By Frank Risorto
The Chilean has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance under new manager Simone Inzaghi popping up with goals and performances, and perhaps worthy of his pay packet.
Last season Vidal found himself about as useful to Antonio Conte as a container of hair gel on a wet night in Milan, struggling for discipline and both fitness and game time never looking at home in Milan, despite being a part of a Scudetto winning squad.
This season Vidal has contributed in part to Inter’s strong start, both domestically and in Europe, in particular making crucial interventions off the bench, don’t get me wrong there’s still been moments of madness and frustration for the Interisti, but the midfielder will be hoping for one last Scudetto in his well-travelled legs.
Vidal will be hoping his return to form continues like that of fellow 34-year-old …
Salvatore Sirigu, who looks rejuvenated at Genoa, much to the delight of il Grifone faithful.
Sirigu’s contract was terminated by mutual consent at the end of the 2020–2021 season and this looked a wise move on Torino’s behalf as the keeper looked past his best.
Despite not leaving the club on the best terms the keeper was a fan favourite, yet you get the sense his departure set the tone for the new regime under then incoming manager Ivan Juric (more on him later!).
The veteran goalkeeper, who’s reported home-made pre-match motivational video ahead of the Euro 2020 final had the squad in tears, has pulled off a string of remarkable saves to keep his side in games, check out the matches against Bologna, Hellas Verona, Venezia, Sassuolo and Fiorentina highlights for examples.
Genoa have struggled defensively and as their position on the ladder indicates, yet to keep a clean sheet, (15 goals scored, 22 goals conceded) you get the sense Sirigu will be busy for a little while longer.
Whether he can keep up this form all season long though is the same question facing …
Antonio Candreva, who’s continued his around-the-clock frustratingly glorious career.
The 34-year-old’s (notice a theme here?) capable of magic in one moment and frustration seconds later, has been involved in over half of Sampdoria’s goals.
On track to produce his best Serie A season (10 goals/13 assists — Lazio 2014–15) the winger has been given a more central role this season, still with a tendency to drift to the left, Candreva has produced two stunning strikes (vs Empoli and Udinese) and with a tendency to strike on sight Samp fans will be hoping the goals continue to flow like his crosstown compatriot …
Mattia Destro, who surprisingly finds himself near the top of the Capocannoniere race.
The 30-year-old ‘right-handed one’ has scored six goals in his first seven appearances and is fast approaching 90 career Serie A goals, not bad considering between 2018–20 the striker only managed to find the net four times in 30 appearances.
As mentioned above, Genoa’s problems lay at the back with one of the league’s worst defensive records, second only to Spezia (22 goals conceded) and with Il Vecchio Balordo (the old fool, what a nickname!) firmly entrenched in a relegation battle Destro’s goals will count for very little if he can’t help his side escape from the threat of relegation.
The same can’t be said about …
Giovanni Simeone who’s already bettered his 2020–21 goal tally with Cagliari (eight goals) in his first seven appearances with Hellas Verona.
Suddenly Hellas Verona, with recently appointed manager Igor Tudor steering the ship, are the leagues free-scoring entertainers, hitting the net 21 times in his first eight matches in charge with their only defeat coming to AC Milan.
Reports in the summer had Simeone ‘training the house down’ and now at 26 and in his fifth full season in Italy, he’s well on his way to matching and beating his best season in Serie A (2017–18 with Fiorentina; 14 goals).
He could also more importantly give Hellas something they’ve been missing and craving for the last few seasons, a regular and consistent goalscoring threat, which proved no obstacle for …
Ivan Juric during his time in Verona.
The Croatian manger’s now working wonders at Torino, slowly putting together a cohesive, hard-working and young side that has transformed the mood around the club on and off the field, despite Urbano Cairo doing his utmost best to restore chaos in and around the club.
Despite Torino’s position in the standings, the atmosphere and outlook for the club’s fans is one of optimism and positivity for what lays ahead with Juric at the club and it’s refreshing after last season negative and dour campaign to merely survive in Serie A.
Juric and sporting director Davide Vagnati, have turned this side around with a limited budget and shrewd loan moves acquiring players of surplus value from Italy and abroad, much to the delight of Torino fans and the club’s benefit.
Incorporating fellow countrymen Josip Brekalo, signed on loan from Wolfsburg (touted as a future superstar a few seasons back and now looking every part like the washed up 23-year-old — sarcasm alert!) and winger Marko Pjaca from local rivals Juventus, with an option to buy.
Dennis Praet, on loan from Leicester City, looks more and more comfortable week to week returning to Italy after spending time with Sampdoria between 2016–2019.
Tommaso Pobega, on loan from AC Milan, looks to have handled the step up from last season’s Spezia exploits and regular football with Torino impeccably well.
Add to the mix Rolando Mandragora who’s been excellent since his move to Torino, and now unfortunately out injured, with his obligation to buy from Juventus, and Torino find themselves with what looks like, and it’s not often you hear this phrase in Italy, ‘a long term plan’.
Bremer, who’s been linked with a move to the EPL and usual suspects in Italy has been superb, Izzo looks like the player Inter were trying to sign in seasons past, youngster Alessandro Boungiorno a promising prospect for the future, Antonio Sanabria all of a sudden has remembered he’s a striker, Cristian Ansaldi, Ola Aina, Koffi Djidji, Sasa Lukic, Karol Linetty all look reborn and revitalised under Juric’s stewardship.
Juric has brought credibility back to Torino and will clearly be looking for the club to bring in reinforcements when the transfer window opens strengthening his squad and continuing his transition of this current Torino squad.
And all of this without a single mention of …
His importance to Torino over the past few seasons has been paramount and with what could be considered ‘unlucky’ losses to Napoli, Juventus and AC Milan (chances galore in all three games), if Belotti was present who knows how much further up the standings Juric may find his men.
Belotti’s ongoing contract saga will continue to be a major talking point until the club can secure his signature however between the star striker and manager’s personality you get the sense in no way will this always developing storyline deter the striker adding to his goal tally for Torino.
The 27-year-old’s entering his so-called ‘prime’ and it seems as though he may be at a crossroads.
For years he shone in a poor Torino side, and now with the club looking to get on track with what I’ve deemed their ‘surplus value recruitment campaign’ it would be a shame to see Torino competitive without Belotti leading the line.
Moving to a rival Serie A club has its appeal for different reasons be it Atalanta, Roma or Milan.
Belotti’s opportunity to form a legacy at Torino and position himself as a club icon once retired must surely be tempting given his past efforts and goal scoring record with the club when mulling over his new contract.
For now, Juric needs ‘il Gallo’ firing, and if Belotti proves to be that missing piece it will only be a matter of time before Torino make their way up the standings, something that must seem a world away for former Torino boss …
Walter Mazzarri as Cagliari prop up Serie A.
One victory in the past eight matches has the Sardinians occupying last position behind pre-season relegation favourites Salernitana, Venezia, Spezia etc
With sides above them progressively picking up points Mazzarri’s men need to be careful that a gap isn’t quickly established to those above them in the standings.
Injuries have played a part in Cagliari’s poor start to the season, with Marko Rog reportedly out until March next year, Dalbert until the end of November and three of their centre backs — Diego Godin, Martin Caceres and Sebastian Walukiewicz — all out injured for extended periods — however the club didn’t help themselves by rushing to sack manager Leonardo Semplici in mid-September after just three matches.
With the club reportedly giving him a contract until 2024 it begs the question who made the decision to appoint the 60-year-old in the first place given he struggled at Torino and Watford.
We’ve seen over past seasons how closely fought the relegation race in Italy can be, yet it defies somewhat reasonable logic that a side featuring the likes of Alessio Cragno, Razvan Marin, who’s been excellent this season, Sebastian Walukiewicz, Nahitan Nandez (please someone in Serie A rescue him!) and Joao Pedro are this bad however the Islanders seem to be surging ahead like a rudderless ship.
Can Mazzarri rescue his own career? And yet still manage to bring this Cagliari side back to life? If he needs inspiration for that, he needs to look no further than Verona where …
Igor Tudor has proved there’s life after Juventus and being associated with the Andrea Pirlo regime.
The Croatian manager, now in his third full time job with a Serie A club, is looking to make the most of his chances in Verona after the club dismissed Eusebio Di Francesco last month.
Since his appointment Hellas Verona have taken upon themselves to become the new entertainers of sorts, scoring goals at will, however at times conceding just as many.
Despite winning 10 out of 25 matches across all competitions in two spells with Udinese in 2018–19 Tudor was shown the door and it turns out working alongside Andrea Pirlo in Turin last season neither hurt or hindered his reputation to secure a new job.
With winnable fixtures on the horizon against the likes of Empoli, Samp, Cagliari and Venezia Hellas could find themselves firmly entrenched in the top ten by the start of December.
Could this be third time lucky for Tudor? It certainly helps his cause when someone like …
Gianluca Caprari continues his one-man renaissance in Verona.
The 28-year-old continues his one-man renaissance in Verona compared to last season at Benevento where Caprari the odd individual moment of brilliance, finishing the season with five goals, six assists, yet struggled with consistency, it didn’t help playing for a club in the midst of a relegation battle.
This season it’s a different story.
Between Caprari, who already has three goals and four assists to his name in 9 matches, Antonin Barak and the aforementioned Giovanni Simeone they’ve scored 15 goals for Hellas this season between them, over 60% Verona’s goals, and find themselves the league’s second deadliest front three behind Inter trio Edin Dzeko, Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa.
Caprari has admirably filled the boots of the departed Mattia Zaccagni, second in the league to Nicolo Barella for assists and if he keeps this up is well on his way to completing his best professional season yet beating his 2015–16 Serie B season with Pescara (38 apps. 13 goals, 12 assists).
Can Caprari keep up this run of form? The numbers and statistics say yes, but it leaves me asking can he take it one step further?
Caprari’s played for the national team at the U18, U19 and U20 level and his coach then was a certain Alberico Evani, now assistant to Azzurri CT Roberto Mancini.
If all the holes line up and Caprari soon finds himself wearing Azzurri under the watchful eye of Mancini and co there may be another miracle in Verona (not quite like a Scudetto though!) and Caprari’s career will truly be ‘rinato al Verona’.
Thanks for reading and take care all!