Best of Times… Worst of Times…

It once was the greatest football league in the world. Currently, it is struggling to remain a meaningful European league. But that doesn’t lessen the intrigues and excitement of Serie A. We, at Goalden Times, would be covering Serie A in some detail. Here, Debopam Roy presents the second part of his preview of the league starting on 31st August.

In our earlier piece on Serie A, we  had talked about how Italian football, with underperforming clubs and a lack of a federation head or a national manager, had probably reached its nadir. Things have changed—but whether they are for better or for worse is a matter of perspective. The tint of your glasses will determine how you see the present. For the old boys club, in the forefront of which are Adriano Galliani of Milan and Claudio Lotito of Lazio, it is a time to revel. This is because the 71-year-old Carlo Tavecchio has become the new president of FIGC. That Mr. Tavecchio had referred to foreign players as “banana eaters” who steal local player’s livelihood and had made sexist derogatory remarks about female footballers in 2009 seemed incidental. It was a decision made by 63.63 percent of Italian club presidents (those who ultimately voted for Tavecchio) which made a mockery of the rest of the world’s views on the man.

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It was not as smooth as it was supposed to be.  Demetrio Albertini, the sole opponent of Tavecchio, was backed by Juventus and Roma. For a while, it seemed as if more clubs would follow, as Tavecchio’s “Opti Poba” remarks had created a furore even in the FIFA headquarters. But there were key desertions as the election neared. While club Presidents of Sassuolo stayed true to their objection of Tavecchio, the Presidents of Cesena, Atalanta, Palermo, and Cagliari made about turns after pledging their support for Albertini. In the end, it all became more about objecting to Tavecchio than pushing for Albertini. Tavecchio’s opponents weren’t rallying behind Albertini. Rather, they were rallying behind the idea of opposing Tavecchio. Such a movement is never strong and, sure enough, it disintegrated soon.

The voting delegation comprised 278 representatives from Serie A, Serie B, the Lega Pro, the Amateur League, the Players’ Association, the Coaches’ Association and the Referees’ Association. The only suspense was how soon Tavecchio would be elected and it was surprising that he took three rounds of it.

Winning Requirement



Round of Voting

75% of votes



Round 1

66% of votes



Round 2

50% +1 of votes



Round 3

After being elected, however, Tavecchio was gracious enough to acknowledge his detractors, “I will be a president for everybody and especially for those who have legitimately expressed their dissent about me taking the job”. His first job as President was to choose the national team manager which had been vacant since Cesare Prandelli’s unexpected resignation.

When Prandelli had resigned, the only credible candidates to fill his shoes were Roberto Mancini and Massimiliano Allegri. These were the two Italian managers who had the experience of managing the two Milan clubs. Moreover. they were free at the time. Though numerous left-field picks were suggested, it was thought to be a straight fight between Mancini and Allegri, especially since Carlo Ancelotti, probably the best Italian manager of this generation, had taken himself out of reckoning. Within a week of the start of pre-season, however, the scenario changed completely. This was because Antonio Conte, the three time scudetto winning manager of Juventus, resigned suddenly, and Juventus, just to simplify the scenario, picked Allegri as their manager. Hence, Conte became the front runner for the position of National Manager quite some time before the President elections. Finally, when news of Conte’s appointment as the Azzurri manager arrived, it was almost anti-climactic, given the preceding turmoil in the FIGC elections.

Conte’s appointment was widely hailed as a step in right direction. The charisma of a young, three-time defending Serie A winner, who won it in his very first attempt in Serie A, is universal. According to fellow Bianconeri player and Azzurri manager, Dino Zoff, “He’s the right man to lift the Azzurri colours to the top. He can transform the Nazionale from a frog to a prince.” Former Roma legend, Azzurri teammate, and Fiorentina manager, Vincenzo Montella, described him as Serie A’s best. The man himself took it as a challenge, “I have never been afraid of challenges. I am convinced that we will succeed in picking ourselves up because Italy’s place is among the top teams in the world.” The deal, though, was quite costly. Conte supposedly has a basic salary of €4.1m, which could rise to €4.6m with bonuses. It is significant that more than half of that salary is to be paid by the sponsors— Puma—making Conte one of the highest-earning national team managers (behind other such illustrious Italian managers like Fabio Capello).

With two such different and diversifying appointments in the space of a week, Italian football is truly at a crossroad. On one hand, there is the promise of a young and successful manager who may lead the Azzurri from the disappointment of Brazil 2014. On the other hand, there is a 71-year-old racist and misogynist at the helm of the federation and it doesn’t bode well for the country’s star striker. More on Mario Balotelli and his transfer will be covered in our next installment.

We continue our previews of the Serie A 2014-15 season with details of five more teams.


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La Viola has been one of those clubs which has played attractive football and steadily progressed in the last few seasons. Part of that has been down to manager, Vincenzo Montella. His vibrant and dynamic tactics have managed to extract the maximum out of his team. Shrewd transfer campaigns, which have yielded players like Borja Valero, Giuseppe Rossi, Mario Gomez, and Juan Cuadrado on the cheap, have made Fiorentina a continental contender. They finished fourth in the last two seasons, missing out on Champions League football, and it may require a huge amount of effort from the players and the staff to bridge the gap this year. However, if Rossi and Gomez remain fit, and if Cuadrado is not sold, then the Champions League may not be beyond La Viola’s reach.

Key Player: Giuseppe Rossi is probably the most talented Azzurri attacking player of his generation. Even though injuries made him miss Brazil 2014, 17 goals for Fiorentina in 24 matches last season was a great comeback. Viola and Azzurri fans are hoping a similar performance from him this year .

Breakout Star: Mario Gomez is an unlikely choice for a breakout star. But with his pedigree, it’s a disappointment when there are only 4 goals in 15 official matches. Injuries have also added to his woes. However, if he remains injury free, Serie A might get its new Super Mario this year.

Key Transfer In: Marko Marin is one of those under-the-radar transfers (on loan from Chelsea) that Fiorentina specialises in. Pushed out of Chelsea due to other high profile signings, this could be the ideal platform for Marko to shine.


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Every year, Genoa generally manages to buy a clutch of players who are just below the highest level, and then tries and manages a mid table with them. However, every year, the project gets disbanded and another new batch arrives. Last season saw them struggle a lot and ultimately finishing 12 points above relegation. This year, with some shrewd moves—Diego Perotti from Sevilla, Alessandro Matri from Milan, and Iago Falque from Tottenham, they may mount a challenge for the top half. However, significant departures like Alberto Gilardino, Sime Vrsaljko, and Bosco Jankovic may also pull them back. But it is more likely that they will see an encore of last year.

Key Player: Mattia Perin was the third goalkeeper in Cesare Prandelli’s world cup squad. The player has matured quite a lot and, based on this season’s performance, could move to one of the big clubs of Serie A. His saves would be vital for Genoa to remain competitive in matches.

Breakout Star: Andrea Bertolacci has been earmarked as a great talent, and he has served notice of the same with performances. What is expected, however, is consistency. He had a great 2012–13 season but didn’t follow it up with the same brilliance in 2013–14. Season 2014–15 might be the year when he finally blossoms.

Key Transfer In: Alessandro Matri struggled badly last season at Milan. The Milan youth product returned to Milan for 11 million Euro from Juventus, but hardly bothered any opposition goalkeeper. His lone stint at Fiorentina was marginally better. Genoa will offer him a chance to show that he still has the skills for something great.



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The Nerazzurri have been in a rebuilding ever since their treble winning season of 2010—so much so that, since then, the club has had only a single domestic trophy (Coppa Italia next year). The club has been sold off to Erick Thohir.  However, the performances have not been top notch under the new management, and there has not been any heavy investment either. There have been notable acquisitions this season but no splashing. Most of the signings are under the radar, but smart players as Yann M’Vila, Gary Medel, and Nemanja Vidic can all add to the squad. However, there is no single player who could be counted amongst the world’s best. Promising players like Mauro Icardi and Mateo Kovacic will have to up their game if Inter are to get Champions League spots. The team, though, still looks short of the best, and it will be a major achievement if they finish within the top three.

Key Player: Hernanes didn’t feature much during a disappointing World Cup campaign, but remains the most creative midfield outlet for the Nerazzurri. If he recreates his Lazio form, the goals and assists should drive his team up.

Breakout Star: Mateo Kovacic remains the brightest spark in Inter’s midfield. Bought for 15 million Euro from Dinamo Zagreb, he has had moderate success in Italy. If he fulfils his wonderkid status, Inter will surely have a memorable season.

Key Transfer In: Nemanja Vidic is among the three defensive cast-offs from EPL that have joined Serie A this year. However, unlike Ashley Cole or Patrice Evra, Vidic’s deal was done in January, proving that Inter had planned this well in advance. He will provide the defensive leadership and solidity that is needed after the retirement of Javier Zanetti and the release of Walter Samuel.


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Three-time Serie A champions were in superb form, and it all seemed poised for their fourth consecutive title. And then, Antonio Conte, the man who managed those three title-winning seasons, resigned one day into the pre-season. Max Allegri was possibly the most unlikely choice as his replacement, given his Milan history, which included him being only the second manager to be dismissed mid-season in the Berlusconi era. But The Old Lady has chosen to go with the pragmatism of Allegri over other candidates. The sale of Arturo Vidal was arguably the other soap opera plaguing Juventus fans. That the sale has not happened yet seems to indicate it not happening this season as a sale at this juncture would leave Juventus with very little time to get a replacement of a similar level. If Vidal stays, then the fabric of the last three title winning teams remains intact. With inclusions like Alvaro Morata and Romulo , Juventus may safely remain the best bet for a fourth consecutive scudetto.

Key Player: Arturo Vidal is simply the soul of this Juventus team. With the largest number of tackles and the largest number of interceptions in Serie A, Vidal brings another level of dynamism to the bianconeri midfield.

Breakout Star: Kingsley Coman arrived on a free transfer from PSG, and, at 18, is touted as the next Bianconeri midfield star after Vidal and Paul Pogba. Coman is the reason that Juventus can even think of a possible sale of one of those two players.  Making his debut at 16 in Ligue 1, the 18-year-old Coman has already represented the French U21 teams and could make his senior debut soon. He might take a bit to adjust to Serie A, but with the likes of Pogba around to help him acclimatize, he may provide instant hits.

Key Transfer In: Alvaro Morata is the big transfer that Juventus did from Real Madrid for 20 million Euro and seems to be the future of Juventus’ attack line after Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. Being 21 years old, he is expected to lead the line for years to come.


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Lazio had an underwhelming season and finished ninth last year. This was after a couple of promising seasons when they had played regular European football. The Coppa Italia win of 2012–13, too, wasn’t repeated. Vladimir Petkovic had to pay the price, and a short stint by Edoardo Reja later, the reins are currently with Stefano Pioli. Pioli has managed multiple Serie A teams without ever being in charge of one of the top ones. He is known for a pragmatic style of play, and Lazio needs to exploit its full potential to finish in the European places. Their transfer season has been spiced up by the arrivals of Marco Parolo, Filip Djordjevic and Stefan de Vrij. The team still depends on the creative outlet of Antonio Candreva and the goalscoring feats of Miroslav Klose. The season would be considered a success if they finish in the top 6, but reality might push them further down.

Key Player: Antonio Candreva was the most valuable contributor for Lazio last season, with 12 goals and 9 assists in Seria A. He will have to continue being in such form for Lazio to get into the Champions League spots.

Breakout Star: Keita Balde Diao is a 19-year-old Lazio youth product who has scored 6 goals and provided 9 assists in his first senior season in Serie A and Europa League matches. The powerful Senegal-born Spanish forward is touted for bigger and better things, and this may be the season when he establishes himself as a first team regular.

Key Transfer In: Stefan de Vrij was one of the unheralded heroes of the Dutch team that finished third at Brazil 2014, though his performance elicited interest from the likes of Manchester United. The 22-year-old ex-Feyenoord star is another smart investment, who can be an asset for years to come. He scored 4 goals and provided an assist in his last season with Feyenoord, while getting only a single yellow card in 32 matches in Eredivisie. Lazio may have finally found a player to live up to the legend of Alessandro Nesta.

About Debopam Roy

Debopam Roy follows football in Italy and South America. You can reach him on Twitter @rossoneri