2011 was the last year a club other than Juventus won the Serie A title. In that time, the World record transfer fee has been broken three times, Sir Alex Ferguson has retired, and Leicester won both the Championship and the Premier League, in other words, it’s been so long. Juventus have faced a degree of competition from Napoli and Roma, but before the past few Serie A seasons, it would have been tough to find someone predicting a club other than Juventus to win the Italian title.
This season could well be different. Juventus’s rivals have strengthened with the Milan clubs in particular looking as if they could be on the road back to the top. There are four sides who, in my opinion, could realistically be considered title challengers. Here we take a brief look at each of those four teams and discuss their chances.
Despite a summer that saw them lose two key players in Leonardo Bonnuci and Dani Alves, Juventus remain the side to beat. They clearly know how to win titles and have added the dangerous winger Douglas Costa from Bayern Munich, the all-action midfielder Blaise Matuidi from PSG and attacker Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina.
Juventus, still, arguably, have the greatest strength in depth with stars as Dybala and Higuaín complemented by the defensive nous of Barzagli and Chiellini. Losing Bonucci is a blow, but with a manager as tactically astute as Massimiliano Allegri, they will be confident of making it seven straight titles.
AC Milan’s past few seasons have fallen way below their high standards. The seven times champions of Europe have not finished above sixth since the 2012-13 season.
However, there are huge reasons for optimism after a summer of heavy spending has seen AC Milan bring in a number of new stars including defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Ricardo Rodriguez; midfielders Franc Kessie and Hakan Calhanoglu as well as strikers Andre Silva and Nikola Kalanic.
A number of these players have come from rival clubs with Bonucci from Juventus being perhaps the biggest coup for AC Milan. It might be too early for AC Milan to win the title again but the fans will be hoping for at least a Champions League place.
AC Milan’s city rivals Inter, have also strengthened after a poor period which has seen them finish outside the Champions League places for six straight seasons.
After spending big last summer, Inter have continued to splash the cash this window. New manager Luciano Spaletti, who led Roma to second last season, has brought in left-back Dalbert and centre back Milan Skriniar as well as midfielders Borja Valero and Matías Vecino. They have also managed to keep hold of star striker Mauro Icardi which will please Spaletti significantly. As with AC Milan, they are probably not quite ready for a full-on title tilt but should be able to fight for a top three finish.
Finally, Napoli have taken a Tottenham like approach to the summer market in focusing on keeping hold of their star players and not unsettling their squad. They have brought in a few players with centre-back Nikola Maksimovic and midfielder Marko Rog being the standout two but have held off from splashing huge amounts like their rivals.
The club were very frustrated at losing star striker Gonzalo Higuaín to Juventus last season and will hope that their commitment to continuity will serve them well. I think the brilliance of their manager Maurizio Sarri and the familiarity amongst their squad will allow them to push Juventus even closer than last season when they finished just five points behind them.
I think that Juventus remain most likely to take the title, but it is clear that they will be pushed harder and further than in recent seasons. The return of the Milan clubs coupled with Napoli’s chemistry will mean Juventus have more clubs to fight, while all three might fall short, this season is still shaping up to be extremely interesting.