The tired old cliché goes that Serie A is defensive and boring. But if the strikers being linked with headline moves in Italy’s top-flight this summer are anything to go by, that could not be further from the truth.
The Italian sports dailies have been in overdrive with the same handful of names linked to the same handful of clubs each and every day throughout May, June and July. Yet no resolution can be found.
Internazionale want to get rid of the troublesome Mauro Icardi. While the Argentine doesn’t want to leave San Siro, a move to champions Juventus appeals. The Nerazzurri do not want to sell to or strengthen their great rivals, though, and would prefer the striker to move to Napoli.
If Juventus are to sign Icardi they would have to find a buyer for Gonzalo Higuain first. After failing to seduce Chelsea while on loan in the second half of last season, the 31-year-old is wanted by Roma.
The Giallorossi see Higuaín as the perfect replacement for Edin Džeko who looks more likely to head to Inter following their failure to strike a deal with Manchester United for Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian is free to leave Old Trafford and new Inter coach Antonio Conte has made him his No.1 target this summer.
In recent days, though, Juventus look to have entered the race with Maurizio Sarri reportedly a fan. The Old Lady’s best chance of financing that deal could be a part-exchange which would see Paulo Dybala – marginalised by Cristiano Ronaldo‘s signing 12 months ago – heading to Old Trafford.
It’s a lot to unpack, so we’ve attempted to make sense of it all to decide which of the Serie A big boys stands to benefit most from this almighty striker shuffle…
The Bianconeri are the kingmakers in this. In Higuaín and Dybala they hold two players who are sought after by other clubs yet are deemed expendable in Turin.
Higuaín has been available since last summer. Despite a record of 40 Serie A goals in just 64 starts for the Old Lady, Juve have moved on and are desperately trying to sell the former Napoli hitman who enjoyed the best season of his career under Sarri in Naples. Despite that, Turin ain’t big enough for him and Ronaldo – and, maybe, Lukaku.
Dybala’s future is rather less clear-cut. On paper he seems like a natural fit in Sarri’s 4-3-3 system, playing the Dries Mertens role as a withdrawn forward. However, he spent much of last season on the right-hand side of the attack and his exit would open up a spot for Fiorentina prodigy Federico Chiesa – Juventus have been trailing the 21-year-old all summer.
And what of Icardi in all of this? Twice Capocannoniere with Inter, the 25-year-old was stripped of the captaincy last season by Luciano Spalletti, scoring just twice after returning from a self-imposed period of exile.
Over the last three seasons in Serie A only four strikers can better his return of 0.69 goals per 90 which is considerably better than his xG90 of 0.55. He is the wildcard in the pack.
Ideal window: Higuaín leaves, Icardi and Chiesa sign.
Conte made his transfer hopes clear following his appointment at San Siro. But the Nerazzurri hierarchy have failed to deliver. The former Chelsea boss intends to utilise the 3-5-2 system which brought him success at Juventus, and for that he needs two new forwards.
A painful spell back-and-forth with Manchester United has failed to yield a consensus on Lukaku’s value and now Inter could miss out to Juventus. If they really want the Belgian they may have to swallow their pride and sell Icardi to the Old Lady. The disruptive striker is persona non grata to Conte who wants him out.
The other piece of the puzzle is Džeko. The Bosnian, 33, would be the focal point of Inter’s attack in much the same way Diego Costa was in Conte’s first season in the Premier League, bringing others into play by using his body and intelligent use of space.
Džeko weighed in with six assists and created 0.24 big chances per 90 last season, as well as winning 4.64 aerial duels per 90 – the seventh-most of any forward in Serie A. He could prove the perfect foil for Lautaro Martínez, the highly talented but raw Argentine striker heading into his second season in Italy.
Ideal window: Icardi leaves with Lukaku and Džeko signing.
Like Juventus and Inter the Giallorossi are under new management this summer following the appointment of Paulo Fonseca. Five new players have arrived but a striker is required.
Enter Higuaín. He might have been a figure of fun in his short time in the Premier League but a record of 111 goals in five Serie A seasons marks the French-born forward as one of the division’s most-feared marksmen.
Unceremoniously dumped by Juve following the signing of Ronaldo a year ago, Higuaín looked back to his best while on loan at Milan in the first half of last season before missing a penalty and being sent-off against Juventus – a disaster from which he never recovered.
The Argentine is not sold on a switch to the Eternal City but he would be the main man at the Olimpico.
Ideal window: Higuaín signs, Džeko stays.