(Picture Courtesy of Juventus’ Official Facebook page)
Another season in Italy has come to an end, with the usual accusations of match fixing, bans and everything finishing with a fine being predictable. Juventus won the title again, with Napoli fighting off AC Milan for 2nd, Milan finishing 3rd. Antonio Conte was convicted of match fixing, with the Juve boss receiving a lengthy touchline ban, 10 months for being part of the match fixing scam while at Siena, but later reduced to 4 months. Many other teams and players were caught in the act, lower league sides, players and coaches received varying penalties, fines, and suspensions. Sampdoria, Torino, Bologna and Siena were all deducted points, ranging from one to six.
Let’s not let that detract from what was an excellent season, from top to bottom there were battles everywhere! Fiorentina, perhaps the surprise of the season, rising from 13th after a poor 11/12 season to just miss out on 3rd, getting a Europa League place, however losing Stevan Jovetic to Man City for £22m will be disappointing – but on the up side he has been replaced by Mario Gomez, the Champions League winning striker, for £13.4m. Udinese were further back, holding onto 5th to also go back into the Europa League.
The other two sides to stand out this season were Napoli, going from 5th to 2nd with the help of Edison Cavani, with the Uruguayan scoring an impressive 29 goals – again as with Jovetic, Cavani has departed for the new riches in France, PSG paying just over £50m for him. His replacement? Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain, for £32m. Sampdoria, fresh from promotion, did very well, finishing 14th, and didn’t get involved in the whole relegation malarkey.
Two sides that perhaps showed the signs of tiring Europa league campaigns were Inter Milan and Lazio. Both dropped 3 places in the league, Milan 6th-9th and Lazio 4th-7th, however Lazio won the cup, gaining entrance back into Europe. Pescara were very disappointing, little of the money from Marco Verratti’s transfer was re-invested and it showed in performances, as they conceded 84 and lost 28 of 38 league games. Relegation was inevitable.
The other two to go down were Palermo, who amazingly changed coach 4 times during the season, and at the end reverted to the same manager, Gian Piero Gasperini, twice! With the likes of Paulo Dybala, Ezequiel Munoz, Abel Hernandez, Edgar Barreto and Armin Bacinovic – should they keep those players – they will be straight back up, with new manager Gennaro Gattuso taking over from Gasperini. Legend Fabrizio Miccoli was released, joining hometown club Lecce, who were relegated over match fixing to the lower divisions. Siena were the other side to go down, after a pretty bad season, being in the relegation zone for all but 3 games!
Replacing those three are Verona, Sassuolo and Livorno – Verona and Livorno are well known to most, but Sassuolo are set to take part in Serie A for the first time in their history! Despite missing out on promotion in 09/10 and 11/12, losing in Play-off Semi-finals, they have finally achieved what seemed the impossible dream, when only 5 years ago they were in Serie C1/A, about to appoint a little known ex-Serie A player as manager, Massimiliano Allegri. Let’s just hope they do themselves more justice than Pescara did – it was 19 years since they were in the top division, let’s hope next time they fare better.
As far as Scoring charts go, Cavani won the award for most goals, 29 winning him this year’s gong. Antonio Di Natale managed 23; AC Milan Starlet Stephan El Shaarawy hit 16, as did Roma’s Pablo Osvaldo. German Denis, Miroslav Klose, Erik Lamela and Giampaulo Pazzini all hit an impressive 15, with Klose scoring 5 in one game. Most assists went to Marek Hamsik, with 14, 2nd was Francesco Totti, who is to retire after this season, with 12 and 3rd Borja Valero, once of West Brom and Villarreal, with 11.
Our player of the season award goes to Cavani, though it seems an easy choice his goals launched Napoli into the Champions’ League group stages, and despite leaving he could well leave a lasting legacy, with money from his transfer buying the likes of Higuain, Mertens, Reina and Jose Callejon – all class players.