Written by Matt Santangelo (@Matt_Santangelo) & Alessandro Pugliese (@sandro_pugliese)
Within hours of the January mercato closing for business, we take a look at some of the underrated deals that happened. From bargain prices to little known talents here are some deals that got the best for their buck.
Oscar Hiljemark (Palermo > Genoa, loan with obligation to buy at €2.5 million)
Palermo isn’t exactly a hotbed for top talent. However, one of the few players worthy of a look was 24-year old Oscar Hiljemark. The Swede will be a welcoming addition to Ivan Juric’s midfield, which must cope with the departure of its brutish force, Tomas Rincon, who made the switch to Juventus. Hiljemark is a ready-to-go starter for Genoa who is fully capable of playing in several midfield roles. His short passes and maneuvers in close quarters open an outlet for goal opportunities in the final third. Take his 2016-17 statistics with a large grain of salt. Last year, Hiljemark featured in 38 matches for the Rosanero tallying 4 goals and 5 assists in a season that nearly saw the Sicilians drop to the second division. Palermo sit 19th in the league and have once again made a move at the post, sacking Eugenio Corini for Diego Lopez. Hiljemark’s upside exceeds the fee Genoa president Enrico Preziosi spent for his signature.
Genoa has been praised for the shrewd business of selling Leonardo Pavoletti and Rincon, but should be applauded for snagging Hiljemark on a market-friendly fee.
Leonardo Morosini (Brescia > Genoa, €2.5 million purchase)
Before Genoa added Hiljemark to fill the void left behind by Rincon, Preziosi flew under the radar by adding to his clubs’ youth for the future.
Earlier in the window, the Rossoblu began bolstering the attack with skill players, adding 21-year old Leonardo Morosini from Brescia. Primarily an attacking midfielder, the Italy U-21 international had been deployed out wide under manager Cristian Brocchi this season before his move to the top-flight. In 13 Serie B matches for the Leonessa, Morosini held a respectable 4 goals and 1 assist. With this versatility, Juric now has another alternative on the bench to look at late in matches.
Investing in Italian youth is quickly becoming common practice amongst Serie A competitors. Along with Morosini, Genoa added SPAL playmaker Andrea Beghetto who looks ready for the next level. Rather than pocketing the money from the sales of his two stars and staying the course as a mid-table club, Preziosi acted accordingly to ensure Genoa were in position to compete – for the present and future.
Marco Sportiello (Atalanta > Fiorentina, 18 month loan with €6 million obligation to buy)
Fiorentina managed to sign a young yet proven goalkeeper at a very reasonable price. 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. La Viola faithful will be delighted with their clubs January transfer window and can expect many productive years from the 24-year-old in net.
Miha Zajc (NK Olimpija > Empoli, €1.5 million)
This is certainly an under-the-radar signing of a little known talent. The 22-year-old Slovenian joins Empoli as they sold their best midfielder Riccardo Saponara to Fiorentina. Zajc’s skillset is actually quite similar to Piotr Zielinski, who Empoli sold last summer to Napoli. He brings a high work rate and energy to the midfield while also being very effective with both feet. Zajc is primarily a central midfielder but can also play out on the wing. He scored 18 goals in 74 appearances in the Slovenian PrvaLiga. The Tuscan club has struggled this season and now Zajc will be asked to fill the big shoes of Saponara. It won’t be an easy task but expect Zajc to fit into Empoli’s style of play quite well and for the Slovenian to make an instant impact in the midfield.
(Shoutout to @SLOSpy for some info on Zajc)
Kevin Lasagna (Carpi > Udinese, €4.5M)
The club from Udine snapped up the striker who will stay on loan at Carpi in Serie B for the rest of this season.
Lasagna has scored nine goals in 17 appearances for Carpi in the second division this year. The 24-year-old Italian will bring some needed speed and creativity up top that Udinese has been lacking since Antonio Di Natale left the club. In Serie A last season, Lasagna was mostly used as a substitute but made noteworthy impacts. He became known in the calcio community after scoring goals in big games against Fiorentina, Inter and Roma. Expect Lasagna to make significant contributions to Udinese’s attack starting next season.