Serie A Team of the Season 2015-16
At the end of an exciting campaign, Edo Dalmonte favours talent over tactics in his Serie A team of the season. After all, Antonio Conte played Matteo Darmian at centre-back, right?
Samir Handanovic [Inter]: 10
Batmanovic made so many “wow saves” that you’d think he’d installed an invisible holoshield on the goal-line. Inter’s early-season streak of 1-0 wins owes a lot to the Slovenian’s incredible reflexes, and ability to make multiple saves in the space of a few seconds. Roma, Atalanta and Torino know what we’re on about.
Andrea Barzagli [Juventus]: 9.5
Just like Juventus, we thought he was dead and buried earlier this season. Just like Juventus, he’s hardly put a foot wrong since, bringing together Serie A’s best defensive unit by a country mile, conceding only 20 goals, matching their 2011-12 defensive record. Remember when he couldn’t mark to save his life? Long time ago, wasn’t it?
Kalidou Koulibaly [Napoli]: 9.5
Arriving as a relative unknown from Genk, he is now one of Europe’s most sought-after young centre-backs. He can do everything, whether it’s press up high to earn back possession or man-mark the living daylights out of Serie A’s attacking talent. He’s helped turn around a horrifying defence (54 goals conceded) into one of calcio’s best.
Sime Vrsaljko [Sassuolo]: 9
He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere, a force of nature on the right. Crossed 225 times in Serie A, behind only Antonio Candreva and El Papu Gomez. The next best defender? Achraf Lazaar, with 144! He’s created 38 chances (one more than Domenico Berardi) with them, and provided four assists, too. Think Genoa regret selling this man - at a loss - for €3.5 million?
Giacomo Bonaventura [Milan]: 9.5
The Milanista’s North, South, East and West, to steal a quote from Auden. Run so ragged by Mihajlovic that he ended the season playing on crutches, yet even then his impact was monumental. The archetypal playmaker pushed out on the left, he’s as hard-working as a wing-back, though he’s never strictly played in that role. Would have been a crime to leave out Jack, with his six goals and seven assists.
Paul Pogba [Juventus]: 10
Made last season - where he had patches of inconsistent form - look like a holiday. Was quite simply unstoppable for large parts of the campaign, netting eight goals and providing nine assists in a midfield where he had to make do without Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo. Has a Bo Jackson-ish vibe about him, in that fans expect him to do something superhuman almost every week… and he duly provides.
Borja Valero [Fiorentina]: 9.5
Even when Milan Badelj went down and the team looked exhausted, the Spanish maestro was holding things together, spraying the ball about and scoring key goals, a bit like when a deceased El Cid was dressed in his armour and flung at the Moors. Gets the nod over Radja Nainggolan for being more consistent in front of goal.
Miralem Pjanic [Roma]: 9.5
With many Roma players benefitting from the managerial switch from Rudi Garcia to Luciano Spalletti, we may have overlooked who was propping up the Frenchman in the first place. With seven goals in his first 15 Serie A games, including five stunning free kicks, the Bosnian arguably kept an increasingly predictable Roma afloat. Even after that, his distribution was unparalleled, providing seven assists.
Alejandro Gomez [Atalanta]: 9.5
Maxi who? Within a few months of El Papu joining, Atalanta were perfectly happy to pack off Moralez, knowing they could trust a player who has shone despite the Orobici losing quite a bit of talent in midfield. Gomez would go on to score seven goals and set up six more despite not having a reliable striker, or even an attacking Coach!
Lorenzo Insigne [Napoli]: 9
This is exactly what we hoped Lorenzo il Magnifico would become...and much more besides. That ACL tear from last season has arguably set the Azzurri talent back two years, Insigne’s sheer wizardry reducing defenders and Napoli fans to sobbing wrecks. Many of the latter hated him last year. Now, he’s a Scudetto short of having half the city’s kids named after him.
Paulo Dybala [Juventus]: 10
Platini, Alex, Zizou, Carlitos… and now La Joya. Why compare them when they all do the same thing, namely carry the Old Lady on their shoulders, turn games at the drop of a hat and play their socks off day in, day out? Simply exceptional for a youngster having a first taste of the big time. He was born for this.
Gonzalo Higuain [Napoli]: 11!
If you let him turn outside the box, he’ll score. If you let him shoot from a difficult angle, he’ll score. Lose sight for a nanosecond in the box… you get the idea. Simply monstrous. 36 goals in 35 games? It shouldn’t be this easy. Calcio may not be what it used to be, but its defenders still have a reputation to uphold. It takes a superhuman to make them all look silly.
Coach: Max Allegri [Juventus]: 9.5
Many wrote off last season’s win by claiming that it was still Antonio Conte’s Juventus. With Pirlo, Vidal and Tevez gone, a raft of new buys, a myriad of injuries and the BBC ageing visibly, it looked like the end of an era. Instead, the Tuscan turned everything around, helping the likes of Alex Sandro, Dybala, Sami Khedira, Rugani and Mandzukic integrate, and coaxing the likes of Alvaro Morata, Barzagli and Pogba into upping the ante. And he’s done better than Conte in the Champions League. Chapeau Max!
Special mention: Maurizio Sarri the Coach [Napoli] 9
Maurizio Sarri the Talker: -100.000
Lost his cult hero status when he opened his mouth, and has a few things to learn to become a truly unstoppable Coach. But his team blew everyone out the water this year, making us want to watch Napoli instead of our own teams. It would be fantastic if an attacking side won Serie A again.
Special mentions: Gianluigi Buffon [Juventus], Emiliano Viviano [Sampdoria], Marco Sportiello [Atalanta], Joao Miranda [Inter], Kostas Manolas [Roma], Faouzi Ghoulam [Napoli], Leonardo Bonucci [Juventus], Giorgio Chiellini [Juventus], Alex Sandro [Juventus], Sami Khedira [Juventus], Allan [Napoli], Jorginho [Napoli], Radja Nainggolan [Roma], Josip Ilicic [Fiorentina], Fernando [Sampdoria], Marek Hamsik [Napoli], Federico Bernardeschi [Fiorentina], Franco Vazquez [Palermo], Mohamed Salah [Roma], Nicola Sansone [Sassuolo], Leonardo Pavoletti [Genoa]