Italian football needs to pick itself up off the canvas after successive World Cup exits and sub-par performances in continental competition in recent years, with Scudetto dominators Juventus starting the season at 20/1 for a first Champions League triumph in 19 years.
The Old Lady have a surplus of talent on their books though, as is clear from the first of our under-the-radar picks for the forthcoming calcio campaign.
Juventus’ Domenico Berardi
It seems highly likely at this juncture that the Old Lady’s 19-year-old toyboy will spend a third season at Sassuolo, the Serie A first-timers who stayed up by a thread last term thanks in no small part to their on-loan striker.
Only six players in the division bagged more than Berardi’s 16 goals in 2013/14, which was well over a third of Eusebio Di Francesco’s side’s total league tally.
This Brazilian left-back made way for Ashley Cole at Roma earlier this summer, despite playing an important role in the Giallorossi’s much-lauded defence last term.
Rudi Garcia’s side banked eight clean sheets from the 15 Serie A matches Dodo started in 2013/14, and considering Cole is 11 years older than the man he replaced, the Nerazurri look to have snagged a €9m bargain at their rivals’ expense.
Dodo was a target for Manchester United back in the late noughties, when Sir Alex Ferguson picked up the Sao Paolo native’s full-back compatriots Rafael and Fabio da Silva.
Lazio’s Marco Parolo
This 29-year-old central-midfielder, who has spent a decade jobbing around Italy’s lower lights, has finally made the big time with a move to the Biancocelesti following a superb season for sixth-place Parma.
He has a tough task ahead of him to shift fellow internationals Christian Ledesma and Lucas Biglia in the centre of the Stadio Olimpico park, although the latter’s recent links with Real Madrid could see Parolo – who featured against England for the Azzurri at the World Cup – come to the fore.
Napoli’s Duvan Zapata
Zapata needs a big year if he is to make a belated debut in the Colombia seniors, having struggled for games at the Stadio San Paolo last term.
The 23-year-old claimed more goals than starts for Napoli in his first European campaign, and will be eager to capitalise on any scraps handed to him by coach Rafa Benitez when Gonzalo Higuain needs a rest this season.
Juventus’ Nicola Leali
Another from the Old Lady roster who’ll ply his trade in the lower reaches of Serie A this term, Leali has been handed the perfect audition in the race to eventually replace Gianluigi Buffon for club and country – which the 21-year-old is tipped to one day achieve – at newly-promoted Cesena.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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