Soccer-Coaching carousel makes for unpredictable Serie A season

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·3-min read
Serie A - Inter Milan v Lazio
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By Alasdair Mackenzie

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's Euro 2020 triumph is still fresh in the memory, but the mood ahead of the new Serie A season is mixed after a summer characterised by high-profile departures rather than big-name signings.

The list of players to have left the league includes 2020-21 Player of the Season Romelu Lukaku, Defender of the Year Cristian Romero, Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma and flying wing back Achraf Hakimi.

However, widespread changes to the coaching line-up offer plenty of reasons for excitement ahead of a campaign that is hard to call.

USUAL SUSPECTS

Simone Inzaghi has been tasked with leading Inter Milan's title defence after a tumultuous close season for the club which included Antonio Conte walking out amid frustrations at cost-cutting plans.

The 45-year-old former Lazio coach is seen as a natural successor to Conte, but his task has been made harder by the sales of Lukaku and Hakimi, who contributed a combined 31 goals and 20 assists last season.

The loss of three key pieces of Inter's title-winning side has left many tipping Juventus to reclaim the title, now that six-time Serie A winner Massimiliano Allegri is back at the helm.

"Juve are always favourites, this year even more so," former Juventus manager Marcello Lippi said. "They did not win last season, so they are hungry and determined to get their own back."

Juve have regressed since Allegri's 2019 departure, though, and only squeezed into the Champions League places on the final day of last season under rookie coach Andrea Pirlo.

How well Inzaghi controls a difficult situation at his new club, and the ease with which Allegri settles back in at Juventus, could well decide the title.

CAPITAL CLASH

The only top-seven sides to keep their coaches in place, AC Milan with Stefano Pioli and Atalanta with Gian Piero Gasperini, may well benefit from stability after finishing second and third respectively last season.

"If Milan can take a step forward with the internalisation of their game plan, no objective is out of reach," said former Rossoneri coach Arrigo Sacchi.

Twelve of the 20 Serie A clubs changed coach ahead of the new campaign, but arguably the most intriguing appointments were in the capital.

Jose Mourinho joined AS Roma, marking his return to Italy 11 years after leading Inter to an unprecedented treble, and the Portuguese is determined to succeed in a country where he is still held in high regard.

Across the city, Lazio appointed Maurizio Sarri and the clash in styles - and personalities - of the two Roman coaches promises to provide high drama on Rome Derby day.

Another familiar face, Luciano Spalletti, is back with Napoli, while the man he succeeded, Gennaro Gattuso, lasted 22 days in charge of Fiorentina before leaving and being replaced by highly-rated former Spezia boss Vincenzo Italiano.

NEW FACES

Two of Italy's most beautiful locations, Venice and the Amalfi Coast, will host Serie A football again this season after a long break.

Venezia are set for their first top-flight campaign in 20 years, while Salernitana, based in Salerno, are back in the big time for the first time since 1998-99. Yo-yo club Empoli are the third new team in the division.

While the profile of players leaving the league has trumped those coming in, some intriguing deals have been struck.

Inter signed Dutch Euro 2020 star Denzel Dumfries and veteran striker Edin Dzeko to replace Hakimi and Lukaku, while former Milan playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu adds quality to the midfield.

Roma added Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, while Mike Maignan is tasked with replacing Donnarumma at Milan and Olivier Giroud was brought in, also from Chelsea, to bolster Pioli's attack.

With another two weeks to go until the window closes, the number of notable new additions is likely to rise further ahead of what promises to be a fascinating campaign.

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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