While the January transfer window in the Premier League and La Liga had more successful plot twists and explosive moves than “The Last Jedi”, the ( lack thereof ) activity in Serie A was a reminder as to why this window is referred to as the “mercato di riparazione” in Italy.
As Kevin Egan pointed out on Twitter, since the beginning of the new year Atlanta United outspent the top teams in Serie A combined, and you can make a great case Benevento, of all teams, signed the most recognizable name when they acquired Bacary Sagna. But despite the lack of activity for the teams in the race for the scudetto and Champions League, there were still some interesting story lines to break down- let’s take a look at the winners and losers of the window in Italy:
Genoa: while much has been made about what Pietro Pellegri’s transfer to Monaco says about Italian football, it’s also a huge win for Genoa’s youth system. Preziosi’s club develop a prospect that was linked to Inter, Milan and Juventus before landing in one of the best destinations for an up and coming player. In the process, Genoa made a small fortune and likely benefitted the Italian national team in the long run.
In addition to making a massive plusvalenza on Pellegri, Genoa added two starting caliber players in midfielder Bessa and highly rated right back Pedro Pereira, who is no stranger to Serie A and the Marassi stadium after previously playing for Sampdoria. Sporting director Perinetti also brought back midfielder Hiljemark from Panathinaikos, a move specifically requested by manager Ballardini. If Genoa can get something from Giuseppe Rossi, they could be the most improved team in all of Serie A.
Inter: while the January window feels like a disappointment after the nerazzurri failed to land Pastore, they are still the most improved squad at the top the standings. While this has more to do with Juventus, Napoli, Roma and Lazio’s inactivity, Inter does have a fairly significant margin for improvement if Rafinha can stay healthy and adapts to Serie A while Lisandro Lopez could become a valid alternative to Skriniar and Miranda.
Sassuolo: adding two starting caliber players and redeeming a well known prospect from Juventus, weren’t the main story lines involving the neroverdi- the true winners of the January window. The Politano saga dominated the last few days of the transfer window, and the fact that Napoli was willing to offer essentially 30 million (between the fee for Sassuolo and the price to give them his replacement in Farias) led many to wonder- who was crazier between the partneopei for offering so much or Sassuolo for turning it down?
The failure of this transfer to go through led to many conspiracy theories- but while it’s certainly true that Sassuolo have a great relationship with Juventus, further demonstrated by the Lirola deal, they are also a very wealthy club for Serie A standards- they had no reason to sell one of their best players while they are just 5 points above the relegation zone. In addition to keeping Politano, sporting director Carnevali also added talented Fiorentina striker Babacar and Football Manager legend Maurico Lemos, who should be an intriguing upgrade to Iachini’s defense.
Lazio: no team has more positive momentum in all of Serie A than the biancocelesti. Simone Inzaghi’s squad is a serious contender for a Champions League spot, and the team received a boost from Felipe Anderson’s return as well as the addition of Martin Caceres- someone with experience on title winning teams and who can provide insurance to every role on defense.
Another reason why Lazio leave the January window as winners is that while they’re clearly on the rise, their cross town rivals are struggling with results on the pitch and with how they are perceived off it- there’s no doubt that at the moment Igli Tare’ is considered the best sporting director in Italy’s capital despite Monchi’s established brand name.
Napoli: should they fail to win the scudetto this season, many will point to what happened during the January window as the reason. The partenopei seemed to have a good plan, go after a player with the potential to be a true difference maker in Simone Verdi early in the window, while also pursuing worthy alternatives like Deulofeu and Younes.
By now we all know how this ended- Verdi decided to turn down the chance of being part of a team with a legitimate chance at winning a historic scudetto, Younes visited the San Paolo and took a medical only to decide to wait until the summer to join, and Deulofeu- who had already proved himself in Serie A- ended up on loan at Watford on the last day of the transfer window.
We may also look back at this window as the time Napoli dodged a big bullet by not overpaying for Politano, but that will only be the case if Sarri’s squad can hold off Juventus until the end of the season. While Napoli had the resources and the opportunities to increase their odds of winning the scudetto through the transfer market, they will at least receive a boost from the returns of Milik and especially Ghoulam.
Roma: while the giallorossi made a substantial profit by replacing Emerson Palmieri with Jonathan Silva and ended up keeping all of their best players, the way they’re perceived has certainly taken a hit in the past month. The fact that the giallorossi came so close to selling their top striker in Edin Dzeko despite qualifying for the round of sixteen in the Champions League was a stark reminder that Monchi probably regrets proclaiming that Roma aren’t a super market.
While Inter and Lazio added Rafinha and Caceres respectively, Monchi didn’t give his own manager any new alternatives in the race for a Champions League spot. Roma will need a strong second half of the season to recreate the enthusiasm we saw around the club after they won the group of death in the Champions League and made progress on the new stadium front.
Suning: just a few months ago they were being praised for being the polar opposite of Milan’s ownership- but now they’re about as popular with their fan base as Kanye West at a Taylor Swift concert. While Suning did inherit the Financial Fair Play issues from the previous administration, during the January window they could have likely done more to bring in Pastore and especially Ramires, who just happens to play for the Chinese club they own.
Juventus: after Benatia took the time machine and reemerged as the player he was at Udinese and Roma, the bianconeri entered the January window with no real short term needs. As a result, Marotta and Paratici spent the last few weeks building the Juventus of the future by going after the top talents in Italy (Barella, Han, Pellegri to name a few) and Emre Can, whom they hope turns out to be the new Pirlo or Khedira rather than Witsel.
While Juventus made some good financial deals for Lirola and Caligara- players they retained a buy back clause on in what can be best described as the evolution of the co ownership deal- and likely found more playing time for Orsolini by sending him to Bologna, they may regret loaning out Marko Pjaca after both Dybala and Cuadrado suffered injuries.