As Serie A prepares to shut up shop for summer, following another season of intrigue and excitement from Italya s finest, THT comes up with our own Italian top-flight team of the season.Here is the XI of players who impressed us most, plus subs.Agree or disagree? Have your say…
The 22-year-old has attracted attention from a number of European clubs after putting in some impressive performances for Atalanta this season. A youth product of Atalanta, Sportiello became the club’s first-choice goalkeeper this season. Sportiello has pulled off more than 100 saves and kept eight clean sheets in 37 league starts to ensure the Bergamo outfit remain above the drop zone.Atalanta have endured a tough season in the Serie A battling relegation and may have a tough time keeping the shot-stopper if the top sides in the league make their interest concrete.
The 22 year old right back has been ever-present for Udinese this season, balancing out his offensive and defensive duties in a mature fashion. Widmer has chipped in with 2 goals and 7 assists this season which is fairly good for a club that swam around the relegation zone. With rumours having that his contract talks have hit roadblocks, many clubs will be on the look out for him given the promise he has shown this past season.
Stefan de Vrij
The most important signing for Lazio this season has arguably been that of Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij. Standing at around 6a 3a tall, the 23 year old had impressed many at last summera s World Cup, as his commanding performances helped the Netherlands reach the Semi Finals where they lost on penalties to Argentina. He has continued that form into the domestic campaign, averaging 1.8 tackles, 6.5 clearances and 3.8 interceptions per game. The club has kept thirteen clean sheets in De Vrij’s twenty-five appearances this term, a total which matches the one they managed in the entire 2013-14 campaign, while perhaps the most telling statistic comes in the three games he has missed where Lazio have conceded every time, failing to win on each occasion, clearly underlining his importance to the side. He knew that moving to Serie A would see him maximise his potential, turning down offers from England and Spain..And that is precisely what he has done so far this term.
Bonucci has arguably been Juvea s finest defender this term, the one regular in what has been a constantly rotating cast at the back as Allegri has been forced to contend with a raft of injuries to the likes of Kwadwo Asamoah, Martin Caceres, Romulo and Barzagli. Bonucci has recorded averages of 1.2 tackles, two interceptions and 4.6 clearances per league game, showing just how important he has been to the Bianconeri. He also continues to impress on the ball, making an average of 61.8 passes per game and completing 86.1 percent of those attempts. Given the extra responsibility of leading the defence in the absence of so many others, he has blossomed into one of the best and deserves to be recognised as being among the finest in Europe at his position, with very few playing better in 2014-15. He has also scored four goals in this current campaign, with each strike coming in very important games for the Bianconeri with strikes against Roma, Milan and Fiorentina. It represents his highest tally since joining the club back in 2010.
Darmian was a vital component in making coach Giampiero Venturaa s 3-5-2 formation a success last season, missing just one match in the entire campaign and making important contributions at both ends of the pitch. Previously uncapped by Italy, he was rewarded with a place in Cesare Prandellia s squad that headed to Brazil, and made his debut in the 2-1 win over England. As one of the few Azzurri stars to emerge with his reputation intact, the 25-year-has certainly made the most of his opportunity. He has followed it up with yet another superb season, and is continuing to develop into one of the finest defenders of his generation. Having established himself as a regular with Torino, Darmiana s performances for Italy and in the Europa League have seen him gain much wider recognition. He’s featured in both wing-back roles of Torinoa s 3-5-2 formation, and done the same as a more orthodox full-back during the World Cup.
He has also filled in as a central defender for the Azzurri in Antonio Contea s three-man backline, but the biggest factor has been his incredible consistency no matter where he has been deployed. Averaging 2.6 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per game this season, Darmian has proven adept at halting opposition attacks and is always diligent in his defensive duties before venturing forwards. When his side is in possession, the 25-year-old is comfortable either running at his man with the ball or making an intelligent pass to a better-placed team-mate. He has improved in front of goal where, having netted just twice in his entire career before this season, 2014/15 has seen him score four times, with two coming in his first European campaign. Despite being just under 6ft tall, Darmian is also very good in the air, and has won 55% of the duels he has contested. The Granata can expect a number of bids to land in their laps during the close season, with Darmian expected to be one of this yeara s most sought-after stoppers.
The likes of Tevez, Vidal and Paul Pogba may garner the most attention, but Claudio Marchisio has been every inch as important to the success of the Old Lady in 2014-15. Usually deployed to the right of Pirlo in a three-man midfield, his best performances have been when called upon to deputise for him in that central role. Only Tevez (with seven) has contributed more assists this term than Marchisioa s tally of six. He has scored only three goals this season, his worst return in three years, which hints at the deeper role in which he has regularly been fielded by Allegri. He may not be finding the net as often, but he is picking out team-mates at a vastly improved rate. Marchisio completed an average of 50.1 passes per game in 2013-14, connecting with 83.1 percent of those attempts, while this season those figures have jumped up to 63.4 passes and 85.8 percent, respectively. He has provided the calming influence in midfield this term, recovering loose balls, winning tackles, intercepting passes and making important clearances as he protected the defence throughout the season.
Biglia has been crucial for Lazio this season, as they have climbed up to third-place in Serie A with points from 38 games; the 29-year-old has created numerous chances for his teammates sitting just in front of the defence. He has also been comfortable on the ball, and has looked to engineer most of Lazioa s attacks with an average pass accuracy of 87% this season, the second highest amongst Lazioa s players. The 29-year-old Argentinian midfielder has bags of experience, having played for the likes of Anderlecht for seven seasons as well as Lazio, and has provided the Biancoceleste with solid defensive protection.
Looking at a player who averages 2.6 tackles and an interception every game, it’s easy to identify energy, work-rate and tenacity as hallmarks of Nainggolana s. Yet it is also to do him a disservice, as the Belgian is one of the calmest and most efficient distributors of the ball in Serie A, with Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo the only midfielders to complete more passes than him last season. While Roma struggled to match last yeara s record-setting campaign, Nainggolan has actually improved, weighing in with three goals and five assists in all competitions. With Strootman sidelined and De Rossi having joined Miralem Pjanic in suffering an alarming dip in form, it is the diminutive 26-year-old who is now widely regarded as the best among Roma’s talented midfielders. Nainggolan’s talent was showcased in the Champions League as well, after he made his presence keenly felt when Roma travelled to the Etihad back in September. With three trademark crunching tackles, two interceptions and as many blocked shots, he shielded the Roma defence superbly, while completing 90.5% of his passes. One of those was a wonderful ball to Francesco Totti which allowed him to score. The Belgian is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in Europe.
The youngster has had quite the season for Palermo this year and ita s no wonder why plenty of big clubs across Europe were after his signature in the recent few months. 13 goals and 10 assists this season, Dybala has contributed to over 40% of Palermoa s goals in the Serie A this season. The 21 year old has been a pleasure to watch this season, with many able to notice that his style of play is versatile enough to suit the way a variety of teams play. Dybala is another young forward from Argentina who seems to be having a jolly time at the moment.
Candreva has continued to impress this season for lazio, netting nine goals and adding a team-high eight assists, but even he has been outshone by the incredible form of Felipe Anderson. The Brazilian has shrugged off the malaise that affected his first twelve months on the peninsula, taking Serie A by storm with a string of outstanding displays. His first goal of the campaign came against Parma in early December and since then he has added nine more along with an seven assists for the club. Bewitching opponents with an electrifying blend of skill, pace and trickery, the 21 year old has been simply thrilling to watch. His play has been a major factor in lifting the club into their current position in the table, with the possibility both he and the Biancoceleste could be rewarded with Champions League football next term.
The Argentine is in the form of his life. He has scored a remarkable 28 goals in 38 starts for Juve. Still playing with the fierce pride and passion that had helped him swap the tough Buenos Aries neighborhood for some of world footballa s most prestigious homes, he has led Juventus to a quite incredible season this term in Italy and Europe. In a typically all-action display, he has made tackles and recovered the ball falling back in defence, setting the perfect example for his less experienced team-mates to follow. Tevez had endured a much publicized goal drought in the Champions League prior to this season, one that spanned almost five years going back to his time at Manchester United, but he has ended it in emphatic fashion.
Scoring seven times in eleven outings in the competition this term, his tally is bettered by only Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano of Shakhtar Donetsk. Tevez has been no less impressive in Serie A a with twenty goals while he has also weighed in with a team-high seven assists. In all competitions he has now reached fifty goals for Juventus in just 92 appearances, a ratio that should see him mentioned alongside the continenta s best. Tevez is an incredibly hard-working player, playing like a man who is carrying the hopes and dreams of both Buenos Aries and Turin on his shoulders, giving maximum effort for club and country in a bid to never leave them disappointed. His performances in the number ten jersey have seen him continue the tradition of Juvea s most famous shirt, one worn with distinction by the likes of Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and of course Alessandro Del Piero. The Bianconeri would not have clinched a fourth consecutive Serie A title a nor be on the brink of a Champions League Final a without Carlos Tevez, a man who is arguably the gamea s most underrated superstar.
Manager of the season: Maurizio Sarri
One of the surprises of this Serie A campaign has been Empoli coach Maurizio Sarri. From the lower divisions to a debut in Serie A this season, the road was long and tortuous. Before his coaching career, the 56 year old worked at a bank in Italy. The monotonous nature of the work did not satisfy Sarri so the Empoli boss decided to chase his dream and he became a manager. He was sacked by Sorrento in 2011. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as he was then handed the reins at Empoli. When Empoli won promotion to the Serie A many expected them to fall right back into the trap door and return to the Serie B. Seeing that the side is relatively inexperienced and has the smallest wage bill in the league, this was an understandable assumption. However, with Maurizio Sarri at the helm, they have proved their doubters wrong and sit comfortably on 42 points in 15th place. In addition to results, Sarrri has his team playing efficient and attractive football and is doing so primarily with Italian players.
While Mirko Valdifiori pulls the strings in midfield, it is the work of Italian trio Luigi Sepe, Daniele Rugani and Lorenzo Tonelli at the back that form the back bone of this side. This is a truly remarkable feat given Serie A managersa recent preferences to field foreign talents over Italian players. In todaya s day and age in football where managers are under immense pressure to get results, Sarri finds a way to put his footballing philosophy first. Despite having less quality in their side than most teams they come up against, Empoli always try to impose their own style of play on the opposition. Sarria s side, on average, maintains 54% possession and takes 13.3 shots per game. Their desire to play forward thinking football is impressive. While playing good football is great and all, at the end of the day, the sad reality is that results matter most especially if your team is attempting to fight off relegation. In addition to winning the games they were supposed to, Sarria s Empoli have secured some high profile scalps in their return season to Serie A most notably against Roma, Milan, Napoli, Fiorentina and Lazio. In these games, Sarri has shown his tactical nous and his ability to change things when needed. Moreover, he has made his team particularly efficient from set-piece situations. Out of their 25 goals scored, 44% (11) have come from dead ball situations. Defenders Daniele Rugani and Lorenzo Tonelli have benefitted from this system and have received numerous plaudits from pundits and fans alike. Over the course of the season, Sarria s work has not gone unnoticed and he has emerged as a serious contender for Panchina d’Oro award, that goes to Italya s best manager at the end of the season. In recent weeks, many Italian media outlets have linked the manager with a move to Milan given the turmoil at the club and their recent struggles under Pippo Inzaghi. The Empoli boss has all the tools in order to succeed at a top club and it wouldna t be a big surprise if he takes the next step in his long journey shortly. Until that happens, however, leta s take a moment to appreciate the 56 year olda s astonishing rise to fame.
Mattia Perin is one among the few top quality young goalkeepers out there that have been given the chance to grow as a player despite his age. Perin has been instrumental in Genoaa s season this year, with 32 league appearances for the Italian outfit so far. More of an instinct based keeper, Perin has time on his side to improve on various other aspects of his game such as distribution and aerial prowess. The 22 year old Italiana s performances and promise has resulted in several clubs across Europe keen to get his signature early.
Daniele Rugani is one of the Empoli players who can call it a good season personally. The 20 year old has earned himself priceless experience at the club, playing almost every game of their campaign. Rugani has shown that he is capable of playing amongst the best and while definitely not a finished product, the Italian has time on his side to iron out the finer details of quality Italian standard defending.
Inter Milan fans will look back at this past season with mixed feelings but one thing they can certainly feel glad about is how well Mauro Icardi has performed. Despite the surrounding players not playing up to the mark, Icardi was in no mood to slack off and has been evidently ruthless in front of goal with 25 goals and 6 assists across all competitions this season. Fitting the bill of another young Argentine forward who has done well for himself this season, much will be expected from the controversial youngster who has already proven his abilities.
He is 28 and this is his first season in Serie A, a reward for a player who was plying his trade down in the third division before joining Empoli seven years ago. He has been with them ever since, through thick and thin: narrowly avoiding relegation to Serie C1 through a play-off against Vicenza in 2012 and then earning promotion last season. Italy coach Antonio Conte has always been his admirer. He tried to sign Valdifiori for Siena three years back but left to take the Juventus job instead. A call up to the squad for a European Championship qualifier with Bulgaria and friendly with England was a just reward for his wonderful season this term.
Iago Falque has 13 goal this season and he isna t even a centre-forward.Rediscovering the golden touch that had deserted them in the transfer market in recent years, Genoa did some smart business in the summer. In addition to Falque, for whom they paid Spurs a 2m, they got another bargain in Diego Perotti from Sevilla for a 350k. Both would play significant roles in Genoaa s best season since 2009 when they narrowly missed out on the Champions League.He scored his first goal in Italy and got his first assist too in a 4-2 win at Udinese.When fit and available Perotti, Ma baye Niang and Falque have caused opponents all kinds of problems. A lengthy suspension for the Argentine and an injury to the Frenchman have meant Genoaa s hopes of a return to Europe – which appear in vain given the cluba s inability to get its house in order and obtain a UEFA license – rested on Falque for the final stretch of the season. He has raised his game accordingly. Falque has become a fansa favourite at Marassi.Devastating when cutting in from the right, only Paulo Dybala and Manolo Gabbiadini (13) have scored more than Falque has with his left foot. Of the 14 players to hit 10 or more goals in Serie A this season only World Cup legend Miroslav Klose has a better conversion rate (22.8%).Finally realising his potential, Falque wona t be short of suitors this summer.
All Stats Courtesy Whoscored.com