Are we witnessing the resurgence of the Italian Serie A?

Gianluigi Buffon (L) and Matthijs de Ligt (R) of Juventus are seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the International Champions Cup match between Juventus and FC Internazionale at the Nanjing Olympic Center Stadium on July 24, 2019 in Nanjing, China.  (July 23, 2019 - Source: Getty Images AsiaPac)

Gianluigi Buffon (L) and Matthijs de Ligt (R) of Juventus are seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the International Champions Cup match between Juventus and FC Internazionale at the Nanjing Olympic Center Stadium on July 24, 2019 in Nanjing, China.

(July 23, 2019 - Source: Getty Images AsiaPac)

Can the Serie A really become more competitive?

Often considered to be one of the top five leagues in the world, conversations about the Serie A have continued to escalate in recent times. The attention towards the league has been vastly heightened by the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo at the start of the 2018/2019 season. Ronaldo’s arrival has somewhat caused some more traction and attracted more players to come to Italy to compete. Now, with another Serie A season already here, one can’t help but wonder whether the upcoming season will be a matter of same champions, just a different season, or will the other teams step up to finally dethrone Juventus off their title. Furthermore, much will be expected from the Italian teams, particularly those participating in the UEFA Champions League, as they will be looking to bring home the trophy which has remained elusive for Italian teams for the past nine seasons. Below we have a look at the evolution of the league and possible outcomes from the new season.

One player can make all the difference

It is without a doubt that the Serie A has been gradually developing. One might be fooled to think that the league is not growing as Juventus continue to be the favorites to win every title on offer. However, that aside, one can argue that the league is growing for a number of different reasons. It is easy to underplay the effect that Ronaldo’s signing has had on Juventus and even the league. The best players are attracted to other top players, it makes the league better and more competitive. Firstly, the arrival of one of the top two best players in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo shows the progressive nature of the league, as well as its ability to attract high quality players to the top flight. Undoubtedly, Ronaldo’s arrival in Italy has had many ripple effects for the league, many of which are positive. His arrival has further attracted more big name players with the likes of Matthijs De Ligt, Romelu Lukaku, Aaron Ramsey, Danilo, Diego Godin and even the veteran Franck Ribery, just to name a few. The presence of more quality players in the league will improve the competition for the league title amongst the teams, bring in more merchandise and TV money as well as provide fans with high quality football entertainment. Therefore, reasons or factors such as the above are proof of the league’s growth.

Juan Cuadrado (L) of Juventus is challenged by Marten De Roon of Atalanta during the Serie A match between Juventus and Atalanta BC on May 19, 2019 in Turin, Italy.  (May 18, 2019 - Source: Getty Images Europe)

Juan Cuadrado (L) of Juventus is challenged by Marten De Roon of Atalanta during the Serie A match between Juventus and Atalanta BC on May 19, 2019 in Turin, Italy.

(May 18, 2019 - Source: Getty Images Europe)

How ready are the Serie A’s top sides in challenging for the Champions League?

Juventus

Many expected that the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus would help the team finally bring the Champions League title back to Turin, but the Old Lady’s misfortunes in the tournament continued as they were put to the sword by Ajax Amsterdam in the quarterfinals of the tournament last season. Nevertheless, the main agenda for the new season is no different for this Juventus side as the UEFA Champions League title remains the ultimate goal for them. To this end, the team has made a number of changes in a bid to ready the squad for the new Champions League season. In a move that is surely to change the team’s style of play, Juventus brought in Maurizio Sarri to replace Massimiliano Allegri who left at the end of last season. The team has further been quite busy in the transfer market, signing Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot to beef up the midfield and improve the creativity in the belly of the park. Furthermore, Juve has also strengthened the team’s defence with the capture of one of the most sought after signings of the summer in Matthijs De Ligt, as well as the swap deal involving the signing of Danilo who came in place of Joao Cancelo. Combine that with the experience of Gianluiggi Buffon, as well as the presence of seasoned players like Ronaldo, Higuain and Mario Mandzukic, Juve surely have the ammunition to go all the way and win this season’s Champions League. But team depth is not the only puzzle to glory. The arrival of Maurizio Sarri is an interesting factor that can have an upside and downside. Others are worried that Sarri could take some time to settle in at Juve, and his new players may initially have problems adapting to his methods. The 60-year-old has no experience of winning top-flight titles, although he did lead Chelsea to Europa League glory last term. It therefore remains to be seen whether Sarriball will provide the right tonic and help finally bring the Champions League title to Turin for the first time in 23 years.

Rodrigo Bentancur (L) of Juventus and Nicolo Zaniolo of Roma compete for the ball during the Serie A match between Juventus and AS Roma on December 22, 2018 in Turin, Italy.  (Dec. 21, 2018 - Source: Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images Europe)

Rodrigo Bentancur (L) of Juventus and Nicolo Zaniolo of Roma compete for the ball during the Serie A match between Juventus and AS Roma on December 22, 2018 in Turin, Italy.

(Dec. 21, 2018 - Source: Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images Europe)

AS Roma

AS Roma are in another period of transition under new manager Paulo Fonseca and the Portuguese boss is imprinting a new style upon them. The Giallorossi did poorly for their standards last season and finished sixth. Furthermore, the team waved goodbye to one of its greatest legends in Daniel De Rossi, leaving the team with a huge void to fill in terms of leadership and overall quality in the team. This season, Roma bolstered its defense with the acquisition of Leonardo Spinazzola and Gianluca Mancini. In addition, Bryan Cristante, who enjoyed success at Atalanta is expected to spearhead the midfield. Having had one of the most porous back-lines in Serie A last season, the team has also brought in a centre back, Gianluca Mancini from Atalanta who has big shoes to fill following the departure of Manolas. Moreover, the team should be pleased by the news that Edin Dzeko’s future is now sorted and the player is staying put for another season. AS Roma also received a further boost last week when Italian midfield sensation Nicolò Zaniolo penned a new five-year deal with the club. All in all, Roma’s primary focus will be fighting for a top four position and perhaps a round of sixteen qualification in the Champions League in the season following the current one.

Juventus hired Sarri to guide them to Champions League glory, while Inter brought in the services of another former Chelsea coach in Antonio Conte. AS Roma captured the services of former Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paulo Fonseca. Only Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli and the highly impressive Gian Piero Gasperini, who led Atalanta to third position, remain unchanged.
— Siphosethu Thwala, FirstTouch Africa
Supporters of Inter Milan during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final First Leg match between Inter Milan and Barcelona at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on April 20, 2010 in Milan, Italy.  (April 19, 2010 - Source: Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe)

Supporters of Inter Milan during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final First Leg match between Inter Milan and Barcelona at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on April 20, 2010 in Milan, Italy.

(April 19, 2010 - Source: Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe)

Inter Milan

Inter seem to have taken serious measures to help the team get back to challenging for league honours. Firstly, the appointment of former Chelsea coach in Antonio Conte to replace Luciano Spalletti by the board is a statement of inten. Next to this, Inter snatched the signing of former Man United forward, Romelu Lukaku, beating rivals Juventus to his signature. Furthermore, the Nerazurri have also been able to add some experience defensively by signing former Atletico Madrid defender in Diego Godin who boasts loads of years of Champions League experience. The team further acquired the services of Nicolo Barella, Valentino Lazaro, Stefano Sensi and now imminently Alexis Sanchez, all who are expected to play a big part in this reinvented Inter squad this season. With Conte at the helm, this Inter team will most certainly be challenging for league honours and they seem to be one of the sides that can push Juventus all the way for the title.

Napoli

Napoli’s defence looks solid as a rock after their summer capture of Kostas Manolas from Roma. The Greek international will form a formidable centre-half partnership with the dependable Kalidou Koulibaly as coach Carlo Ancelotti plots to bring the league title to the city for the first time in 29 years. Napoli’s transfer window has been the quietest of the big teams in Serie A, but that doesn’t mean they were unsuccessful. The signing of Kostas Manolas gives them one of the world’s most formidable center back pairing. The rest of the world already had to deal with Napoli’s elite attack, but now they’ll also have to find ways to score against a defence that features Manolas and Kalidou Koulibaly. That will be an unbelievably difficult task for any team. That move, coupled with the continued development of young talents like Fabian Ruiz, Alex Meret, and Arkadiusz Milik should make them a formidable opponent for anybody next season. Should we even mention the arrival of the dynamic Hirving Lozano?

Atalanta

The undisputed surprise packages of the 2018/2019 Serie A season. Atalanta finished third last season, the best ever in the club’s history. The pessimist out there would argue that the only place to go for them this season is down. Contrary to this, the optimists see an opportunity for more success. Most attribute the club’s success in recent times is to the team’s ability to produce youth players in abundance. Atalanta, however, have also gotten older and more experienced. In addition to striker Duvan Zapata, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men feature several newcomers in strikers Luis Muriel and midfielder Rusian Malinovskyi. This will allow the team to remain competitive both in the league and the Champions League group stages that begins next month. With their attack stronger than ever, there’s no limit to this team’s potential as they continue to shock teams across Italy. Many believe that the departure of young central defender Gianluca Mancini left a huge vacuum in their back-line that hasn’t been properly filled as of yet. Though Atalanta have been almost inactive in this transfer window, the fact that they kept a talented core together should be enough for Gian Piero Gasperini’s men to have a decent run in their maiden appearance in Europe’s biggest tournament.

Atalanta BC coach Gian Piero Gasperini looks on during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and UC Sampdoria at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on October 7, 2018 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Oct. 6, 2018 - Source: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images Europe)

Atalanta BC coach Gian Piero Gasperini looks on during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and UC Sampdoria at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on October 7, 2018 in Bergamo, Italy.

(Oct. 6, 2018 - Source: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images Europe)

Luring in the best gaffers

There has been a considerable number of coaching changes in the Serie A this off season. Interestingly, four of the teams that finished in the top six last year appointed new managers. Juventus hired Sarri to guide them to Champions League glory, while Inter brought in the services of another former Chelsea coach in Antonio Conte. AS Roma captured the services of former Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paulo Fonseca. Only Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli and the highly impressive Gian Piero Gasperini, who led Atalanta to third position, remain unchanged. These factors are likely to be key and become a determining factor regarding who walks away with the Serie A title come May 2020.

On paper, it looks likely to be a three-horse race for the honours this season with perennial runners-up Napoli as well as Inter, likely to push Juventus all the way. With more world class players being drawn to the league each passing season, the attractiveness of this league is moving at lighting speed. Now with all said and done, this Serie A campaign might just be one of the most exciting in years and better still, the only way for this league seems to be all the way up! Who’re you’re vouching for?