Yet another incredible football season has reached its conclusion. The beautiful game has not failed to disappoint, providing the fans with some jaw dropping – as well as heartbreaking – moments over the last nine months.
We have witnessed some brilliant one-off individual displays and a few consistent performers. We’ve had breakout players, impressing at a young age and veterans proving that age is just a number.
As part of our end-of-the-season awards for Europe’s top-five leagues, we’re honouring the Player of the Year and Breakthrough Player of the Year (stars aged 23 and under who made significant strides in 2018/19).
Here, we look at the winners from Serie A .
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Duvan Zapata, Atalanta, 28 years old
Atalanta are on the cusp of securing a spot in the Champions League for the first time in their history. While Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic have played a huge role in their storied success, Duvan Zapata deserves this individual award for his outstanding consistency in front of goal. On a two-year loan from Sampdoria, Zapata did not enjoy the best of starts, netting just once in his first 13 games. Toward the end of the 2018/19 season, the forward has 22 goals and seven assists to his name. Only Fabio Quagliarella has scored more goals and boasts of higher goal-involvements. Head coach Gian Piero Gasperini has worked wonders with the Colombian, unlocking his true talent by transforming him from back-to-goal target man, to a more direct and finessed forward. His contributions have fetched Atalanta 20 points this season, affirming himself as the top performer in the league.
Best performance: ‘Poker’ against Frosinone
Between early December and late January, Zapata enjoyed a stretch of 10 games in all competitions where he scored at least one goal in every match. The ‘poker’ (four goals) against Frosinone stands out as the best individual performance in Serie A this season.
What next for Zapata?
In 2013, West Ham and Estudiantes had agreed a deal for front-man Zapata, but he failed to obtain a work permit and the Premier League side pulled out of a move. Six years later and after a stellar season in the Serie A, the forward is yet again linked with a move to West Ham. While his physicality suits the Premier League, Zapata could well be targeted with clubs in a higher echelon. Everton is a potential landing spot but the 28-year-old won’t come cheap with estimates pricing him north of €40million.
Honourable mentions: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Krzysztof Piatek, Genoa & AC Milan, 23 years old
Before the season began, Piatek was an obscurity. Geona paid Polish outfit Cracovia €4 million for his services last summer and not much was thought of him. Fast forward to the present and the 23-year-old is now a Poland international drawing comparisons with Robert Lewandowski, plays his football for AC Milan and is widely considered to be one of the premier young goalscorers in Europe. He’s a predatory striker, evidenced by the fact he’s accrued 21 goals in Serie A this term but not provided one assist. But he is a well-rounded finisher, a scorer of differently styled goals. His link-up with fellow Rossoneri January recruit Lucas Paqueta has been a big feature and if the Brazilian can remain fit next season, with these two players, Milan can be a force. The fact Milan have even a sniff of securing a Champions League spot owes to Piatek’s success because before his arrival, they were toothless. His goals have been vital and there is no player with a bigger breakthrough in 2018/19 in Europe, never mind Italy.
Best performance: Brace against Atalanta
Among other top performances, the brace against fellow top-four competitors Atalanta away from home stands out as one of his best this season.
What next for Piatek?
Talent, numbers and hype at a young age breeds interest from top European clubs. Luka Jovic is most likely on his way to Real Madrid but there are other top clubs like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United who require a centre-forward. A lot will of course hinge on Milan’s European involvement but given his recent struggles in front of goal, it seems staying put is the best place for his development.
Honourable mentions: Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Moise Kean (Juventus)
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