track back and get stuck in. Milan were certainly the better team against the Sicilians, yet still required some manful defending to preserve their lead late on, a cause that Bonaventura was more than happy to support.

The Italy international – Bonaventura has only been capped twice by his country to date but will be hoping to play his way into contention for a spot in Antonio Conte’s European Championship squad next year – can still be inconsistent, but he has the ability to make a big impact on Milan and Serie A this season. Mihajlovic will be hoping that he continues to perform as he did against Palermo under the San Siro floodlights on Saturday night.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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3-to-watch-Serie-A-BlogDomenico Berardi, Sassuolo

Italy may have been knocked out of this summer’s European Under-21 Championship in Czech Republic at the group stage, but that did not prevent many onlookers from labelling Berardi as one of the players of the tournament.

Previously co-owned by Sassuolo and Juventus, Berardi surprised many people by opting to remain with the Neroverdi – the only club he has played for professionally – rather than move to Turin this summer. It is probably a sensible move: with Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata and Simone Zaza all competing for starting spots at Juve, Berardi will enjoy regular action with Sassuolo and could still move to Juventus in 2016 if the Italian champions activate a clause in his contract.

Quick, agile and in possession of a wand of a left foot, the inventive Berardi is capable of conjuring pieces of magic from nowhere. The 21-year-old has been fielded as a winger, support striker and out-and-out frontman in his fledgling career to date, with such versatility making him even more valuable to Eusebio Di Francesco’s side.

15 Serie A goals last term and 16 in 2013-14 are terrific returns for a young player belonging to a relegation-threatened team; Berardi will be looking to take that next step by breaking the 20-goal mark this time around.

Alessio Romagnoli, Milan

Eyebrows were raised when Milan agreed to pay Roma £17.5m for a player who only has one full season of senior first-team football under his belt, but it is easy to see why the Rossoneri felt such a deal was good value for money: Romagnoli has already shown signs that he could develop into a top-class central defender and, at just 20, he potentially has a decade-and-a-half in the game still left in him.

Romagnoli was generally excellent on loan at Sampdoria last season, his performances at the heart of one of Serie A’s sturdiest defences leading to comparisons with his hero Alessandro Nesta. Though Romagnoli is nowhere near the level of the world-class former Lazio, Milan and Italy centre-half just yet, there are certainly stylistic comparisons to be made between the pair: like Nesta, Romagnoli is a fine reader of the game and an elegant passer of the ball.

Milan have endured disastrous back-to-back campaigns, the 18-time Italian champions slumping to eight and 10th-place finishes in the previous two years. Having conceded 99 goals in those 76 league games, new boss Sinisa Mihajlovic – who managed Romagnoli at Samp last year – will be hoping that the former Roma man can help bolster the club’s backline.

Franco Vazquez, Palermo

The aforementioned Dybala was one of the best players in Serie A for Palermo last time out, with the Argentine rightly earning a move to Juventus after some superb showings throughout the 2014-15 campaign. While not quite as eye-catching, Vazquez was also fantastic for Beppe Iachini’s outfit and is perhaps a little unfortunate not to have secured a switch to a Champions League side as well.

The attacking midfielder is a highly intelligent player with tremendous movement and awareness and a functioning footballing brain. Vazquez is highly adept at linking the play and knitting his team’s midfield and attack together, with his brilliant left foot allowing him to both shoot accurately from distance and deliver pinpoint passes to his colleagues. Indeed, his vision is arguably his biggest attribute, with 10 assists last season evidence of his creativity capabilities.

It will be interesting to see how Palermo cope without Dybala – who netted 13 goals in 2014-15 – but fans of the Sicilians can at least be grateful that Vazquez remains at the Stadio Renzo Barbera for now.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.
Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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