Javier Pastore has joined Elche following the termination of his deal with Roma.

LaLiga club Elche confirmed the signing of free agent Pastore on Saturday, on the same day another of Spain's lesser lights - Rayo Vallecano - had announced the acquisition of Radamel Falcao.

Pastore cost Paris Saint-Germain a reported €39.8million back in 2011 when he joined from Palermo as one of the Ligue 1 club's marquee additions following the Qatari takeover.

The Argentine enjoyed a brilliant first season in Paris, scoring 16 goals and adding a further six assists in all competitions in 2011-12.

Injuries did hamper his spell at PSG, though he enjoyed another fine campaign in 2014-15, playing 51 times, assisting 16 goals and scoring six himself. However, he subsequently failed to play more than 2,000 minutes in any of the next three seasons.

Pastore left for Roma in 2018, yet he played a total of just 37 times across three years before terminating his contract with the Serie A club.

Elche have now welcomed him on board and the 32-year-old will be looking to get his career back on track in Spain.

After terminating his Roma deal on Monday, Pastore posted a farewell message on his official Instagram account.

"It's not easy for me to leave this club, the city and these fans with the awareness of not being able to meet the expectations that they had in me," he wrote.

"Anyone who knows me, knows how much I have suffered and with what commitment I have worked.

"Ours was not a lucky story, but by leaving I also feel I have kept intact a feeling of respect and gratitude towards this city and towards the people who three years ago welcomed me with love and enthusiasm.

"I wish you will be able to celebrate great success soon: Rome, Roma and their fans deserve it."

Javier Pastore has left Roma after his contract was terminated by mutual consent.

The Argentine midfielder has been plagued by injuries since joining the Serie A club from Paris Saint-Germain for €24.7million in June 2018.

Pastore underwent left hip surgery 12 months ago and played just five times for the Giallorossi last season.

The playmaker made only 37 appearances during his time with the club, scoring four goals, and the 32-year-old is now free to find a new club.

He posted on Instagram: "It is not easy for me to leave this club, the city and these fans with the awareness of not being able to meet the expectations that they had for me. 

"Anyone who knows me knows how much I have suffered and with what commitment I have worked to try to overturn my destiny. 

"Ours was not a lucky story, but in leaving I also feel that I have kept intact a feeling of respect and gratitude towards this city and towards the people who three years ago welcomed me with love and enthusiasm. 

"I hope you will soon be able to celebrate great successes: Roma, Roma and their fans deserve them."

Roma made it two wins from as many Serie A games under Jose Mourinho by thrashing Salernitana 4-0 in Serie A on Sunday.

Lorenzo Pellegrini scored twice, with Jordan Veretout and new signing Tammy Abraham also on target, ensuring Roma have scored at least seven goals in their first two Serie A matches for just the second time since the 1970s, having defeated Fiorentina 3-1 in their opener.

Lorenzo Pellegrini said Roma are dreaming of Serie A glory after maintaining their perfect start to the season by routing newly promoted Salernitana 4-0.

Roma captain Pellegrini scored twice as the Giallorossi made it two wins from two matches to open the 2021-22 league campaign on Sunday.

Jordan Veretout and new signing Tammy Abraham were also on target for Roma, who have scored at least seven goals in their first two Serie A matches for just the second time since the 1970s, having defeated Fiorentina 3-1 on matchday one.

Roma have not won the Scudetto since 2000-01, having failed to finish in the top four in 2019 (sixth), 2020 (fifth) and 2021 (seventh).

Former Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter boss Mourinho is in his first season with Roma and after fans were signing about the Scudetto, Italy international Pellegrini told DAZN: "We hope one day to make that dream come true.

"It does feel different this year, we are told to take it one game at a time, and this time it really is the approach we take.

"We will never speak about the next match, no matter how important it is, until this one has been played."

Mourinho became the third Roma head coach to win his first two Serie A games in charge since 2000, after Claudio Ranieri in 2009-10 and Rudi Garcia in 2013-14.

Roma, meanwhile, have won both their first two Serie A games for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

"I'm really pleased, we won a game that wasn't straightforward," said Pellegrini, who has scored five of his last six Serie A goals against newly promoted teams.

"It wasn't easy to find the goal but we managed to do it at the start of the second half and after that it was much easier."

Jose Mourinho declared Roma are establishing a promising squad after landing their second consecutive win in Serie A with a 4-0 victory over Salernitana.

Mourinho's men followed up a 3-1 defeat of Fiorentina with the four-goal rout – just the second time since the 1970s they have scored at least seven goals in their opening two Serie A matches.

It is also the first time they have started a Serie A campaign with successive wins since 2014-15. They were inspired by Henrikh Mkhitaryan who provided another assist on Sunday and has now been directly involved in eight goals in his last six top-flight games.

Mourinho, who is the third coach to win his first two Serie A games with Roma, is satisfied with the progress his side are making.

"It was impossible not to win, I was calm from the first minute because the team played really well," Mourinho told DAZN.

"I arrived happy at Roma, I was happy to be back in Italy and in a team with real fans and people who are passionate.

"I don't want too much time and tranquillity, it would go against my nature. It's not time to finish seventh or eighth, I want to speed up the growth process.

"We are building a good group, I am not saying that I would like to have more quality, but more experience.

"I need a squad and a team that is on the pitch, there are richer squads than ours but I'm working well."

Jose Mourinho declared Cristiano Ronaldo's move back to Manchester United is "perfect business".

In a remarkable turnaround on Friday, United confirmed they had agreed to sign Ronaldo – who left Old Trafford in 2009 – from Juventus.

The 36-year-old is reportedly completing a medical in Lisbon this weekend, with personal terms and a visa to be finalised.

Mourinho, who is now at Roma after an ill-fated spell at Tottenham, managed his compatriot Ronaldo at Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013 and later went on to coach United as well.

Ronaldo had one of his best goalscoring seasons in 2011-12 under Mourinho's tutelage, scoring 60 times across 55 appearances in all competitions.

 

The forward averaged 1.1 goals per appearance, or one every 81.7 minutes. That haul included seven hat-tricks and he also provided 15 assists over the course of the season.

Asked for his thoughts on Ronaldo's swift departure from Serie A, and his United return, former Red Devils boss Mourinho told a news conference: "The only thing I say – and it looks to me something basic and logic – is that if Juventus are happy, if Cristiano is happy and if Manchester United are happy, this is the perfect business.

"I think there is no need to talk about Cristiano.

"There is no need to make any comment about someone who plays, wins, scores and makes history for 20 years."

Ronaldo represents United's fourth addition of the transfer window, following on from Tom Heaton, Jadon Sancho and his former Madrid team-mate Raphael Varane.

Paris Saint-Germain have lined up several options to replace Kylian Mbappe.

A deal with Real Madrid could create a domino effect. 

Who might be on the move to PSG?

 

TOP STORY – PSG LINE UP MBAPPE REPLACEMENTS

Paris Saint-Germain do not plan to let Kylian Mbappe go to Real Madrid this transfer window without replacing him. 

The French giants have their eyes on multiple players should Los Blancos' reported €180million bid for the striker succeed. 

Two Brazilians currently in the Premier League top the list, as Globo Esporte says PSG want Gabriel Jesus – though Pep Guardiola said he does not expect any more departures from Manchester City. 

PSG also reportedly are weighing up a bid for Everton's Richarlison, says ESPN Brasil. 

And though all indications have been that Erling Haaland will stay put with Borussia Dortmund, the Star says PSG could make another bid if Mbappe departs. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Jules Kounde is ready to move from Sevilla to Chelsea, says Sky Sports News, but the Blues are balking at the Spanish club's €80m asking price and are prepared to offer only about €50m.

- Everton are closing in on a swap deal that would send James Rodriguez to Porto with Luis Diaz joining the Toffees, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles could also be on the move to Everton, reports Sky Sports News, who say the Premier League side have also asked Celtic about Odsonne Edouard

- Meanwhile, Juventus are in talks with Everton about a deal for Moise Kean, who has become their top priority with Cristiano Ronaldo's departure, says Romano.

- Roma could make a move for Atletico Madrid's Hector Herrera, according to Calciomercato. 

- Aston Villa are weighing a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel, reports Tuttosport. 

- Atalanta have their eyes on AZ Alkmaar's Teun Koopmeiners, says Calciomercato. 

Tottenham will face Rennes, Vitesse and NS Mura in the group stage of the inaugural Europa Conference League.

Spurs, with the help of a double from Harry Kane, secured qualification for UEFA's new third-tier club competition with a 3-0 win over Pacos de Ferreira on Thursday.

The presence of Kane, who will be staying at Tottenham despite Manchester City's long-standing interest, is sure to make Spurs one of the favourites to win the tournament.

Nuno Espirito Santo's side were placed into Group G, and have avoided too many arduous journeys, with a trip to Slovenia to face Mura – a team only formed in 2012 – the longest trip in store.

Roma, coached by former Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho, are the tournament's other favourites. The Serie A club will face Zorya Luhansk, CSKA Sofia and Bodo/Glimt in Group C.

The Europa League group stage has been trimmed to 32 teams, with Napoli arguably the headline act.

FA Cup winners Leicester City have been drawn in Group E alongside the Italian giants, as well as Spartak Moscow and Legia Warsaw.

The Premier League's other representatives – West Ham – were drawn in Group H, in which they will face Dinamo Zagreb, Genk and Rapid Vienna.

Steven Gerrard's Rangers were placed into Group A with Lyon, Sparta Prague and Brondby, while Scottish rivals Celtic are in a difficult-looking Group G which includes Bayer Leverkusen, Real Betis and Ferencvaros.

Group E pits Lazio, Marseille, Galatasary and Lokomotiv Moscow up against each other in what promises to be a thriller, while Monaco, PSV, Real Sociedad and Sturm Graz will battle it out for progression from Group B.

The first matches will take place on September 16, with the group stage of both competitions concluding on December 9.

Europa League group stage draw in full:

Group A: Lyon, Rangers, Sparta Prague, Brondby
Group B: Monaco, PSV Eindhoven, Real Sociedad, Sturm Graz
Group C: Napoli, Leicester City, Spartak Moscow, Legia Warsaw
Group D: Olympiacos, Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, Royal Antwerp
Group E: Lazio, Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille, Galatasaray
Group F: Braga, Red Star Belgrade, Ludogorets, Midtjylland
Group G: Bayer Leverkusen, Celtic, Real Betis, Ferencvaros
Group H: Dinamo Zagreb, Genk, West Ham, Rapid Vienna

Europa Conference League group stage draw in full: 

Group A: LASK, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Alashkert, HJK Helsinki
Group B: Gent, FK Partizan, Flora, Anorthosis
Group C: Roma, Zorya Luhansk, CSKA Sofia, Bodo/Glimt
Group D: AZ Alkmaar, CFR Cluj, Jablonec, Randers
Group E: Slavia Prague, Feyenoord, Union Berlin,
Group F: Copenhagen, PAOK, Slovan Bratislava, Lincoln Red Imps
Group G: Tottenham, Rennes, Vitesse, Mura
Group H: Basel, Qarabag, Kairat, Omonoia

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho joked that if he could multiply star Lorenzo Pellegrini, they would all be in his starting XI.

Pellegrini has established himself as an integral part of the Roma side since arriving via Sassuolo in 2017, with the Giallorossi captain's exploits reportedly attracting interest from the likes of Liverpool, Juventus and Manchester United.

Among midfielders last season, Pellegrini led Roma in chances created (65), interceptions (43), tackles won (24) and penalty area entries (241), having also scored seven goals and supplied six assists with a passing accuracy of 82 per cent.

In Roma's season-opening 3-1 win over Fiorentina in Serie A last week, the 25-year-old created two chances while boasting a 93.3 passing accuracy, to go with three recoveries, two through balls and five penalty area entries.

Mourinho hailed the Italy international ahead of Thursday's Europa Conference League clash against Turkish visitors Trabzonspor.

"He can do everything," Mourinho told reporters, with Roma leading 2-1 after the first leg.

"If we had three Pellegrini's, they would all be starting the game at the same time. They would never stay all three in the bench.

"He is multifunctional, he can adapt to different roles. The other day when we were 10 he played on the internal part of the right flank and created the chance for Tammy [Abraham] to hit the crossbar.

"He is smart, can understand the game and my ideas. If there were three of him, they would all play."

Fiorentina head coach Vincenzo Italiano insists there is "no problem" with forward Dusan Vlahovic who continues to be the subject of widespread transfer speculation.

The Serbian striker played a full game but did not score as Fiorentina opened their Serie A season with a 3-1 loss at Roma on Sunday.

Vlahovic had been linked with Tottenham, Manchester City and Internazionale during the off-season and remains hot property ahead of the closure of the transfer window at the end of this month.

Fiorentina director Joe Barone publicly claimed prior to the Roma defeat amid mounting speculation that Vlahovic was not for sale and would stay with La Viola in a bid to quell the rumours.

Italiano told reporters after the Roma defeat that there was no issue with Vlahovic.

"There has never been a problem about him," Italiano said. "Now, he must be focused on scoring goals. He had a couple of good chances today.

"We know his worth, he knows he is admired, everybody is helping him to make the difference, he can make it. A motivated Vlahovic can be an added value for us."

Vlahovic is contracted with Fiorentina until 2023 and is understood to be in talks with the club on a new deal.

The 21-year-old Serbian netted 21 goals from 37 appearances for Fiorentina in the 2020-21 Serie A season.

"Every player is important to us, but I repeat what President Rocco Comisso said. Dusan is not for sale and he will stay in Florence," Barone told DAZN. "I’d like these rumours to stop because our season begins today and we must be focused."

Jose Mourinho hailed Tammy Abraham an "important player" after the forward assisted twice in Roma's 3-1 defeat of Fiorentina.

Henrik Mkhitarayan's opener was cancelled out by Nikola Milenkovic but a Jordan Veretout brace secured three points for Mourinho on his return to Serie A.

Abraham benefited from VAR twice for his two assists, first rolling in Mkhitaryan before offloading for Veretout to convert his first.

The former Chelsea forward, who only managed one assist in his final 42 league games with the Blues, was preferred ahead of Eldor Shomurdouv but was replaced with just over 20 minutes left.

"It’s not easy to leave someone on the bench, but [Eldour] Shomurodov can play on the left, he can be a forward with Tammy [Abraham] as well," Mourinho told DAZN post-match.

"At this moment, neither of them are in the same condition as the players who worked in pre-season training from the first day, so I figured to use [Lorenzo] Pellegrini behind.

"He is an important player, with the space that was there I thought it was Abraham's game.

"Shomurodov is very dangerous attacking the space, Tammy is more of a reference point, so even if he wasn’t tired at that stage, I would’ve made the substitution a few minutes later anyway.

"We have many different solutions, but at this moment what I like is the spirit, the defensive organisation is getting there, but Fiorentina made it very, very difficult for us."

With Sunday's victory, Mourinho becomes the fastest manager to reach 50 Serie A wins (77 games) in the three points for a win era (since 1994-95).

The former Manchester United manager is also the fastest to reach such a mark in the Premier League (63 games) and LaLiga (62 games).

Jose Mourinho is already finding the nuance in Italian news conferences a mixed blessing after the Roma boss was served a tactical puzzler ahead of the Serie A season opener.

The former Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham manager suggested he had been pining for Italy while working in the Premier League last season, due to frustration with the English media.

But when faced with a question about Roma's full-backs struggling to deliver effective crosses in the European clash with Trabzonspor on Thursday, Mourinho initially suggested he did not want to answer.

"I will start with a joke," he told reporters. "In England I always used to say that I missed the press conferences in Italy, because here we talk more about tactics – whereas they only want to talk about controversies.

"Now I'm back in Italy, though, I don't want to talk about tactics because you are too good at it!"

But Mourinho went on to give a full answer to the enquiry, admitting Roma "messed up" several crosses and concluding his team would "try to build up our attacking play so we have a number of different options".

Roma edged their Europa Conference League game 2-1 in Turkey, and on Sunday they begin their Serie A campaign with a home test against Fiorentina.

Tammy Abraham could make his debut in that game, Mourinho confirmed, even though the striker has been unable to train with his new team-mates due to pandemic restrictions on his involvement since arriving from Chelsea.

"Tomorrow he will be in the squad," Mourinho said, as quoted by Roma's official website.

"He has not trained this week with the team, he's been training alone because those are the current rules. But he has played pre-season at Chelsea, he's played in some decent games with them and I think he's physically ready to play.

"It's been a tough week for him, though, with all the travelling and the medical tests and the paperwork that has had to be signed. But he will be with us. We have three forwards: Borja [Mayoral], him, Eldor [Shomurodov]. I am delighted to have them."

Mourinho made a cutting remark ahead of the Trabzonspor game by complimenting the work of the Turkish club's ground staff and suggesting on Instagram that those responsible for the state of Roma's own pitch were on holiday.

Returning to the issue on Saturday, Mourinho said: "In England the climate helps a lot with the quality of the pitches, and that is true in other aspects too – so it is a little difficult to compare England with other places.

"The pitch was not good last week, and I have my doubts about whether it will be great tomorrow – but I have confidence in the professionalism and pride of those whose job it is to work on it.

"For sure, the week after, when Lazio play at home, the pitch will be in even better condition for them.

"So, there should be a bit of pressure applied from everyone, not just from my Instagram – which is a bit of a mean Instagram where I have no filter. I think something, and I just post it. No-one can control me.

"With a little pressure from us all we can make the fields at a better level. When I look at the level of the coaches who are in Serie A and others who are no longer there like Conte, Gattuso and Ranieri, I think we all want quality football and therefore we also need quality pitches."

Roma defender Alessandro Florenzi has joined Milan on a season-long loan.

Florenzi becomes Stefano Pioli's latest acquisition in a busy transfer window, with Milan confirming they have an option to sign the full-back on a permanent deal.

The 30-year-old had not featured for Roma since January 2020, spending time on loan at Valencia and then Paris Saint-Germain, where he played 21 times in Ligue 1 last term.

Despite spending the previous season at the Parc des Princes, only Daniel De Rossi (20,370) and Edin Dzeko (19,686) have played more minutes for Roma than Florenzi's 18,925 since his debut in May 2011.

In the same time period, only Radja Nainggolan (285), Lorenzo Pellegrini (296), Dzeko (312), Francesco Totti (366) and Miralem Pjanic (403) have created more chances for Roma than Florenzi, who tallied up 282.

Among defenders in Serie A, Alex Sandro (321) and Aleksandar Kolarov (295) are the only two to have created more than the full-back, who will be back plying his trade in Italy.

A part of Italy's successful Euro 2020 squad, Florenzi also has experience on the international stage, too.

He appeared twice for Roberto Mancini's side as they secured the trophy, including a brief cameo in the final against England at Wembley, to take his total to 45 caps since making his debut in 2012.

Milan get their Serie A campaign underway on Monday when they travel to Sampdoria.

The 2021-22 Serie A campaign commences on Saturday following a busy close season that saw more than half of the 20 teams change head coach.

Antonio Conte departed Inter after guiding the club to their first Scudetto in more than a decade, with Simone Inzaghi being plucked from Lazio, who in turn turned to Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri's former club Juventus decided to end the Andrea Pirlo experiment after just a year and opted for a familiar face in six-time title winner Massimiliano Allegri as his replacement.

Luciano Spalletti is back in Serie A with Napoli, meanwhile, and Jose Mourinho has returned to Italy with Roma some 11 years on from his hugely successful stint with Inter.

There will be just as much focus on the dugouts as the field when the new season gets up and running this weekend, then, and some coaches are facing a tougher challenge than others.

Stats Perform looks at what the managerial changes could mean for some of Serie A's biggest clubs.


Inter 

In: Simone Inzaghi

Out: Antonio Conte

Conte will go down in Inter folklore as the man who ended the club's 11-year wait to return to the top of Italian football.

In an ideal world, one in which the Nerazzurri were not in a position whereby they had to sell star players to balance the books, Conte would still be in charge at San Siro.

As it is, though, Inzaghi will be at the helm this coming season and is in a rather unenviable position of having to pick up where Conte left off, minus the goals of Romelu Lukaku.

Inzaghi has his own vision but does not differ too much from Conte in terms of tactics, both coaches favouring a 3-5-2 formation of sorts throughout their careers.

Moving the ball forward quickly will be the aim, with Milan (90) the only side in Serie A last term to register more direct attacks than Inzaghi's former side Lazio (89). By comparison, Inter were third on that list with 80.

While the structure will remain largely the same, losing Lukaku and influential wing-back Achraf Hakimi – albeit with Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries arriving – means Inzaghi will need to get more out of others if Inter are to retain their crown.

 

Lazio

In: Maurizio Sarri

Out: Simone Inzaghi

The man tasked with replacing Inzaghi at Lazio is Sarri, who endured mixed fortunes during his most recent two stints in Serie A with Napoli and Juventus.

Having come so close to ending Juve's stranglehold on the title in 2017-18 while at Napoli, the 62-year-old won the Europa League in his solitary season at Chelsea and was then given just 14 months at the Allianz Stadium.

His stint in Turin came to an early end despite leading Juve to top spot, his style of play – coined 'Sarriball' – deemed too distant from what Juventus typically expect from a head coach (more on that later!).

At the Stadio Olimpico, Sarri will have more freedom to put his spin on things as he looks to build or improve upon last season's sixth-placed finish. A back four, rather than the three-man defence Inzaghi favoured, can be expected.

Sarri teams are known for their verticality, meaning they like to move the ball forwards. Lazio, as already touched upon, are a good fit in that regard.

They ranked lowest in the top eight last season for build-up attacks (83), which is defined as the number of open play sequences that contain 10 or more passes and either ends in a shot or has at least one touch in the opposition box.

The big question, though, is whether Sarri has the personnel to turn Lazio into top-four regulars in the same way he did at Napoli. With Immobile taking on the Gonzalo Higuain role up top, it might just be a possibility.

Juventus

In: Massimiliano Allegri

Out: Andrea Pirlo

While a lot of clubs mentioned are entering the unknown with their managerial appointments, Juve know exactly what they are getting in Allegri.

The 54-year-old guided Juve to five straight Serie A titles and two Champions League finals between 2014 and 2019, having also previously lifted the Scudetto at Milan.

Only one coach in the Bianconeri's history, Giovanni Trapattoni, has overseen more league games than Allegri's 190, while Juve's two highest-scoring seasons dating back as far as 1930 have both come under the stewardship of the returning favourite.

This Juve side has changed since Allegri's first stint, though, and it may take him time to make this team his own again following the aforementioned reigns of Sarri and Pirlo.

Whereas Sarri and Pirlo were a little complex with their tactics and what they expected from players, Allegri will take a different approach. That is not to say Juve will not be able to chop and change things under Allegri, as they did in his previous spell.

One aspect that will surely differ from last season is the number of goals Juve score. They found the net an underwhelming 56 times from open play last season from an expected goals return (xG) of 54.3.

By comparison, champions Inter scored 65 open play goals from a near identical xG as Juve of 54.6. With the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo set to stay at the club for at least one more season, there is hope of reclaiming the title this time around.

 

Roma

In: Jose Mourinho

Out: Paulo Fonseca

The highest-profile of the incoming coaches in Serie A this season, Mourinho arrives with his 'Special One' status still intact in Italy thanks to his success at Inter a little over a decade ago.

Mourinho won as many league titles in two seasons at San Siro (two) as he has in the 11 years since (one), while also lifting the second of his Champions League crowns, the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana during that trophy-laden stay.

The Portuguese won 62 per cent of his matches at Inter but that win rate has steadily declined and he won just 51.2 per cent of his games with Tottenham, leaving the club in April after just 17 months in charge.

Mourinho's sides were so often hard to beat, but Spurs lost 13 times in 2020-21 under him, making it his worst ever season in that regard and he did not even see it all the way through.

But could his career take a turn in the right direction in Rome? Mourinho's tactics have remained largely consistent throughout his career, no matter the club or country he is coaching in.

The back three largely favoured by Paulo Fonseca will become a back four and there will be particular emphasis on Bryan Cristante, a typical Mourinho player in many ways, to shield the defence and get the ball forward.

The addition of Tammy Abraham from Chelsea is clearly a Mourinho signing, helping the fill the void left by Edin Dzeko, but Mou's pragmatic approach is surely a concern for a Roma side that looked better offensively than defensively last season. 

Finding the correct balance will be key, and that ultimately depends on whether Roma have hired the pre-2015 Mourinho or post.

Napoli

In: Luciano Spalletti

Out: Gennaro Gattuso

With spells at seven different Italian clubs under his belt, including two years at Inter, Spalletti certainly does not lack of experience. After two years out of the game, however, the 62-year-old has to quickly prove he is not yesterday's man.

Spalletti made clear when he took over from Gennaro Gattuso that he will look to operate with a 4-3-3, though on the basis of pre-season it may well be a more familiar 4-2-3-1 come the opening day.

He inherits a talented squad that includes the likes of Piotr Zielinski, Victor Osimhen, Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and Lorenzo Insigne – for now – in attack.

Napoli had no problems scoring goals last time out, with no team managing more shots from open play than their 493 and only Atalanta (77) and Inter (65) scoring more from non-set-piece situations than their 64.

Pressing is a big part of Spalletti's game and that makes Napoli a good fit as they ranked joint-second in Serie A last season for goals scored from high turnovers (nine), behind only Atalanta (10).

There are already a few rumblings of discontent behind the scenes with regards to transfer activity, but a kind fixture list ensures that Spalletti can hit the ground running in his quest to guide Napoli back into the Champions League.

Barely a month has passed since Giorgio Chiellini lifted the European Championship trophy at Wembley, and it would seem logical to expect Serie A to begin amid high fanfare.

This may prove to be the case, as the opening weekend of the season arrives, but a major talent drain from the Italian league since last term cannot be ignored.

Romelu Lukaku, Cristian Romero and Gianluigi Donnarumma have all moved on, swapping Inter, Atalanta and Milan respectively for Chelsea, Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain.

To put those losses into greater context, of the 2020-21 Serie A end-of-season award winners, that is the MVP, the top defender and the leading goalkeeper all exiting the league.

Sweeping changes on the coaching benches also add to uncertainty as the new campaign begins, with a much-changed Inter hoping to successfully defend their title.


JUVE ON A SCUDETTO MISSION

After the folly of handing dugout rookie Andrea Pirlo the reins before last season, Juventus look to be on firmer ground this time with Massimiliano Allegri back as head coach.

They have brought in Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo, primed to play a Pirlo-like role on the pitch, and it seems Cristiano Ronaldo will hang around for the final year of his contract.

Rumours continue to encircle the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, but Allegri can likely count on his reliable flow of goals, just as he did for the 2018-19 season – Ronaldo's debut campaign in Turin and the end of the line for Allegri in his first stint as coach.

A six-time Scudetto winner, Allegri will look to get the best out of wingers Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Chiesa as they enter their second seasons with the Bianconeri, while it remains to be seen how Paulo Dybala performs as he enters the final year of his deal.

Plagued by injury last season, Dybala started just 14 Serie A games, but results were often perkier when he played. Of those 14 games, Juventus won 10, drew three and lost one, with a points-per-game average of 2.4 when he played from the off, compared to 1.9 when he was absent or a substitute. The win percentage of 71.4 per cent when Dybala was in the starting XI (compared to 54.2 per cent when he was not) is in the ball park that Allegri will be eyeing.

 


INZAGHI STEPS INTO CONTE SHOES

Social media tells us Antonio Conte has been thoroughly enjoying his summer, topping up his tan and seemingly showing no regret over his Inter exit, which came in May, just weeks after he guided the Nerazzurri to title glory.

Conte reportedly left amid concern the club planned to raise funds with sales that have duly come to fruition. The loss of striker Lukaku feels like a body blow, given his influence, and persistent rumours suggest Lautaro Martinez could also move on. Achraf Hakimi is another big loss, but, as with Lukaku, a big fee was banked as the right-back proved a one-season wonder in Italy.

In have come coach Simone Inzaghi, who impressed at Lazio, while Edin Dzeko will be a straight swap for Lukaku in the forward line, albeit unlikely to carry quite the same threat. Former PSV star Denzel Dumfries can replace Hakimi in the attacking right full-back role, and Inter will hope his Euro 2020 form transfers to Serie A duty.

It is hard to see Inter repeating last season's success, and the comedown could be painful. They exceeded their expected goals total last season, scoring 84 goals against an xG of 75.3, and Inzaghi will look for more of the same.

They possess plenty of quality still, but they have likely lost Christian Eriksen for the long term too after his cardiac arrest on Denmark duty at Euro 2020. His survival was everything in June, and now his recovery is all-important. The knock-on effect is that Inter have lost a player who became important over the second half of the season.

So much has changed since that title was secured. Landing Hakan Calhanoglu on a free from Milan looks like great business, but consolidation with a top-four finish may be their limit in the new campaign. That, and being sure to secure city bragging rights again.

 


MOURINHO'S BACK AMID MERRY-GO-ROUND

Never mind Inzaghi and Allegri at Inter and Juve, now is the time to get used to the sound of Maurizio Sarri's Lazio, Vincenzo Italiano's Fiorentina, Luciano Spalletti's Napoli ... and Jose Mourinho's Roma. Milan rather feel like the odd ones out, keeping faith with Stefano Pioli.

A whirlwind of change has swept through Serie A, and it will be worth watching to see quite what impact Mourinho can have on a side who finished 16 points short of the Champions League places last term.

His 'Special One' reputation was enhanced the last time he coached in Italy, guiding Inter to a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League in the 2009-10 campaign.

Spells at Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham have followed, but Mourinho's cachet has diminished over the past decade.

Tammy Abraham has followed him in swapping London for Rome, with the Chelsea striker arriving, along with Eldor Shomurodov from Genoa, to pep up an attack depleted by the loss of Dzeko. Rui Patricio has joined fellow Portuguese Mourinho, and the goalkeeper's arrival from Wolves could prove a fine signing.

Roma won just five Serie A away games last term, and have only had fewer once in a season beginning in the 20th century (4 in 2002-03), while their shot conversion rate of 41.35 per cent can be improved upon, given they topped 50 per cent twice in the 2010s.

Most important for Mourinho, perhaps, will be to build on Roma's poor duel success rate (48.97 per cent) and cutting out the errors leading to goals (10 in 2020-21 in Serie A).

The duel figures are important and were the worst Roma had managed in at least 15 years, while the error count will be simply intolerable to the new boss. Only Bologna committed so many costly errors (also 10). Mourinho has his work cut out.

Lazio have completed the signing of Pedro from arch-rivals Roma.

The former Spain winger will remain in the Eternal City in a new era for Lazio under Maurizio Sarri.

Lazio did not state whether they had paid a fee for Pedro or the length of contract he has signed.

The 34-year-old was not part of Jose Mourinho's plans and has now been reunited with Sarri, who he played under at Chelsea.

Pedro has been given the number nine shirt after passing a medical on Thursday.

The former Barcelona wideman made 27 appearances for Roma in Serie A last season, scoring five goals and providing two assists.

Pedro created 29 chances and had a dribble success rate of 64.44.

Lazio travel to Empoli for their first game of the 2021-22 Serie A season on Saturday.

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