With so many standout performers to accommodate, Livio Caferoglu was spoilt for choice when picking his best XI for the 2016-17 campaign.
The envy of 18-year-olds around the world, Gianluigi Donnarumma established his credentials as a world-class goalkeeping prospect in 2016-17. Despite the odd clanger, the Neapolitan projected confidence between Milan’s sticks, resulting in two Italy caps and Gianluigi Buffon declaring him as his heir. Among Serie A’s best shot-stoppers, Gigio also ranked highest in terms of distribution. Prodigious.
He had to bide his time in displacing Giorgio Chiellini as Juventus’ leader at the back, but Leonardo Bonucci can finally claim to be that man. The centre-back appeared more than any other in his position during the campaign, despite a hamstring injury midway through, and showed remarkable consistency and authority to help leave the Bianconeri on the verge of a historic Treble. Not just a defender, his long passes are essential to start moves. Talisman.
Something of a late bloomer by today’s standards, Andrea Conti is one of many Atalanta youngsters that have exploded on to the scene. A technically-gifted performer, the 23-year-old’s combinations with Jasmin Kurtic – not to mention his eight League goals – were a major factor in the Orobici’s qualification for the Europa League. An Italy career and a big move now seems inevitable. Surprising.
After two underwhelming years at Tottenham Hotspur, playing in a League that didn’t appreciate his qualities, Federico Fazio found his niche at Roma. A virtual ever-present for the Giallorossi, the Argentine’s imposing and – for opposing forwards – often bruising displays quickly became commonplace and provided the perfect foil for the pacey Kostas Manolas. Commanding.
Real Madrid were thought to have landed the better Porto full-back when they signed Danilo in 2015, but while the Brazilian remains no more than a squad player for Los Blancos, Alex Sandro has become one of the best around. Although unlucky to be competing with Marcelo for the Seleçao, the Bianconeri left-sider has more than matched his countryman this term, adding a defensive steel to his Samba style. Rampant.
Juve may well have earned a sixth straight Scudetto without replacing Paul Pogba, but their task was made significantly easier by Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian was constantly shunted around central midfield as the Old Lady experimented with their shape, but he kept things ticking over like clockwork, pulling the strings in a manner reminiscent of a certain Andrea Pirlo. Symphonic.
In his 10th year at Napoli, never has Marek Hamsik’s star shone brighter. At the heart of a free-scoring Partenopei, the Slovak has enjoyed his best campaign in front of goal, finding the back of the net 15 times in all competition and dictating moves with panache a la Pavel Nedved. He appears destined to end his top-level career at the San Paolo, having signed a new, four-year contract back in August. Classy.
What makes Dries Mertens’ 28-goal Serie A tally this season all the more extraordinary is that he was never a goal-scorer to begin with. Capitalising on Gonzalo Higuain’s departure and an ACL injury to Arkadiusz Milik, the Belgian was thrust into a centre-forward role and made an instant impression, scoring on his second appearance in the position against Empoli, before going on to net more than he did in three seasons combined. Devastating.
Edin Dzeko’s career looked to be away from Roma after a hugely-disappointing 2015-16, which yielded just eight goals in Serie A. Fast forward 12 months, however, and the striker has ended the past season as Capocannoniere by more than trebling that tally on 29, as well as setting a club record for goals scored in a single campaign. Also impressive was his link-up play with Roma’s wide men, which resulted in 12 assists. Complete.
He may have ended the season in far less prolific form, but don’t let that take the gloss off Andrea Belotti’s exploits over the entire campaign. Il Gallo announced himself as Europe’s most in-demand attacker with a 26-goal showing for Torino, accounting for more than a third of his side’s output and blasting his way through defenders and goalkeepers alike, while establishing himself as Italy’s No 9 of the future. Sensational.
Papu Gomez finally shed his novelty reputation in 2016-17 as he spearheaded Atalanta’s charge to the Europa League. The Papu Dance remained the Argentine’s signature move throughout the season, but he also waltzed past Serie A defences for fun, seen by his prolific haul of 16 goals and 12 assists, making him arguably the most influential player to take to a Serie A field. Electrifying.