Over the past few seasons, a couple of top Serie A talents have moved to the Barclays Premier League but haven’t found much success. The two leagues are quite different in their playing styles. Serie A is a much more tactical league, where finesse players like Jovetic and Borini can thrive, while the EPL is much more fast paced and physical. Many players who have flourished in Italy have struggled to adapt to the speed and physicality of the Premier League.
In January of 2014, Chelsea signed Mohamed Salah from Basel for £11 million. After making only 19 appearances and scoring two goals in all competitions, the winger was loaned out to Fiorentina in January last year and he took Serie A by storm. In 912 minutes of league play, Salah scored six goals and provided three assists for La Viola. Following a complicated situation, the Egyptian refused to remain on loan at the Tuscan club and he eventually moved to AS Roma. According to reporter Gianluca Di Marzio, the capital club signed Salah from Chelsea on a €2 million loan with a €20 million forced option to buy. While if this report is true, Chelsea will indeed turn a profit but Salah never had even half the success in the EPL that he’s found in Serie A.
Chelsea also signed Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina in the next winter transfer window on February 2nd 2015 for €35 million. The Columbian winger was expecting to give Jose Mourinho’s side a new dynamic with some more pace on the flanks. Unfortunately that never really worked out. Cuadrado has made a total of 15 appearances for the London club, playing a total of 363 minutes in all competitions and not scoring a single goal. After joining Juventus on loan, the Colombian looked the explosive winger he was at Fiorentina. He already has 2 goals and 4 assists in Serie A play and provided Juve a much-needed spark when their attack was struggling early in the season. Most people, including myself, thought Cuadrado would be successful at Chelsea but for some reason he never really fit into Mourinho’s plans and he didn’t perform well with the small amount of playing time he got. There have been reports that the Bianconeri are interested in signing Cuadrado on a permanent basis and if will discuss that will Chelsea either now or in June.
Stevan Jovetic moved from Fiorentina to Manchester City for a reported £22 million in July of 2013. The Montenegrin constantly had injury troubles, making only 13 league appearances in the 2013-2014 season and 17 league appearances in 2014-2014. Jovetic scored a total of 8 goals and 4 assists for Man City, all coming in the Premier League. In July 2015, he joined Inter on an 18-month loan worth €2.5 million with an obligation to buy for an extra €14 million. So despite Jovetic underperforming at Manchester City, the Citizens were able to just about recover their investment when you consider the pounds to euro exchange rate. The striker has already got 4 goals and 2 assists this season in only 880 minutes, including a game winner in the 93rd minute on his debut, early in the season. Jovetic seems to have returned to his playing style at Fiorentina, where he’s much more comfortable and can both score and create goals. Unfortunately, Jovetic’s main problem was the physicality and staying healthy. He is in fact a very talented player but just too fragile for the Premier League.
Liverpool signed two Italian from Roma just two years apart but both are considered very disappointing. The Reds paid €20 million and signed central midfielder Alberto Aquilani to a five-year contract in August 2009. Aquilani made just 28 appearances in all competitions over two seasons before being loaned out to Juventus and then Milan for back-to-back seasons. Liverpool finally cut their ties with Aquilani in the summer of 2012, when he joined Fiorentina for a very minor fee, possibly for free. Aquilani cost Liverpool €714,285 every time he made an appearance on the pitch. I simply don’t think Aquilani was suited for England at all; his game is too slow and not physical enough. His slower pace is certainly better for Serie A, where he had much more time on the ball. Alberto did re-establish his career at Fiorentina after playing well, making Italy’s 2013 Confederations Cup Squad and the 2014 World Cup squad.
Fabio Borini was the first signing of the Brendan Rodgers era at Liverpool in July of 2009 as Roma received €13.3 million in the deal. In his first season, Borini suffered a broken ankle and a fractured shoulder but he made 13 league appearances, netting one goal. The striker was sent to Sunderland on loan for the 2013-2014 season and he actually performed reasonably well. He scored 10 goals and racked up 3 assists in 40 appearances across all competitions. In the summer of 2014, Liverpool accepted a £14 million offer from Sunderland but Borini opted against the move to fight for his spot in Liverpool’s first team. After only 18 appearances that season, Fabio Borini joined Sunderland for reportedly £8 million, signing a 4-year contract. So €13.3 million got Liverpool a grand total of 38 appearances and just 3 goals in all competitions. I think one hit season at Roma, overhyped Borini a bit but also that he belongs in Italy as a prima punta.
While we’re on Liverpool, let’s just briefly touch upon Mario Balotelli, who LFC bought in August 2014 from Milan for £16 million. He scored one goal in 940 minutes of league play and added one goal in both the Champions League and Europe League. It was a very disappointing season for Balotelli who struggled under Brendan Rodgers. This past summer he re-joined Milan under loan, where he’s seemed to turn a corner in his career, working hard and playing well. He even scored a fantastic free kick against Udinese (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ1XzDXiUG8). Unfortunately he suffered a groin injury, which required surgery and he is just returning to full fitness. There has even been talk of Balotelli possibly returning to Liverpool this month since Jürgen Klopp is now in charge. Whether he returns now or over the summer, Balotelli will probably have another chance to prove himself at Liverpool. We know that Balotelli can perform well in England as we saw at Manchester City but it clearly didn’t work with Brendan Rodgers maybe it’ll be different with Klopp.
After a breakout 2012-2013 season at Roma with 15 goals and 5 assists, Erik Lamela moved to Tottenham Hotspur for £25.8 million + £4 million in bonuses. He really struggled to find time in his first season, playing only 329 minutes in the Premier League with one assist. His 2014-2015 season was much better as he made 33 league appearances, with 2 goals and 7 assists. Lamela has also done fairly well this season with 8 goals and 3 assists in all competitions so far. While he has cost Tottenham £1.78 million for each goal he’s scored thus far, the Argentine has played much better under Mauricio Pocchetino than he did under Andre-Villas Boas. While I think his one great season at Roma inflated his price and overhyped his actual talent, this season may be the beginning of Lamela turning his Tottenham career in the right direction.
Of course there are players who move from Serie A to England and live up to their price tag and perform well but quite often we’ve seen players flop. There are many factors that could play into this like the coach’s system, adjusting to a new club even the lifestyle difference from Italy to England.