Serie A has long been a home for grand gestures and big transfers, and this summer has proven no exception. Into the Italian top flight has come Cristiano Ronaldo, looking to ensure that Juventus finally make that final step to the Champions League trophy.
Within the division, Leonardo Bonucci and Gonzalo Higuain have switched clubs, giving Milan the look of a bigger club than, perhaps, they currently are. Equally, the likes of Gianluigi Buffon have moved on, some familiar faces no longer plying their trade on the turf of Italy’s finest.
For all their acceptance of foreign players, and it is a tradition that goes right back to the beginning of football in the country, Italy has always held a great deal of respect for its own players, and the journey from lower leagues to top flight is one that carries with it a great deal of respect.
Sassuolo arrived in Serie A some years ago, and were viewed at the time as a breath of fresh air. The Neroverde have strengthened their position over the years, but still with a core of Italian players. This summer has proven no different, and their defence has been augmented with the signing of Giangiacomo Magnani, who arrived in that typically circuitous route, having been around the houses to clubs like Perugia, Lumezzane and Virtus Verona. On July 1, Juventus paid Perugia around €4.5m for his services, only to sell him on to Sassuolo a little under four weeks later for the same price.
The defender, should he impress at the Stadio Mapei (and early signs are good) may well end up back in Turin as the Bianconeri retain a buy-back clause for his services; they are a well-run club, and do not allow gems to slip through their net easy.
Favilli, Dalmonte, Sprocati
One such gem has been loaned out, rather than sold. Andrea Favilli is not a complete newcomer to Serie A, having come on in the 93rd minute for Alvaro Morata in a 2-0 Juventus win at Frosinone back in 2016, but his acquisition from Ascoli and subsequent loaning to Genoa have seen his first real game time, appearing as a substitute for the Grifone this time, in their 5-3 defeat at Sassuolo. Favilli made something of a splash for the Bianconeri over the summer, scoring three goals in pre-season, but he has been sent to Genoa to improve.
Another forward looking to find his feet at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris is Nicola Dalmonte, who arrived at Genoa from Cesena. The young forward is yet to make a start, coming on four times as a substitute for the Cavalluci Marini in 2014/15 and once so far this year. In all five games, his side has been defeated, so he will hope that jinx does not last for long.
Mattia Sprocati, too, is returning to Serie A after a long break. He was part of Parma’s squad back in 2012, but didn’t get to play for the Ducali in that spell. He has since been to Reggiana, Perugia, Crotone, Pro Vercelli and spent the last two seasons with Salernitana, from whence he was taken on loan by the reborn Parma for their debut season in Serie A this campaign having been signed by Lazio in the summer.
Sprocati scored ten goals for the Granata last season, the best of them controlled, low finishes, and his capability of running with the ball into space and finding the corners of the goal mark him out as one to watch; he seems to score the same kind of goals that the very best Italian strikers did – think back to the likes of Inzaghi, and further back, Baggio. Both were placers of the football rather than blasters of it – he has a long way to climb to be mentioned alongside either of those, but his finishes are certainly closer to those two than the blazing thunderbolts one might see elsewhere.
Antonino La Gumina has tasted the top flight before, with Palermo, but his cameos saw him draw blanks during the Rosanero’s last stint in Serie A. He went to Ternana to learn his trade, returning to Sicily last season with plaudits ringing behind him.
A successful Serie B campaign saw him snapped up by Empoli in what represented a huge signing for the promoted Azzurri, €9m changing hands. La Gumina is a genuinely exciting talent, who has been waiting to burst onto the big stage since he lit up the Viareggio Tournament in 2016, scoring 9 goals and being named ‘Golden Boy’ as Palermo finished second to Juventus; losing the final 3-2 – both scored by La Gumina, of course.
While not yet the finished article (he would not be at Empoli if he were), La Gumina has that happy knack of being able to both find and create space on the pitch, one of those players that always seems to be doing something, which has cause to benefit himself and his team-mates. Of all those Italian players brought in to Serie A from below, he looks the most likely to succeed, and if he does, Empoli will find a real star on their hands.
The future is bright in Serie A, and while they might not sign as many players from the lower Italian leagues as previously (or if they do, they loan them back), there is still talent to be found.
Image credit: Juventus.com