In the 2019 summer transfer window and the recent January one, it feels like we have seen loads of players make the switch from the Premier League to Serie A.
Although the Italian top flight isn’t what it was back in the 90’s, with Football Italia gracing our screens every Saturday morning and Messrs Inzaghi, Gascoigne and Baggio banging in the goals, it certainly seems to have recovered some of the allure that made it such an attractive prospect 25 years ago.
For several years now, the Premier League has been perceived to be the pinnacle of the professional league system in Europe. The UEFA coefficient ranking however (February 2020) places Spanish La Liga in top spot, with the English league playing second fiddle.
For Serie A however, despite still being included in the ubiquitous ‘Europe’s top 5 leagues’ argument, it can’t really hold a candle to its continental counterparts – and that boils down to the dearth of the competition.
The Scudetto hasn’t left Turin for the last 8 full seasons, with Juventus claiming their 35th Italian crown last season, a clear 17 titles better off than their nearest competitors A.C. Milan, who incidentally were the last team to win Serie A other than Juventus in 2011.
Never before in Italian football has a side won so many championships consecutively. The last team to string anywhere close to Juve’s back-to-back record in the modern era was Inter Milan, with five titles between 2005 and 2010. Before that, you’d need to rewind to the early 40’s where Torino also scooped five Scudettos.
For comparison, even Paris Saint Germain’s iron grip on the French league (since the money came in at least) was rudely interrupted by a defiant Monaco side in 2017.
This season though, there are cracks beginning to show in the Juve tyranny. Even with the presence of master executioner Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks, Maurizio Sarri’s men have a bold new challenger – in the form of a rejuvenated Inter Milan.
The Nerazzuri have announced themselves in the Serie A title race this season, neck-and-neck with Juventus. A marked improvement considering their chasmic 21-point deficit to top spot last campaign. Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has mustered a collection of ex-Premier League players to ignite a flame under an Inter side who have placed in Serie A’s top 4 in three of their past four seasons.
It seems as if the Premier League has been particularly pillaged by Italian sides over the last two transfer windows, with what feels like half of Manchester United relocating to the Mediterranean. Of the 11 players on loan in Serie A from Premier League sides, four are borrowed from United, with three of those at Inter.
Every club in the division bar basement boys S.P.A.L. have some form of Premier League representation, with 48 players across the other 19 clubs having plied their trade in England at one time or another.
Perhaps it is no coincidence then, that Serie A has become a tighter race this season, with both Inter Milan and Juventus boasting 6 players each who have previously played in the far more competitive and intense English top flight.
Only Roma, another institution of the Italian league, have more former Premier League players in their squad than the current top two with seven.
International superstars like Lukaku, Eriksen and Ibrahimović have all pitched up in Serie A this season, and one of the best ever to play the game, Cristiano Ronaldo, is also operating in Italy.
With an influx of ex-Premier League talent and increased competitiveness, are we finally starting to see the Italian league shake the protracted shackles of mediocrity, and become the blend of flair and fire it was so loved for almost three decades ago?
Perhaps not quite. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see more from the Premier League swap pies and pints for pasta and prosecco.
Premier League Players In Italy – The Breakdown
Marten de Roon MF Middlesbrough (16-17) 34 (4)
Gary Medel MF Cardiff City (13-14) 34 (0)
Mario Balotelli FW Manchester City (10-13), Liverpool (14-16) 70 (21)
Ragnar Klavan DF Liverpool (16-18) 39 (1)
Rachid Gezzal (Loan) FW Leicester City (18-) 19
Martin Caceres DF Southampton (17) 1 (0)
Patrick Cutrone (Loan) FW Wolverhampton Wanderers (19-) 12 (2)
Antonio Barreca (Loan) DF Newcastle United (19) 1
Valon Behrami MF West Ham United (08-11), Watford (15-17) 101 (4)
Hellas Verona (1)
Fabio Borini FW Chelsea (09-11), Liverpool (12-15), Sunderland (13-18) 111 (16)
Alexis Sanchez (Loan) FW Arsenal (14-18), Manchester United (18-) 154 (63)
Romelu Lukaku (Loan) FW Chelsea, West Brom, Everton, Manchester United (11-) 252 (113)
Victor Moses (Loan) DF Wigan, Chelsea, Liverpool, Stoke, West Ham (10-) 220 (20)
Ashley Young (Loan) DF Watford (06-07), Aston Villa (07-11), Man United (11-) 369 (48)
Borja Valero MF West Bromwich Albion (08-11) 30 (0)
Christian Eriksen MF Tottenham Hotspur (13-20) 226 (51)
Wojciech Szczesny GK Arsenal (09-17) 132 (48 cs)
Cristiano Ronaldo FW Manchester United (03-09) 196 (84)
Aaron Ramsey MF Arsenal (08-19) 262 (40)
Danilo DF Manchester City (17-19) 34 (4)
Juan Cuadrado FW Chelsea (15-17) 13 (0)
Gonzalo Higuain FW Chelsea (Loan, 19) 14 (5)
Lucas Leiva MF Liverpool (07-17) 247 (1)
Luis Alberto FW Liverpool (13-16) 9 (0)
Felipe Caicedo FW Manchester City (08-11) 26 (4)
Giannelli Imbula MF Stoke City (16-) 26 (2)
A.C. Milan (2)
Asmir Begovic GK Portsmouth, Stoke, Chelsea, Bournemouth (05-) 252 (1) (61 cs)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic FW Manchester United (16-18) 33 (17)
Fernando Llorente FW Swansea City (16-17), Tottenham Hotspur
(17-19) 69 (17)
David Ospina GK Arsenal (14-19) 29 (12 cs)
Gervinho FW Arsenal (11-13) 46 (9)
Matteo Darmian DF Manchester United (15-19) 60 (1)
Davide Zappacosta (loan) DF Chelsea (17-) 26 (1)
Chris Smalling (loan) DF Fulham (08-10), Manchester United (10-) 219 (12)
Edin Dzeko FW Manchester City (11-16) 130 (50)
Aleksandar Kolarov DF Manchester City (10-17) 165 (11)
Davide Santon DF Newcastle United (11-15) 82 (1)
Federico Fazio DF Tottenham Hotspur (14-17) 20 (0)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (loan) MF Manchester United (16-18), Arsenal (18-) 78 (13)
Gaston Ramirez FW Southampton, Hull, Middlesbrough (12-17) 94 (9)
Manolo Gabbiadini FW Southampton (17-19) 51 (10)
Maya Yoshida (L) DF Southampton (12-) 154 (6)
Jeremie Boga MF Chelsea (15-18) 1 (0)
Pedro Obiang MF West Ham United (15-19) 91 (3)
Vlad Chiriches DF Tottenham Hotspur (13-15) 27 (1)
Ola Aina DF Chelsea (15-19) 3 (0)
Stefano Okaka FW Watford (16-19) 36
Sebastian Prodl DF Watford (15-20) 78 (3)