Written by @Matt_Santangelo and @sandro_pugliese
With the January mercato now shut closed, we look back on the top 10 deals on the Italian peninsula. The following deals are in no specifically ranked order.
Manolo Gabbiadini (Napoli >>> Southampton, €17M + bonuses)
The 25-year old Italian boasted great promise and potential upon his arrival in Naples from Sampdoria during the 2015 January mercato. Although his Napoli career started off quite well under former manager Rafa Benitez, Gabbiadini was unable to find consistency in the side. Some say he was never given a real chance to cement his name in Napoli lore. Others believe in the matches he did feature, the opportunities were not met with enough quality performances.
Still possessing major upside, Southampton shelled out 17 million euros for him with the hope of tapping into his potential. Capable of playing anywhere across the attack, manager Claude Puel will undoubtedly use that versatility to his advantage. Gabbiadini made a good impression on the Saints faithful last weekend, scoring on his debut in a losing effort to West Ham. This is a deal that could also be a victory for Napoli in the sense they really had little to no use for him yet managed a solid return.
Southampton execs and scouts had been eyeing Gabbiadini for the longest time, and are very optimistic the fee will be well worth it in the long run. Time will tell if Napoli were more to blame for his shortcomings in azzurro rather than the individuals own personal struggles.
Roberto Gagliardini (Atalanta >>> Inter, €2M 18-month loan with €20M obligation to buy)
Since Gian Piero Gasperini captained the rise of Atalanta this season, Europe’s biggest clubs have shown serious interest in the crop of fledgling young stars the club currently employs. One of those names at the heart of this new regime in Bergamo was 22-year old Roberto Gagliardini whose exploits caught the attention of Italy’s top clubs. Inter, unwilling to wait until the summer, snatched the Azzurri midfielder on a €2m loan with an obligation set at 20m euro.
The gut reaction from fans, journalists and pundits alike felt it was a bit risky due to the failures of Geoffrey Kondogbia. Since putting pen to paper on the deal, Gagliardini has quickly put the Nerazzurri supporters at ease with a series of stellar performances, most notably his debut v Chievo last month at the San Siro.
Investing in Italian youth is a model which has rapidly become the norm on the peninsula, and with a final fee of 22m, the chances are quite high of Inter coming out as major victors in this deal.
Clement Grenier (Olympique Lyonnais >>> Roma, six-month loan with €3.5M option to buy)
The assumption was that Roma would have a very active January given how tight things have become in the race for Europe. Linked mostly with attackers - particularly Gerard Deulofeu and Gregoire Defrel - Luciano Spalletti must have felt confident enough in his attack, bypassing an impactful forward and bolstering his midfield instead with the signing of Clement Grenier.
The French international arrived on a six-month loan, with Roma holding a club-friendly option of 3.5 million euros for June. It was and remains a move that flies under the radar, as it’s not the big-money transfer most Giallorossi supporters had hoped for. However, Grenier adds another dimension to the attack in the form of a quality set-piece taker and a long-range threat. In the event Spalletti does not use him much, they are not at the mercy of an obligation in the summer. Low-risk, high-reward.
Iago Falque (Roma >>> Torino, activated €5M option to buy)
After flopping hard at Roma last season, Torino loaned in the former Barcelona youth product for the 2016-17, giving new boss Siniša Mihajlović a solid attacking option provided he regains his form.
Iago Falque has re-established himself from his Genoa stay this season, with tallies of 9 goals and 4 assists in 20 Serie A appearances. Star striker Andrea Belotti has received the brunt of the praise and glory – rightfully deserved – yet the Spaniard should be lauded for helping Torino stay in the chase for Europa League. Pleased with his offensive numbers, president Urbano Cairo activated Falque’s 5 million euro option with little hesitation, a sum of money considered to be great value by current market standards.
Should Toro find their way into Europe with a top five finish, the 27-year old globetrotter will surely play a major role in their qualification.
Assane Gnoukouri (Inter >>> Udinese, six-month loan with €4M option to buy)
Once part of the Marseille youth system, Assane Gnoukouri broke into Inter’s senior team under former manager Roberto Mancini in 2015. While having performed well on one of the biggest stages of European football two years ago– the Derby della Madonnina – the 20-year old has struggled to find regular pitch time for the Milanese giant.
The Nerazzurri, who have shown reluctance in recent years of implementing youth, are mostly at fault here for his limited action. In the few appearances he has made, Gnoukouri showed great promise and composure. As a result, Udinese were quick to snap the young Ivorian on a six-month loan.
Employing very few impactful players in the midfield, Gnoukouri should see a substantial hike in minutes with Luigi Delneri’s Zebrette through the end of the campaign. If all goes according to plan, he will flourish at the Friuli, have his option picked up in June and become a mainstay in the middle of the park next season.
Riccardo Saponara (Empoli>>>Fiorentina, 18-month loan with €9M obligation to buy)
Fiorentina surprised many when they signed one of the most underrated midfielders on the peninsula late in the window. Milan will reportedly receive 30% of the transfer fee as part of the deal that brought him to Empoli. Saponara has been a consistent performer for the Tuscan side over the years. In the past three seasons, the midfielder racked up 14 goals and 15 assists in 68 Serie A appearances. Saponara is a highly skilled player who does a great job creating chances for his teammates. With good dribbling skills and the eye for through balls to spilt the defense, he should fit into Paulo Sousa’s system quite well.
Marco Sportiello (Atalanta>>>Fiorentina, 18-month loan with €6M option to buy)
La Viola signed another formidable Italian talent at a very reasonable price in the 24-year-old goalkeeper. The move should be beneficial to the keeper as well who needs to get playing time again and regain confidence. Sportiello, who came through the youth system at Atalanta, had been demoted to the bench this season in favor of Etrit Berisha. After two impressive seasons as the starter, Sportiello earned high praise from many, including talk about being a potential keeper for the national team in the future. La Viola were able to find an upgrade between the posts when his price tag was quite low. He may need some time to get back his match sharpness back but make no mistakes about it; Sportiello is a very good goalkeeper.
Juventus snap up young talents
Riccardo Orsolini (Ascoli>>>Juventus, €6M + €4M in potential bonuses)
Mattia Caldara (Atalanta>>>Juventus, €15M + €10M in potential bonuses)
While both of these young Italian talents will remain at their respective clubs on loan to gain more experience and maturity, Juventus further solidified their future. Orsolini is a talented winger with impressive dribbling skills, useful speed and has the ability to whip in a good cross. While the 20-year-old was being linked to Milan in early January, his name recognition took off after this video went viral on Twitter.
The youngster would probably fit into Juve’s new 4-2-3-1 formation quite well and we might see him there soon enough.
On the other hand, the Bianconeri managed to snap up another one of Italy’s most talented and sought after defenders in Mattia Caldara. Another gifted Atalanta youth talent, the central defender is very good at reading the game and making interceptions while also being calm on the ball. Caldara has even scored three goals so far this season in 15 league appearances. A future back-line led by Daniele Rugani and Mattia Caldara is a mouth-watering prospect.
Simone Zaza (Juventus>>>Valencia, €2M loan + €16M conditional obligation to buy)
Zaza’s stint at West Ham did not go well to say the least. In 11 appearences in all competitions, the striker failed to score a single goal or register an assist. Even after a poor and extremely forgettable time in the Premier League, Juventus were still able to get a good return for the striker. Now infamous for his penalty in Euro 2016, Zaza just never adapted and settled in at the London club. Perhaps a move to Spain might be a better fit but Juve will still be content with the deal they got.
Oscar Hiljemark (Palermo>>>Genoa, €2.5M)
Genoa were able to snap up a proven midfielder at a low cost. Although he didn’t make an appearance, Hiljemark was part of Sweden’s EURO 2016 squad. He will be able to immediately step into Genoa’s midfield and contribute, especially after the departure of Tomas Rincon. Last season, Hiljemark featured in 38 matches for the Sicilian club tallying 4 goals and 5 assists in a season that nearly saw the Rosanero drop to the second division. His short passes and maneuvers in close quarters open an outlet for goal opportunities in the final third. Hiljemark might not be a flashy signing but he will competent midfielder making solid contributions.