The 2018/19 Serie A season is around a third of the way complete, which is plenty of time for teams to establish a rhythm and new arrivals to bed in to their new surroundings.
Champions Juventus lead the way and will be the team to beat it seems, with Napoli and Inter Milan several points off their searing pace.
As ever, a raft of signing were made in the summer. But which ones are shining bright in the early part of the season?
Here, we pick our five best signings of the season so far:
Krzysztof Piatek (Cracovia to Genoa, €4 million)
Hands up, who’d heard of Piatek before this season?
Only those with an encyclopedic knowledge of Polish football, or who’ve (mis)spent far too many hours in the deepest recess of YouTube, would have picked him out as a player who would explode into action.
Genoa’s flamboyant president Enrico Preziosi was impressed enough by several internet clips to take a gamble on an uncapped striker with a one-in-two record for mid-table Cracovia. What a bet this turned out to be, as four goals went in on debut against Lecce.
By his eight appearance, the 23-year-old was averaging a goal every 59.9 minutes. Links then followed to Barcelona as Luis Suarez’s long-term successor or to Napoli as they man to, finally, bring the Serie A title back down south.
This fever has been tempered, however, during a five-match scoreless streak which correlates perfectly with the decision to bring head coach Ivan Juric back to the club.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid to Juventus,€100 million)
A grand plan has been concocted to get Juve over the line in the Champions League after two decades of pain– and the Portugal icon is the central figure.
Moans within minutes of Real Madrid’s latest continental triumph last May escalated into an exit officially announced, in grandstanding style, just before France’s World Cup 2018 semi-final against Belgium. Football’s biggest ego would then, by pure happenstance, arrive in Turin for the first time during the tournament’s decider.
The Old Lady are not stupid and they knew what they were getting, on the pitch, before they lavished a six-figure sum on a 33-year-old.
Ronaldo is joint-second in the Serie A scoring charts with eight – after he took three appearances to net, a match-winning brace versus Sassuolo – and joint-second in assists with five. His average of 7.3 shots per top-flight match is comfortably ahead of Edin Dzeko’s 4.6 for Roma.
Serious allegations, that Ronaldo strenuously denies, off the pitch cast a dark shadow. But who would back against him securing a domestic and European double by next May?
Joao Cancelo (Valencia to Juventus, €40.4 million)
It’s easy for all the attention in Turin to fall on Portugal’s most-famous son.
A compatriot, however, continues to reach supreme levels of performance. Cancelo was, comfortably, the best right-back in Serie A last season when on loan at Inter Milan from Valencia.
Boasting searing pace and an eye for a cross, he gained three assists in 26 top-flight run-outs, there was always going to be a chase for his signature in the summer. Juve came out in front for the man cut from World Cup 2018 – and their investment is being rewarded every week.
Last term, the champions had the aged Stephan Lichsteiner or injury addled Matteo De Sciglio to turn to.
In Cancelo, they’ve recruited an effervescent speed merchant who currently leads the way for them with 2.8 dribbles per Serie A game average – 1.0 more than nearest team-mate Paulo Dybala.
But don’t mistake adventure for defensive weakness. An average of 2.1 tackles per game is the joint-club best with France battler Blaise Matuidi.
Kevin-Prince Boateng (Eintracht Frankfurt to Sassuolo, free transfer)
It was a mistake, then, to think the Ghana midfielder’s time at the highest level was at an end.
A steady decline had been witnessed at AC Milan (for a second time), Las Palmas and Eintracht Frankfurt ahead of a return to Italy this summer in the humble surroundings of Sassuolo.
Little was expected. Much has been given by the 31-year-old, in return.
A tally of four goals in 10 matches is respectable – and represents the Neroverdi’s highest total. Among these, important strikes helped secure draws at Cagliari and versus Bologna.
Boateng has relished a central role, be that in a 4-3-3 formation or, latterly, a 3-1-4-2. There, he also leads the way with 1.7 aerials won per Serie A match. When previously Boateng excelled in the pocket, he’s now a frontline soldier.
There is a frisson at play between himself and Italy prospect Domenico Berardi.
This partnership has helped carry Sassuolo into the heady heights of seventh coming into the November international break.
Francesco Acerbi (Sassuolo to Lazio, €10 million)
Roberto Mancini’s latest Italy squad generated quizzical looks in the Sky Blue half of the Eternal City.
Just how could the ex-Biancocelesti player and head coach ignore one of his old team’s newest stars?
Acerbi arrived in the summer from mid-table Sassuolo to little fanfare and as replacement for the excellent Stefan de Vrij – one mad game against future employers Inter Milan, aside.
Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi, however, had seen him register the fourth-best average clearances per game (6.4) and joint-third best interceptions per game (2.3) in the division. Plus, an iron-clad reliability which means Acerbi last missed a top flight minute in 2015/16 – incredible for a testicular cancer survivor from only five years ago.
The former AC Milan flop has improved throughout 2018/19, just like his team-mates. Highlights include a goal in victory at Udinese, plus an exceptional display at Parma.
After being with the Azzurri last month, it is perplexing that Mancini did not decide to give another call-up. Maybe, he has more strength in depth than he lets on?
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