While Kirsten Schlewitz takes you through the Serie A players who will fill this summer’s headlines, here’s a look back at last year’s big moves, most of which have failed:
Ciro Immobile (above)
Where, in 2013-14: Torino
Where, in 2014-15: Borussia Dortmund
Why: A breakout season that produced 22 league goals and a ticket to Brazil 2014
How much: $27.7 million
One of the earliest moves of the window (the contract was agreed on June 2) was also one of its most predictable, even if its destination wasn’t. After years of being loaned out by Juventus, having to deal with the constant debate as to whether he could make it at the club, Immobile exploded for Juve’s Turin rivals, Torino, leading the Seria A in goals. Though the destination, Dortmund, was a small surprise, it also made sense. BVB was going to take a couple of whacks at replacing Robert Lewandowski, and some big club was bound to roll the dice on the World Cup-bound Immobile.
The results have been just as predictable. Though Immobile, 25, showed signs that he could persist as an elite goal scorer, his age and broader track record hinted at a player who’d regress to his mean. That mean (10 goals in 29 games, but only three in league) hasn’t been enough to earn consistent time with Dortmund. His inability to be a poor man’s Lewandowski was a big factor in BVB’s fall.
Where, in 2013-14: Torino
Where, in 2014-15: Atlético Madrid (then, Milan)
Why: Along with Immobile, Cerci fueled Torino’s success, posting 13 goals and 10 assists as the club finished seventh
How much: $21.9 million
Cerci ended up tied with Roma’s Francesco Totti and Gervinho at the top of Italy’s assist charts, an admirable accomplishment considering Torino scored 14 fewer goals. Factor in his 13 goals, and Cerci may have been Italy’s most productive player last season. With a stronger track record than Immobile, he was arguably the better catch.
Once Atlético started spending its Diego Costa and Champions League cash, Cerci was off to Spain, where he never fit in with Diego Simeone’s squad. After eight all-competition appearances and one goal, Cerci became part of the deal that brought Fernando Torres back to the Calderón. Though the 27-year-old is now back in Italy, at a club he should have moved to in the first place, he’s continued to struggle, posting one goal and three assists in 15 appearances.
Where, in 2013-14: Roma
Where, in 2014-15: Bayern Munich
Why: One of the center backs in Italy moving to one of the best clubs in the world
How much: $35.6 million
After a debut season with Roma that saw Benatia perform among the best defenders in Serie A, few predicted the Moroccan international would leave the capital. But when Bayern Munich went shopping for a defender with its Mario Mandžukić-Toni Kroos money, Benatia forced Roma’s hand. Given the price, the giallorossi may have been convinced to sell, regardless, but moving five days before the end of the window made the transfer abrupt.
What’s followed has been an injury-filled season that’s reduced the 28-year-old to 19 appearances across all competitions. Though his versatility and skill made him an ideal target for Pep Guardiola’s system, the fit on the field is still a little untested. Between Bayern’s lack of competition in Germany and Benatia’s lack of health, it’s unclear whether the Moroccan will be the prize FCB sought.
Where, in 2013-14: Sampdoria
Where, in 2014-15: Valencia
Why: New money at the Mestalla plus a steep rise in stature before the 2014 World Cup
How much: $10.9 million
A year ago, Mustafi was largely unknown to anybody that didn’t follow Italian soccer or the German national team, but thanks to a strong season with Sampdoria – his first in a consistent starting role – the then 22-year-old was able to cash in on some of that Peter Lim money in Valencia.
Always formidable in the air in Italy, the Albanian-German defender has translated his aerial prowess into goals at the Mestalla, scoring four times this season. And after being one of the surprise names in Joachim Löw’s World Cup squad, Mustafi has been a steady call-up for the world champions. In time, $10.9 million will look like a steal.
Where, in 2013-14: Milan
Where, in 2014-15: Liverpool
Why: The Reds needed a striker, Italian teams need money, and Mario had been … explosive in England before
How much: $27.4 million
That Mario Balotelli moved on from Milan wasn’t a shock. As much as his move back to Italy entailed promise, there was a note of complacency in his performances and little indication he could be the attacking focal point of a successful team. When Liverpool came knocking with a reasonable offer, Super Mario was headed back to England.
In hindsight, it looks like a panic buy, just without the panic. As summer unfolded and Luis Suárez’s absence became more evident, Liverpool jumped back into the market for a striker. But by the time it had determined Daniel Sturridge, Ricky Lambert, and Fabio Borini weren’t going to be enough, the market was starting to dry up. Teams’ plans were cast in stone, with only the Balotelli-esque exceptions available in the last weeks of August.
Despite Balotelli’s still evident talent, the results have been terrible. Balotelli has become useless, even if his initial goalless performances weren’t as vile as detractors proclaimed. Now, his one goal in 15 games has made him an easy target, with everything short of Thatcher’s social policies and Zayn Malik leaving One Direction put at Balotelli’s boots.
From bad idea, to poor execution, to no solutions, purchasing Balotelli may have been Liverpool’s worst idea of the summer. And that’s saying something, given the club’s summer.