Five Players To Watch In Serie A
Eight-time holders Juventus begin their title defence and Napoli will be looking for their first Scudetto in 30 years as Serie A returns in Italy this weekend.
Juventus, without new coach Maurizio Sarri, travel to Parma on Saturday, boosted by the signings of Matthijs De Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot this summer with veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon back in Turin.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli head for Fiorentina, with the Tuscany side boosted by the arrival of former French international Franck Ribery on a free transfer from Bayern Munich.
Chinese-owned Inter Milan have also spent big for Antonio Conte’s first season in the San Siro with Romelu Lukaku arriving for 65 million euros ($72 million).
Here, AFP Sport looks at five key players to watch in Serie A this season.
– Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) –
The Portuguese superstar begins his second campaign in Turin after securing a title in a third major European league last season. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner should provide leadership in a team in transition after coach Massimiliano Allegri’s replacement by Sarri. Ronaldo, 34, had to wait until the fourth league game last season to get off the mark, but scored 28 goals in 43 games – 21 in Serie A, six in Champions League and one in the Italian Super Cup. It was his lowest tally in a decade and one which he will be looking to improve as he targets the ultimate prize of a sixth Champions League crown.
– Matthijs De Ligt (Juventus)
One of Europe’s most sought-after players, the 19-year-old Dutch international defender captained Ajax to their most successful season in years, ousting Real Madrid and Juventus to reach the Champions League semi-finals and winning the Dutch national double. But he conceded that the chance to play alongside Ronaldo was too good to turn down. The teenager has the opportunity to become a key player in the Juventus defence alongside veterans Giorgio Chiellini, 35, and Leonardo Bonucci, 32.
– Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
After an acrimonious exit from Manchester United, the powerful forward has become the star signing for former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who had tried to capture the 26-year-old in 2017 when he moved to Old Trafford from Everton. Belgium’s all-time top scorer with 48 goals, he will be at the centre of Inter’s attack, taking the number 9 shirt from former club captain Mauro Icardi with the Argentina international frozen out. The ex-Chelsea and West Bromwich striker has been angered by suggestions he lacks fitness for Sunday’s opener against promoted Lecce. “Not bad for a fat boy,” he wrote on Instagram showing off his muscled torso.
– Hirving Lozano (Napoli)
The Mexican international has enjoyed two excellent seasons with PSV Eindhoven as a goal scoring winger. Known for his blistering pace the 24-year-old joined PSV from Pachuca in 2017 and soon found his feet in Dutch football. The winger nicknamed ‘Chucky’ has accumulated 45 goals in 83 games over two seasons. He is set to wrap up a deal reportedly worth 42 million euros).
– Mario Balotelli (Brescia)
Bad boy Balotelli desperately wants to impress at his promoted hometown club as he targets a place in Italy’s Euro 2020 squad. The 29-year-old, who has won 36 caps, last played in Serie A with AC Milan on-loan from Liverpool in the 2015-2016 season. Balotelli has been the victim of racism from fans in Italy in the past. “I hope from my heart to find a different league and not experience new episodes of racism,” he said. First he has to complete a four-game suspension for a red card while playing for Marseille before he is set to make his debut on September 25 against Juventus.
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