Two years of unsuccessfully challenging Juventus for the title and AS Roma finally look like a side that might be successful in their mission. The 2013/14 season saw the club finish with 85 points, a tally that more often than not would have been enough to land them the coveted Scudetto. But their Turin counterparts were always a step ahead. This season, at least on paper, the capital club looks like they are genuinely equipped to finish at the top. It also helps that Juventus have lost quality players in Pirlo and Vidal, and could falter as a result of it.
They of course have to make sure things don’t fall apart midway. Last season, Roma did well in the beginning but the loss to Juventus in October slowly started derailing their campaign and in the end, Allegri’s side easily went on to win the title. Soon after that loss to Juventus, Roma lost 7-1 to Bayern Munich at home. 7-1. As talented as Bayern might be, that scoreline is embarrassing for any team.
Besides the confident denting blow to Juventus, Roma had other problems. The midfield looked jaded with Kevin Strootman being in and out with injury and Seydou Keita leaving for the AFCON in January. This meant Pjanic – who also didn’t look his best last season – and Radja Nainggolan “were running on vapour”.
They also had problems up-front. The very exciting Juan Manuel Iturbe didn’t live up to the hype and his €22m price-tag. Gervinho lost form and Totti, despite being Totti, couldn’t be Roma’s savior.
The upside to last season was that Garcia ensured there was some sustainability and Roma backed a great season with another one of moderate success as they did attain automatic Champions League qualification by the end of the campaign
Garcia has now dismissed talks of a title, which is a safe thing to do – downplay expectations, avoid disappointment – but the Rome club has to do one better this time to ensure they’ve not reached a stagnation point.
They’ve definitely done better in terms of signings. Milan bought Andrea Bertolacci from Roma for €20 million and Alessio Romagnoli for €25 million, and Garcia and co. have used the money wisely. They’ve bought Nainggolan’s remaining stake from Cagliari and the talented midfielder now solely and completely belongs to them. They also signed winger Iago Falque from Genoa, who would prove to be a valuable addition to the club’s forward line. Falque, who has the distinction of playing at Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus in his youth days, scored 13 goals for Genoa last season and finally looked to be fulfilling his much talked about potential. He could prove to be an astute signing for the Giallorossi. Mohamed Salah did incredibly well on loan at Fiorentina last season and after much ado, the player finally signed on loan at Roma from Premier League giants, Chelsea. Salah scored 6 goals and grabbed 3 assists in 10 starts for the Florence outfit last season and would represent an upgrade on Gervinho.
Unarguably, if Roma want to win trophies next season, they required an improvement on the goalkeeper, Morgan De Sanctis who is 38 years old. Szczesny will need time to get going but the Poland international definitely has it in him to be an important player for Roma in the coming season. He might only be a temporary fix as he has also signed on an “initial” one year loan deal from Arsenal, but he is a good short term solution.
Perhaps their most eye-catching and best signing is that of Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian arrives from Manchester City with a strong reputation and an undeniable talent in front of goal. He will lead the line for the Italian side and we could see Totti take a marginalized, yet important, role this season. Dzeko has already started strongly as he netted twice in his pre-season debut for the club against Sevilla and has given the Roma faithful a reason for excitement and enthusiasm.
The Serie A is going to be more open than the last few seasons as Roma, Inter and Milan have all done impressive business in the transfer market and could end The Old Lady’s run of dominance. There are still some areas to strengthen for Roma, but the work has been positive from the Italian team so far and we might see the iconic Totti lift the Serie A title in possibly his last season with his boyhood club.
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Blow for Crystal Palace as Juventus reportedly enter race for Patrick van Aanholt
Juventus are reportedly interested in bringing the fan favourite to Turin this summer.
The Italian champions are said to be drawing up a shortlist of potential candidates to replace superstar fullback Alex Sandro, should he leave for Manchester United in the near future, and the defender is said to feature highly on the wish-list.
Van Aanholt emerged as a sensational attacking full-back last season, and orchestrated a number of vital wins for the Eagles during the latter half of the campaign. The ex-Chelsea defender bagged an impressive five goals and an assist in 28 appearances, as his side secured a comfortable 11th place finish, and Roy Hodgson will be desperate to keep him at Selhurst Park beyond the window.
The Eagles are already in the process of fending off Everton for the 27-year-old’s services, with Marco Silva registering his interest in the player last month (Daily Mail). But it appears the task will become a whole lot harder now the Serie A giants are in the mix.
As an attacking full-back by trade, Van Aanholt’s pace – registering the second-fastest sprint speed in the Premier League last term – and versatility, allow him to play anywhere along the left-flank similarly to Sandro, which suits Juve and Max Allegri, who has a knack of employing different systems and strategies regularly.
The player’s current contract runs until 2021 with Palace and he has previously revealed that he is well settled and comfortable in south-east London. However, the prospect of moving to one of the world’s biggest clubs, who have just recorded their seventh successive Scudetto, would be incredibly enticing. And at 27, it could be the last chance for the former Sunderland man to secure a high-profile move.
Blow for Newcastle as Leicester bid big on midfielder Stefano Sturaro
Leicester City have reportedly made an official approach for the Newcastle target.
Newcastle United have been dealt a blow in their pursuit of Juventus midfielder Stefano Sturaro, as Leicester City have sent a lucrative offer to Turin for his signature, according to Sky Sports Italia.
Juventus value the player at around £18 million, but the Foxes have fallen short with their initial offer of £11 million, in an attempt to compromise.
Newcastle will hope the Serie A champions reject the offer, as they have been courting Sturaro closely over the last month, having reportedly made an enquiry for his services, according to Calcio Mercato.
Mikel Merino has been consistently linked with a move away from St James’ Park this summer, despite revealing his desire to build on last season in the Premier League (Newcastle official). And Athletic Bilbao are the latest to show interest in bringing the Spaniard back to his native home.
As a result Rafa Benitez is lining up potential replacements, and the Italian international is high on the wish-list.
Since moving to Juve from Genoa in 2014, the Italian midfielder has won Serie A four times, the Coppa Italia four times, the Supercoppa Italiana once and reached the final of the Champions League twice.
But these achievements are marred by Sturaro’s minor role in the current side. The 25-year-old made just 12 appearances – with seven starts – in the Serie A last season, as Max Allegri led the side to a record-breaking seventh straight Scudetto.
Playing time will register high on the list of priorities for the midfielder next term and Newcastle would certainly offer him that, with the likes of Mohamed Diame past his best years at 31, and nearing his natural end on Tyneside. Although Leicester can offer the same.
Benitez will now have to take the initiative and match Leicester’s bid for the Italian, if they have serious hopes of landing him this summer.
Tottenham should demand Sami Khedira in any deal for Mousa Dembele
Tottenham cannot afford to let Mousa Dembele leave without a direct replacement.
Tottenham Hotspur‘s midfield enforcer Mousa Dembele looks increasingly likely to be departing north London this summer, with a number of suitors from Serie A said to be readying swoops for the player’s services.
Inter Milan were touted as favourites to land his signature, by Gazzetta dello Sport this week, but it now appears reigning champions Juventus are keen on bringing him to Turin next term (Sky Sports).
Mauricio Pochettino would never consider letting the player he once described as a “genius” leave the club under normal circumstances, but the 30-year-old is said to have expressed concerns over his ability to continue matching the physical demands of the Premier League, after frequent issues with injury, according to the Telegraph.
The Argentine could very well find his hands tied, as it’s a hard issue to navigate through, but he would be foolish to offload a player of Dembele’s immense influence without having a direct replacement in the wings, and the man they’re looking for could very well reside at Juventus.
Sami Khedira should be demanded in any deal for the big Belgian, as Spurs simply cannot afford to take backwards steps in the quest for silverware next season, and the German international would represent a shrewd bit of business.
Juventus are looking to offload ageing players this summer and would likely comply with the terms if Spurs were to put their foot down. They are also expecting the imminent arrival of long-spanning target Emre Can from Liverpool to bolster the midfield for the foreseeable future.
Khedira is certainly capable of filling the void left by Dembele, as he models his game around similar principles in midfield. Not only that but his experience is massive – having previously performed at the highest level for the likes of Real Madrid, while also winning the World Cup with the national team.
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