Friday, January 28, 2022

Serie A Star Power Index: Dybala seeks Juventus renewal, Napoli plan for Insigne’s exit to Toronto FC, more

Welcome to Serie A Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who are most controlling the buzz around Italy. Inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing. It simply means you’re capturing the Serie A world’s attention. This is also not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order as it pertains to the buzz they’re generating. 

Paulo Dybala, Juventus

The future of the Argentine striker is not as predictable as some may have predicted a few weeks ago. When asked about Dybala and a potential agreement after the Supercoppa defeat to Inter Milan, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri told reporters “the board is taking care of it.” 

Club officials have confirmed in the recent weeks that the player and board will only discuss a new deal in February. His current agreement is valid until this summer, so it makes sense why Juventus are in a hurry to find a solution. It’s worth noting that Dybala verbally agreed to a deal back in November and even publicly admitted in an event to fans that he was close to signing for another five seasons (until 2026) before Juve cooled off talks as he was working his way back from injury. 

The club also changed the conditions of the originally proposed contract in recent weeks so it remains to be seen how long it may take for the two sides to reach an agreement. In 20 games played thus far, Dybala has scored nine goals and notched four assists. Juve supporters are eager to see the club find a resolution given that Dybala is a key player and probably the most beloved aside from captain Giorgio Chiellini. 

Marcelo Brozovic, Inter Milan 

You can make the argument that the Croatian midfielder is one of the best playmakers in all of European soccer. After months of negotiations with his agent, the club finally reached a four-year agreement which is expected to be formalized in the next few days, if all goes in the right direction. 

Since Simone Inzaghi’s side is not expected to have any arrivals in the January transfer window, the Marcelo Brozovic renewal is a nice move for Nerazzurri supporters who have been patiently waiting for the club to finalize their long-term commitment to the 29-year-old. After experiencing some financial issues last summer and the shocking transfer departures of Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi weeks apart, having key players such as Lautaro Martinez, Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolò Barella recently sign contract renewals has calmed down any concerns that this team wouldn’t be able to keep pace with everyone else in Italy.

Brozovic has been a key player in the past few seasons and has practically been a permanent fixture in Inzaghi’s starting XI. He’s the type of player that can dictate the rhythm in the middle of the pitch and step up in the critical moments of the game — when you need to slow down, turn the ball, build up from your defenders, attack from the wings. 

Back in January 2018, he was one step away from joining Sevilla, but then-manager Luciano Spalletti stopped everything as Inter Milan did not have a replacement. From that moment on, everything changed for Brozovic and he’s now one of the faces of the team.

“It is impossible to replace him,” Inter Milan coach Inzaghi affirmed recently, and he won’t need to worry about that for at least four more years. 

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Lorenzo Insigne, Napoli 

The 30-year-old Napoli captain announced he will leave at the end of the season to join Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC in a surprising move that sent shockwaves in the North American landscape. 

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti, who will now have to brace Lorenzo Insigne’s departure, did not seem to be particularly bothered by the move and, in fact, used him in his starting XI 24 hours after the official announcement. Unfortunately, Insigne only lasted 29 minutes as he was subbed off against Sampdoria with a muscular injury that will likely keep him sidelined for at least three weeks. Whether or not Spalletti uses the Italian winger any differently the rest of the season remains to be seen as he works his way back into match fitness. 

What might Napoli do to fill his void? Spalletti’s side is not expected to find a replacement in the January window, which means we’ll have to wait until this summer to see what they do. Spalletti has several alternatives at his disposal, spanning from Hirving Lozano to Matteo Politano and, without forgetting, Dries Mertens. The team is responding positively to unexpected events such as Victor Osimhen’s injury, who is now very close to returning to the pitch. For now, the Partenopei fans have shown support toward Insigne as he was subbed off with an injury on Sunday. It’s important to have your supporters behind you, especially with a crucial set of games coming up in the next weeks with dates against Inter in February and Barcelona in the Europa League — all of which you can stream via Paramount+

Federico Chiesa, Juventus 

Federico Chiesa was hit with terrible news as the Juventus striker suffered an an ACL injury that will keep him out for the rest of the club season. He is expected to miss the Italian national team play-off match in March where they are pitted with North Macedonia, Turkey and Portugal where only one of those four will qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Outside of the concern for Italy, this is a serious loss for a Juventus side in desperate need to crack the top four in Serie A after a slow start to the season. Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri must seek alternative options to fill Chiesa’s void, with Federico Bernardeschi and Dejan Kulusevski now handling more responsibilities. In particular, the 21-year-old Swedish striker was initially considered a potential outgoing, but after Chiesa’s injury, he will certainly remain stay put until at least June. Chiesa only scored two goals with three assists thus far, but the striker was the star of a team and one of the few capable of winning games on his own. 

So what’s next for Juventus? They will obviously embark on a search for a new striker, even if at the moment there are not many options available in a window that is usually only made for opportunities and not for planned targets. PSG forward and ex-Inter Milan man Mauro Icardi is in a complicated situation in France. Alvaro Morata seems determined to stay in Turin despite the concrete interest of FC Barcelona. Dusan Vlahovic, on the other hand, seems destined for the Premier League, especially if he leaves this month. As for Chiesa, he’ll work his way back into best form for the start of next season in hopes of starring for Italy in the upcoming World Cup.

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