With Simone Zaza making the move to Turin, Sassuolo will be relying onwonderkid Domenico Berardi’s exploits this term. Adam Austin take a look at how the Neroverdi have prepared for the new season.
The big story of Sassuolo’s summer was Simone Zaza being snapped up by Juventus, confirming the constant whispers since he made his impressive international debut for Antonio Conte’s Italy side. However, truth be told, he seemed to play visibly under-pressure for much of last season and Sassuolo have their hopes pinned on a younger player who outscored the departed Zaza, the mercurial Domenico Berardi.
Berardi settled his co-ownership deal between Juventus and Sassuolo as part of the Zaza deal, costing the Neroverdi ten million Euros –although the champions have the option to buy him in 2016 as part of that deal.
Two other notable transfers include the departure of the experienced Matteo Brighi, who has moved to Bologna after a year-and-a-half with the Neroverdi, and the signing of young French forward Gregoire Defrel from relegated Cesena, whose tally of nine league goals was only two lower than Simone Zaza’s despite playing for a struggling side.
Full-back Sime Vrsaljko was linked with Juventus and was in negotiations for a move to Napoli over the summer, but Sassuolo have so far managed to keep hold of the talented young Croat after taking a strong stance against a move.
Pre-season has been successful so far, with wins over Lega Pro side Sudtirol and Serie B side Pescara coming before an impressive 1-1 draw with Spanish side Villarreal, with new signing Alfred Duncan finding the net.
Heading into the new season, Sassuolo will be aiming to repeat the successes of last term, where they finished twelfth. A top ten finish is likely out of the question thanks to the improvement of the sides above them, namely a restructured Milan are unlikely to be scrapping down in mid-table again.
Relegation should be comfortably avoided thanks to exciting young players such as Vrsaljko, Berardi, Defrel and Sansone, and experience of Paolo Cannavaro and Francesco Acerbi at the back, but the loss of Zaza is likely to see them struggle to make the top half.
At 45, Di Francesco is one of the youngest Coaches in Serie A, yet he’s been at his club longer than most Italian coaches can expect when they sign their contracts –with three years at Sassuolo under his belt (with the exception of his two-month ‘holiday’, where he was sacked and reinstated between January and March 2014).
Only goalkeeper Andrea Consigli had more minutes on the pitch for Sassuolo than the former Milan centre-back last season, and he’ll once again be looked at to keep the team steady defensively while the youthful frontline run riot. With the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli of Juventus starting to show their age, perhaps an Italy call could also be on the horizon.
New signing Gregoire Defrel comes into the squad to replace Simone Zaza, who’s signed for champions Juventus. The Frenchman was one of the only sparks in former club Cesena’s relegation-doomed 2014/2015 season, scoring nine league goals. He’ll be looking to slot into the centre of Sassuolo’s young front three alongside Domenico Berardi and Nicola Sansone.
Berardi’s co-ownership deal was recently settled with Juventus at the modest expense –given his potential –of ten million Euros. The highlight of the Italian Under-21 side during their stay at the European Championships, Berardi has hit double digits in each of his last three seasons for Sassuolo and will hope to be join his former team-mate Zaza in Antonio Conte’s Azzurri squad soon.
Consigli; Vrsaljko, P. Cannavaro, Acerbi, Peluso;, Missiroli, Magnanelli, Biondini; Berardi, DEFREL, Sansone
Sassuolo have a squad with a great balance of youth and experience. However, the loss of Simone Zaza will possibly cost them a few places in the league table, even if they should comfortably avoid a relegation battle.
Keep up to date with all the Serie A transfers with Football Italia's summer 2015 transfer table.