Mattia Perin [Genoa]
Like kicking a recalcitrant rhino with clown boots on it seems pointless to try and outwit young Mattia on one-on-ones, or shot stopping if it comes to that. The youngster, who has all the potential to become one of the world’s best, played a big part in his side’s leap up the table last year and with 53 saves by early January was Europe’s fourth best ‘keeper with a shots-to-saves percentage of 81.25 per cent, according to Opta. Monumental.
Lorenzo Tonelli [Empoli]
A tough choice between him and teammate Daniel Rugani but the oldest wins it with the amount of crucial clearances, tackles and aerial challenges he makes every game. A commanding figure in the centre he leads the back-line though sheer grit and resolve while powering through games with his relentless and undeniable energy, plus he has scored four goals. Fundamental.
Kalidou Koulibaly [Napoli]
The Frenchman has been a real find for Napoli and has shone in central defence with his sheer power and determination. He tracks runs, anticipates through-balls, intercepts and cuts out crosses and in general does the business. Also scores the odd crucial goal. Vital.
Leonardo Bonucci [Juventus]
Like the offspring of a rhino and a Chieftain tank, he doesn’t want to be your friend and playing against him must be like jumping off a bridge and halfway down realising that the bungee rope is too long. Set the tone early on with his unyielding, last moment tackles and always ready to set up attacks with his sublime passing capabilities and who can forget that wonder-strike against Roma last October. Decisive.
Jose Callejon [Napoli]
The Spaniard topped the goal-scoring charts earlier in the season and was always a menace down the right flank. Although always a serious outlet on the flanks he is also unafraid to help out in defence. This season he was seen at his best against Inter in mid-October. After running their defence ragged he jumped on a defensive error for his first before he screwed home an awe-inspiring volley with the inside of his left foot, for a second which left Samir Handanovic rooted to the spot. Threatening.
Paul Pogba [Juventus]
Juve’s man of the season so far, the young Frenchman has wreaked havoc and moved up several levels this season. A true superstar of the future his multi-faceted progression and combinations of dynamism, defending, directing and deciding is second nature to him and it’s all done in the blink of an eye. Forceful.
Franco Vazquez [Palermo]
One of the revelations of the season the 25-year-old showed his fabulous fantasy when from 30 yards out against Atalanta his accurate lob easily beat their goalkeeper. With five goals and six assists the Argentinean has become invaluable to Palermo and his partnership with Paulo Dybala is one of the highlights of their climb up the table. Precious.
Radja Nainggolan [Roma]
Started the season as second choice but with some memorable displays he is now the Giallorossi’s star midfielder. A class act he works tirelessly for the cause and like dropping an electric heater in a communal bath, he continuously shocks the opposition with his intensity and power. Industrious.
Felipe Anderson [Lazio]
It’s been one stunning performance after another from the young Brazilian, who was at his very best in the Week 18 derby. First off he made Stefan Mauri’s goal with a sublime pass over the Roma defence then scored with an incredible shot into the bottom corner of the net. Indeed he had already scored four times while setting up four more over his previous four games and according to Lazio’s tracking systems he is the fastest player in Serie A. Integral.
Paulo Dybala [Palermo]
Like catching Sweden’s 1972 Miss World in her underwear in a Bond Street designer’s basement, a frisson of excitement runs through the crowd every time the 21-year-old gets the ball. With a goal every other game and 10 in all the young Argentinean is making waves in his return top-flight season and his speed, bravery and intelligence have all contributed to this. Indispensable.
Carlos Tevez [Juventus]
The Argentine may look like a worn out FIAT from the 1970s but he is welded to a supercharged Turbo engine of fabulously powerful Lambo of the future. Now in his second season he is Serie A’s top scorer and continues to go from strength to strength. Essential.
Coach: Sinisa Mihajlovic
Playing against him was like playing on a pitch of broken glass in the middle of a hailstorm with two corner flagpoles sticking out of your eyes. As a Coach, he is still frightening but now he has the ability to stand on the sidelines, change formations during games and crucially made a decisive and positive move to a 4-3-3 for Samp to emerge as one of the teams of the season so far.
Special mentions: Arturo Vidal [Juventus], Stephan Lichtsteiner [Juventus], Jose Holebas [Roma], Juan Cuadrado [Fiorentina], Jeremy Menez [Milan], Filip Djordjevic [Lazio].
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