After practically falling off the face of European football for a good five years, Serie A is back on the rise.
Indeed, last season’s Champions League final saw Italian champs Juventus square off against La Liga counterparts Barcelona and that impressive progression in Europe’s flagship tournament has had a trickle down effect throughout the division.
Just take a look at some of Serie A’s biggest deals in the transfer market this summer; the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Carlos Bacca, Sami Khedira, Mario Mandzukic, Miranda, Luiz Adriano, Martin Montoya and Pepe Reina have all joined Italian outfits from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, not least including Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Of course, where Serie A still lacks is finance – which gives the Premier League a fantastic opportunity to snap up some of their top stars without having to pay top transfer fees.
With that in mind, we take a look at FIVE players from the Italian top flight that Chelsea could snap up before the transfer window closes on September 1st.
Should Chelsea decide to sell Juan Cuadrado this summer – which seems more than likely if they’re approached with a decent offer considering the minuscule impact he’s had since moving to west London in January – we could see them launch a bid for long-term target Jose Callejon.
The versatile former Real Madrid attacker, who was one of Jose Mourinho’s most trusted squad options during their two seasons together at the Bernabeu, claimed last summer that the Blues were looking to sign him and the rumours have resurfaced over the last few months.
He’s certainly a Mourinho-esque player, as a hardworking forward equally comfortable in any position across the attacking midfield berth; whilst a return of 26 goals and nine assists during his two Serie A campaigns with Napoli suggests the 28 year-old possesses the firepower to be a hit in the Premier League.
The Naples outfit’s failure to qualify for the Champions League at the end of last season adds further substance to rumours that the Spaniard could be heading out of Stadio San Paolo’s exit door.
But along with the Blues, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs have all been linked this summer.
Another candidate to fill Cuadrado’s not-so-almighty void is Lazio star Felipe Anderson, whose stock throughout European football appears to be rising by the game.
Indeed, after spending the 2013/14 campaign finding his feet at Stadio Olympico following a €7.8million move from Santos, the prodigious Brazilian bagged ten goals and seven assists in just 23 Serie A starts last term, whilst averaging the third-most dribbles per match (3.3) of an player in the division.
As a hardworking and versatile wideman, averaging 1.9 tackles per match last season and featuring in a variety of positions ranging from central midfield to centre-forward, the 22 year-old certainly fits the template of typical Mourinho signings.
However, The Express claim Lazio have recently rejected a £25million offer from Manchester United, whilst mooting Bayern Munich as fellow suitors, so there’s already plenty of competition for the winger’s signature. Anderson, meanwhile, has insisted he won’t leave the club this summer.
A potential recruit for Chelsea’s ever-expanding loan army, the Premier League champions were linked with Ghanaian prodigy Godfred Donsah earlier this month, leading to the moniker of ‘the next Michael Essien’.
The 19 year-old impressed in a cameo role for Cagliari last season, grabbing two goals and one assist in 20 Serie A appearances (around half of which were from the bench), and also represented the Black Stars at the U20 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this summer.
Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini has confirmed he’s been approached by the Premier League champions, along with their Serie A counterparts Juventus, telling reporters; “We had a chat a few weeks ago with Juventus and Chelsea, but I am stunned by all these rumours around him. The lad needs to grow up with us.”
That suggests the Italian outfit aren’t in the mood to sell; they’ve allegedly already turned down a £4.2million offer from the Old Lady.
But as a relatively inexpensive youngster already demonstrating promising form in a major top flight, Donsah certainly meets Chelsea’s usual criteria for additions to their almighty farming out brigade. With two weeks left to go, there’s still time for the Blues to strike a deal.
Another one of Serie A’s most exciting young prospects, Chelsea are just one of three Premier League clubs believed to be eyeing Juventus defender Daniele Rugani, who at this point in the transfer window could be billed as a cheaper alternative to Everton’s John Stones.
The 6 foot 2 centre-back spent the last two season with Empoli as part of a 50% ownership agreement and hugely impressed, playing a pivotal role in firstly, their promotion to the top flight in 2014 and secondly, their successful survival bid last season – featuring in every second of their 15th-place league campaign.
Italy is renowned for its ability to produce world-class centre-backs and the 20 year-old appears to be the next on the conveyor belt, having already represented Azzurri at youth level on 45 occasions.
But the Blues face feisty competition for the £10million-rated defender from Arsenal and Manchester United, whilst Juventus will be reluctant to sell a prodigious youngster they only acquired full ownership rights to in February.
The second Napoli player on this list, in no small part due to their aforementioned failure to qualify for the Champions League at the end of the season.
That makes Gonzalo Higuain easily the most talented striker in Europe not featuring in the continent’s flagship tournament this term, resulting in continuous rumours of an abrupt departure from Stadio San Paolo and speculative reports of a move to Chelsea.
The Argentina international is best famed for his profligacy in front of goal, recording of 217 goals in 459 outings from his spells with River Plate, Real Madrid, the Naples outfit and Abliceleste.
But the 27 year-old has more to his game than simply putting the ball in the onion bag; he’s claimed eleven assists in 52 outings for his country and 15 over the last two campaigns in Serie A. In fact, he spent as much of last season on the wing as he did at centre-forward.
Of course, Chelsea have already signed Radamel Falcao this summer and resultantly, Jose Mourinho’s transfer attentions are focused on other areas of his squad – particularly, the defence.
But there’s no doubt Higuain is a superior option to both the Colombian loanster and Loic Remy, so he’d certainly be seen as an important addition following the harrowing start to the Blues’ campaign.
Napoli have continually insisted any potential suitor must activate the 6 foot striker’s £67million release clause. But having recently rejected a one-year contract extension amid reports that he wants to leave the club, the Naples outfit may have to settle for less.