Why Premier League forward flops thrill in Serie A
By the time the transfer window closes, a raft of attacking signings from Serie A, who all arrived with great expectations, but failed to recreate their exciting form in the Premier League, will have returned from whence they came.
Mario Balotelli and Juan Cuadrado are the next big-names bound to exit England for their Italian comfort zones, having failed to spark away from the peninsula. With such potential and proven pedigree, though, why did they disappoint?
The pair will join already departed Stevan Jovetic and Mohamed Salah, who have signed up for respective loan deals with Inter Milan (11/1 with Coral to win Serie A) and Roma (9/2) after failing to justify their hefty pricetags.
Although all four struggled for game time in the Premier League, falling well down the pecking order for their clubs, they should combine to make Italy’s top tier more competitive again.
These are not poor players, and it is too easy to dismiss Serie A as a lesser quality league, though of course it lacks the same kind of investment.
Simply, not every star can be cut out for the pace and physicality of the Premier League, with their footballing palate just perhaps better suited to a slower, more tactical Italian style.
If every top flight across Europe traded it’s identity to replicate English football, the sport would be far less thrilling.
Premier League clubs should, however, be more prudent when cherry picking from the peninsula in future.
Ex-AC Milan goal machine Andriy Shevchenko is perhaps the most famous forward flop to come to mind, who could not navigate the change in tempo at such a late stage in his career, when joining an impatient Chelsea team.
Not everyone, see magician Gianfranco Zola, albeit in the days when the Premier League was still transforming, struggles, however.
So, there are examples on both sides, yet Italy’s current dearth of quality means the standard of export is not quite up to scratch.
For example, Argentine Erik Lamela, toiling ineffectively at Tottenham looks a shadow of his former rampant Roma self.
Having grabbed 21 goals in 67 games for the Giallorossi, Lamela’s six in almost the same number of outings for Spurs shows just how hard the transition has been.
The differences are not just about physicality and superior defenders, as many fans will know, ungenerous Italian teams can be some of the toughest to score against.
Mentality is also key, as players must adjust to losing that extra second to think, to make the right call, and inject greater urgency into their play. Which could be why no club has yet taken a punt on Lazio starlet Felipe Anderson this summer.
As for Jovetic’s squandered time at Manchester City, it was a poor move by the Mancunians to poach the injury-prone forward.
Consistent niggles were only ever going to be exacerbated in the weekly rough and tumble, preventing the talented forward from ever settling and finding match rhythm.
Chelsea, meanwhile, before procuring Pedro Rodriguez, looked static in attack, yet Cuadrado could not get a look in, and has now joined Juventus on a season-long loan after just seven months at Stamford Bridge.
Looking bereft of confidence in a blue shirt, he should find his pace and dynamism are a more coveted and unique skillset in Turin, with space to make an impact due to Italy’s lack of top-notch orthodox widemen.
The same can be said of Salah, who had half of Serie A chasing him this summer, following potent performances for Fiorentina. Yet, it was not enough for Chelsea to give him another chance.
Jose Mourinho recently spoke of Pedro’s debut, tellingly stating: “There is always a question mark because of how many top players come to England and don’t perform immediately. We have examples in our club.”
Mercurial Balotelli, meanwhile, is a slightly different case, but will make his way back to former stomping ground the San Siro, after proving to be one of Liverpool’s most puzzling recent signings.
Still capable of genius on his day, the strong striker, no slouch in the pace department, should have suited the Premier League to a tee, but has only stagnated at Anfield without the right support and set-up.
Maybe a Rossoneri return can revive the once explosive Azzurri international.