Six new faces to watch in Serie A
Another intriguing Serie A title race looks on the cards this season as Italy’s big boys have brought in some well-known names in a bid to dethrone champions AC Milan.
AFP Sport looks at some of the most important new faces ready to make an impact ahead of the weekend’s kick-off:
Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
Lukaku’s return to Inter was supposed to be part of a summer transfer campaign which would make them clear favourites for this year’s Scudetto.
However, their other two main targets, Paulo Dybala and Gleison Bremer were nabbed by Roma and Juventus respectively, leaving a big weight of expectation on Belgium striker Lukaku, who comes back to the Milan club with a reputation to rebuild after a dismal season at Chelsea.
He scored 64 times in 95 games in his previous two seasons at Inter and drove them to their first Serie A title in more than a decade, the 2021 crown ending both an 11-year drought and Juve’s grip on Italian football.
Paul Pogba (Juventus)
The France midfielder’s return to Turin from Manchester United was one of two big free-agent moves made by Juventus in the summer and a boost to Massimiliano Allegri despite a knee injury ruining his pre-season.
A meniscus injury in his right knee has pushed Pogba’s second Juve debut back a few weeks but with a World Cup looming in November and December, Pogba has reportedly decided against an operation before the start of 2023, leaving some worries over what kind of player Allegri will have at his disposal.
A Pogba on top form would close a gap in midfield which has been Juve’s weak point for some time.
Georginio Wijnaldum (Roma)
Roma have been riding the crest of a wave since winning the inaugural Europa Conference League last season, and the addition of Wijnaldum on loan from Paris Saint-Germain has made observers take Jose Mourinho’s team very seriously.
Some have even made them a dark horse for the league title now that the Netherlands international, a Champions League winner with Liverpool and still only 31 years old, will add his own brand of style and substance to Roma’s midfield.
Angel Di Maria (Juventus)
Juve’s second big free-agent signing of the summer is another certified name who brings a world-class pedigree to their attack, which has lost his Argentina teammate Dybala.
Copa America winner Di Maria moves to Turin after being released by PSG, where he won five league titles and five French Cups but missed out on the Champions League in 2020 when they were beaten in the final by Bayern Munich.
Charles De Ketelaere (AC Milan)
Belgium forward De Ketelaere is to date Milan’s only big signing at 35 million euros ($36.2m) from Club Brugge, the second Belgian brought in by the champions after Divock Origi arrived as a free agent.
The 21-year-old, who has signed a five-year deal with Stefano Pioli’s side, has represented his country eight times and won the Belgian title with his hometown club in the last three seasons.
Milan are hoping that De Ketelaere will add extra punch to an attack which struggled at times last season, in particular against the league’s lesser lights.
Paulo Dybala (Roma)
Roma’s status as dark horses for the title is largely down to Dybala’s arrival as a free agent, a deal which could have a huge impact on the coming campaign.
The Argentina forward was expected to sign for Inter after being released by Juve but Lukaku’s return and an inability to shift dead wood in attack meant that they were unable to afford him.
In swooped Roma, and a telephone chat with Mourinho convinced Dybala to take a chance — and a massive pay cut — with a team who do not have Champions League football but have shown serious ambition after winning the Conference League in May.