The football season in Italy has come to an end so Enzo gives a rundown of who in his view, were the winners and losers of Serie A 2022/23
The 2022/23 season is finally over and a barren summer of scrolling through the endless, underwhelming transfer updates awaits all football fans. This years edition of Serie A lacked the thrills and spills of previous seasons as most of the key races had been decided long before the final couple of weeks. That being said, the reigning champions were dethroned, some old stalwarts bid farewell to the top flight and a host of new stars emerged. Anyway, without further ado, here are my winners and losers of Serie A 2022/23.
Before a ball was even kicked most people had written off Napoli’s chances of competing for the title. Following the departures of Lorenzo Insigne, Kalidou Koulibay and Dries Mertens along with De Laurentis slashing the wage budget, many of the talking heads predicted that the Partenopei would struggle to even crack the top four. Fast forward 10 months and Napoli were crowned Serie A champions for only the third time in their history. Not only did they win the scudetto but they did it in style and with five games to spare. Napoli’s attacking brand of football spearheaded by the dynamic duo of Victor Osimhen and Kvicha Kvaratskelia set the league and Europe alight and won the club many new fans along the way.
I could have just lumped Luciano Spalletti into the above paragraph but I feel the man from Tuscany deserves a special mention. Spalletti’s managerial career in Italy has been a string of incredible collapses and ‘oh so nears’. He had the misfortune of managing one of the most supremely talented but mentally fragile teams in the era of Mourinho’s all conquering Inter. Four second place finishes with Roma including one where the Giallorossi picked up a club record of 87 points saw Spalletti dubbed ‘The man who cannot win’. Now, 13 years on from when he saw his side famously throw away the title at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, the eternal bridesmaid has finally won the silverware he so deserved.
Initially Monza looked like they would suffer the same fate as so many newly promoted clubs and be heading back to Serie B come the end of the season. One point from the opening six matches was enough to see Giovanni Stroppa, the man who had guided them to promotion, sacked and replaced by Raffaele Palladino. From that moment Monza never looked back and went on to finish in 11th place recording famous victories over Juventus, Inter and Napoli in the process. Serie A safety did come at a price though as their survival means owner Silvio Berlusconi now has to cough up over 45 million in bonuses to the players and staff. I wonder how much he is going to have to pay when they qualify for Europe next year?
I was torn between Palladino or Sousa as one of the ‘lesser’ managers to write about but in the end I decided on the latter primarily because Palladino already got a mention. Before Sousa was appointed head coach in late February, Salernitana were a shambles. Davide Nicola had already been fired only to be re-hired again 2 days later and the club were just three points above the dropzone. On top of this, the Granata had been on the wrong end of some serious drubbings, the 8-2 at the hands of Atalanta being the standout one. When Nicola was definitively sacked, Sousa immediately added some much needed stability. During his sixteen games in charge Salernitana only lost on three occasions (W4 D9 L3). As well as guiding them to a comfortable 15th place finish, Sousa made some inspired tactical changes. His decision to move Antonio Candreva from the wing into the role of trequartista gave the veteran a new lease of life and produced a number of candidates for the goal of the season award.
The Candyman! https://t.co/W2R9nq4KRM
— Enzo Chapmani (@srdenzo) May 24, 2023
For the last decade or so Serie A has been rightly or wrongly viewed as the weakest of Europe’s big five leagues. Yes it doesn’t have the marketing nous, the state of the art stadiums or the billionaire sugar daddies that other countries have but in my slightly subjective view Italian football has always had the most strength in depth. It’s undeniable that the traditional big names, Inter, Juventus and Milan have struggled to compete with their counterparts in England and Spain or the likes of Bayern Munich and PSG but drop down a couple of places and there is no comparison between Napoli, Roma, Lazio, Atalanta Fiorentina and whatever the equivalent dross Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga have to offer. Anyway this year it was nice to see that fact recognised and have calcio represented in the finals of the Champions, Europa and Conference leagues.
Even the most optimistic of supporters would struggle to take any positives from Juve’s disastrous 2022/23 season. On the field the fans were treated to some of the most turgid, excruciatingly boring football ever played at the Juventus stadium. Max Allegri’s over cautious approach didn’t even bring results and the Bianconeri only managed 4 wins in their opening 10 games. In Europe things didn’t go much better where they crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage and even managed to lose to Maccabi Haifa.
Just as things began to pick up on the pitch events off it took a turn for the worst. The club was hit with a 15 point deduction for “financial irregularities” and “false accounting” in relation to past transfer dealings. This was later reduced to 10 on appeal. They also escaped a second deduction for lying about players foregoing wages during COVID-19 by agreeing to pay a fine of €700,000.
A final day victory over Udinese was not enough for the Bianconeri to salvage something from their car crash of a season and they will have to content themselves with the ignominy of competing in next years Conference League.
Milan’s summer transfer window
After Milan’s somewhat unlikely Scudetto triumph Technical Director Paolo Maldini spoke about the need to strengthen the club and take it to the next level where it could compete with Europe’s elite. One could argue that this happened, after all Milan did reach the Champions League Semi finals, but that achievement had nothing to do with transfer market wizardry in fact, the clubs new signings barely featured all season. The two biggest names that arrived in 2022, Charles De Ketelaere and Divock Origi, were nothing short of abysmal with De Ketelaere being singled out for the most criticism. The Belgian attacking midfielder arrived for a fee of 35million and to much fanfare but contributed a total of 1 assist in over 1000 mins of football. One particularly scathing post-match review in the Gazzetta Dello Sport described him as ‘the worst player again which is becoming a common theme. Weak and bumbling around without an ounce of grit’. It’s no wonder there is talk of him being farmed out to the provinces next year.
Romelu Lukaku’s triumphant return to Inter Milan turned out to be nothing short of a disaster. The Belgian’s season was riddled with injuries, ineffectual performances and a series of incredible goal mouth howlers both for club and country. Despite scoring 10 goals, it is unlikely that Inter will keep his services and, with Chelsea looking to get rid also, a long summer of uncertainty is in store for Big Rom.
Lukaku never missed this. I refuse to believe herh 😭😭😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/9FWC41UWt5
— Concra Gh (@GhConcra) April 1, 2023
Sampdoria have tasted the bitter tang of relegation before in the not so distant past but the manner of this years demotion will be particularly galling for the fans who stuck by their side throughout. From the very outset there was no heart, passion or fight in the team, even when the pressure was really on the players never looked capable of mounting the briefest of survival pushes. To cap it all off the supporters didn’t even get the consolation of goals to cheer. Samp failed to score in 10 of their home games and only managed 24 overall. If you are going to get relegated at least try and do it with some panache.
Serie A may have had one of its best years in purely footballing terms but the league was once again blighted by some of its old problems. Juve’s dodgy dealings, the abuse of Lukaku and Dusan Vlahovic and the scenes in Budapest airport after the Europa league final all served to tarnish Italian footballs reputation abroad and diminish the achievements of Roma Fiorentina and Inter.