The campaign in Italy’s Serie A starts this Saturday. AC Milan hope to defend the Scudetto after a remarkable run to the title last season, their first league trophy in 11 years. Meanwhile, Cagliari, Genoa, and Venezia have been relegated and replaced by new and old faces alike.
Lecce returns to Italy’s top tier after two years in Serie B. The club spent a large part of their 114-year history bouncing back and forth between Italy's second and first divisions, making their debut in Serie A only in the 1985–86 season. Lecce showed more consistency in the past year, never having dropped out of the top four in the second half of the season, and finally won the Serie B title.
They are embarking on the new season without two important players. Top striker Massimo Coda has just left for Genoa, after winning the Serie B golden boot in the past two seasons, having hit the 20-goal mark in both periods. Goalkeeper Gabriel helped Lecce record the fewest goals conceded in the league in the past season and kept 14 clean sheets – now he has returned to his homeland, Brazil’s Coritiba. Replacing Gabriel in goal, Lecce recruited two new goalkeepers: Wladimiro Falcone from Sampdoria and Federico Brancolini from Fiorentina. 25-year-old Brazilian right-winger Gabriel Strefenzza (worth EUR 7.4m), who scored 14 goals in the last season, will be pivotal in attack, supported by two new joiners: forwards Lorenzo Colombo (on loan from AC Milan) and Assan Ceesay (arriving from FC Zürich).
Did you know? One of Italy’s most prominent players and managers, Antonio Conte, was born in Lecce and began his career at the local club, recording 99 appearances and one goal for Lecce.
Cremonese are launching their sixth Serie A campaign – besides having four 1-year spells in the top tier in the past, their best performance was a 3-year period in Italy’s first division from 1993 to 1996. Now they have won promotion by finishing second in the Serie B, only two points behind league winners Lecce.
The good performance came from a squad with many top players being on loan from other clubs, in particular, Juventus-loanee Nicolò Fagioli orchestrating in midfield and contributing seven assists. It will be interesting to see how the team copes with much turnover in their squad as many loanees returned to their parent club. The bulk of the team is quite young; only six players are above 30 in the current squad.
Did you know? Former Cremonese players included such stars as Gianluca Vialli, Antonio Cabrini, Enrico Chiesa and Giuseppe Favalli.
The city of Monza now hopes to put its name on the map not only for its famous racetrack, the Monza Circuit which hosts Formula 1 races, but also for its football team – AC Monza start their first campaign in Serie A in their 110-year history, and plan to set their feet in the top flight.
The club’s spectacular rise came in the wake of Silvio Berlusconi taking over the then third-tier club in 2018. Two years later, they returned to the second division after a 19-year absence, and in two more years progressed further to Serie A. Last season produced potent attacking play, with three players recording more than 10 goals: their top scorer, 32-year-old Danish forward Christian Gytkjær, alone registering 14 goals. Nevertheless, preparing for their debut Serie A season, Monza has already made several moves in the current transfer window, signing many of the players they had previously on loan, and also signing others. The highlight of them is Matteo Pessina, who has initially joined on loan from Atalanta, but the club have an obligation to buy him at the end of the season if they stay up. Pessina was part of Italy’s last European Championship-winning team and is currently Monza’s most valuable player at EUR 20m according to Football Benchmark figures. The signing of Alessio Cragno from Cagliari in goal also adds much-needed Serie A experience to the squad. He also joins on loan with an obligation to buy if Monza avoid relegation.
Did you know? Before their promotion, Monza were the club with the most Serie B seasons (40) without ever playing in the Serie A.