The 2014/15 Serie A season saw many players, young and old alike, breakthrough to relevancy.
Youngsters Paulo Dybala, Mattia Perin, Daniele Rugani and Felipe Andersen made their mark on Serie A by leading their teams to surprising records with quality performances. On the opposite end, veterans like Jeremy Menez, Kamil Glik and Mirko Valdifiori added in quality matches for their respective sides.
The 2015/16 campaign will be the canvas for many starlets and veterans alike to paint themselves in a new light. With Juventus sitting on four straight Scudetto, the other contenders will need added contributions from their squad to challenge the Bianconieri.
Leandro Paredes – Roma: Roma were the biggest challenger to Juve all season, but despite the many spending sprees, they could not compete in the long run with the Bianconieri. Those spending sprees yielded many flops (see Doumbia, Seydou; Iturbe, Juan Manuel;) and few bright spots. Paredes, who spent last season at an underwhelming Chievo side, could be an important player for the Giallorossi this season.
Paredes could be comfortable playing in either midfield or in attack in Roma’s 4-3-3. With key players like De Rossi and Totti aging, and guys like Kevin Strootman and Iturbe unable to stay healthy, the door could be open for Paredes to become an impact player. The Argentine is very talented on the ball, and has terrific dribbling abilities. With a little development on his passing, he could become the perfect type of player to feed through balls into Roma’s pacey attacking three. Midfielders not named Pjanic accounted for only eight assists, and Paredes improving on that is not only key for him and his breakthrough, but for the Giallorossi’s Scudetto hopes as well.
Hachim Mastour – AC Milan: The name on the lips of all Milanistas, and fans of Serie A alike, Hachim Mastour is poised to get regular playing time at Milan this season. Widely regarded as one of the best starlets Serie A has to offer, Mastour could be the spark that brings AC Milan back among the leagues elites. With the last few seasons at the San Siro frustrating to say the least, an invigoration of youth will be essential, and Mastour is just the kid to do it.
Comfortable as an attacking midfielder or as part of a front three, Mastour will be competing with the likes of Giacomo Bonaventura for playing time. His terrific on the ball skills, passing and shot taking abilities will make him a vital part of Milan’s midfield this season. Given the right number of opportunities, the Italian international could begin to live up to the hype that has surrounded him since his transfer to the Milanese outfit. Developing a link up between himself and the likes of Carlos Bacca, Alessio Cerci and Luiz Adriano will be key not only for himself, but for AC Milan’s top-3 dreams. In my opinion, no teenager in Serie A has more promise than Mastour does, his technical abilities are some of the best in his class. With consistent playing time and support from his teammates, the 16-year old could propel Milan to greater heights.
Stefano Sturaro – Juventus: No one has bigger shoes to fill this season than Juventus midfielder Stefano Sturaro. With the departures of key midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, Sturaro looks primed to take over for the prominent maestros. The addition of Sami Khedira on the surface looks like something that will impede Sturaro’s playing time, but in his time at Genoa and Juve, he has shown grit and technical ability strong enough to usurp many older and more experienced players.
His incredible performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League semis illustrated that the young Italian is ready for the big stage, and after a fourth straight Scudetto and a berth in the CL final, the Bianconieri have a target on their backs. Sturaro, who is most comfortable as a central midfielder, is strong in both possession and in the defensive third. A strong tackler, but not quite as talented (and as reckless) as the now absent Arturo Vidal, the 22-year old is capable of marking and chasing down opposing attackers. His passing is nowhere near that of Pirlo, but with the additional talent at Juventus, his pass accuracy climbed nearly 10%. Part of that is, like I said, due the superior talent at Juve, but another part is working with more experienced players who have helped him grow. The kid is tough, but he has a lot of room to grow and this is the season to do it. With many key departures and rivals on the peninsula growing in strength, now is the time for the former Genoa product to step up and become a household name.
Daniele Verde – Frosinone: Frosinone will need all the help they can get to survive the drop in their first season in Serie A, and they just may have got it in promising young talent Daniele Verde. The 19-year old will spend the season on-loan from Roma, and walks into the Frosinone locker room already as one of the teams best players.
The young Italian bagged 18 goals in 35 games for Roma’s Primavera side before finally getting the call up to the Giallorossi’s first team in January of this year. He had some moments of flair in his seven appearances, but did not make the impact that the Rome outfit needed to keep them in contention for the top spot in Serie A. Verde is a terrific passer, and has a keen eye for making the right pass into the box, or picking out a cutting teammate on a cross. However, unlike the man Roma fans believe he may one day replace, Verde does not have the clinical finishing ability that Franceso Totti possesses. It is something that he can definitely improve on with more first team football, but he so often looked overwhelmed on the attack in his league appearances. His loan to the Ciociari is a match made in heaven, as the newly promoted side get a player capable of flair, finesse and game changing plays, whereas the the 19-year old Italian international gets a bevy of playing time to gain experience and to grow.
Bruno Peres – Torino: That goal Peres had in part one of the Derby della Molle last season was a work of art, and one that showcased a little bit of everything he can do as a player. He can win possession in any part of the pitch, he’s quick, can outpace defenders, and is excellent at picking his shots.
Capable of creating a pinpoint cross a la Stephan Lichtsteiner, Peres will need to create chances for big bodied strikers Fabio Quagliarella and Maxi Lopez for il Toro to achieve their objectives this season. The Brazilian loves to dribble, which can be both helpful and a hindrance for the Turin outfit. It allows him time to pick out strong chances, but also causes him to be dispossessed by more savvy defenders and midfielders. The 25-year old had the second highest match rating on the team last season, and his breakout will be key not only for his own success, but for the success of his teammates.
Franco Vazquez – Palermo: As if 2014-15 wasn’t a breakout year for Franco Vasquez, what with bursting on the scene at Palermo and getting called up to the Italian national team, this years campaign will be the one to do it. With no more Paulo Dybala to count on, Palermo are looking for their next superstar, and after the immense season he had coupled with him signing a contract extension all the way into 2019, Vazquez looks to be the one to step into the spotlight.
The 26-year old had the highest average match rating in Serie last year (7.74), and was one of three players (Paulo Dybala and Domenico Berardi) to have at least 10 goals and 10 assists in the league. To put that in perspective, the only other players in Europe’s top-5 leagues to hit 10 goals and assists were named Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez, Nolito, Thomas Muller and Kevin De Bruyne. Now that isn’t to compare him to any of those players but he didn’t have those numbers at a club like Real Madrid where even the bench is overflowing with talent, he did it at Palermo, where he had to take advantage of every opportunity. Dybala’s absence will certainly be a bit of a hindrance, but the former Belgrano man did average two long balls per game and nearly two key passes. He is very proficient at picking out the right pass at the right time, something that the Rosanero will need this campaign. His 10 goals on 2.7 shots per game will need to be improved upon a little, but there is very little that can stop Vazquez’ meteoric rise in Serie A.
Who do you think is primed for breakout? Who needs to step up most in order to bring their team the most success? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.