Who knew football could be equally as exciting after the season had finished?
Serie A has delivered on a huge scale this year, giving us shocks and major plot twists from start to finish, culminating in a new Scudetto winner for the first time in a decade.
The drama has continued after the final whistle blew and the curtain fell on the campaign, however. AS Roma shocked Europe by confirming that coach Paulo Fonseca would be replaced by none other than Jose Mourinho at the end of the season, in what we thought would be the biggest surprise in the managerial merry-go-round.
That was not to be the case, however. Title-winning coach Antonio Conte then walked away from Inter having lifted the league trophy, while Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso were relieved of their duties at Juventus and SSC Napoli respectively.
Within a few days, the entire landscape of next season had shifted. SS Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi is set to be appointed as I Nerazzurri’s new boss, and that news was followed by confirmation that Massimiliano Allegri and Luciano Spalletti were rejoining two other Serie A big boys.
Incredibly, six of Italy’s top eight teams will all be coached by new faces next year. But of the four already appointed, what is expected of them, and how much success are they likely to enjoy?
Expectations: Top-four finish (at least) & a trophy
The ultimate ‘throw a hand grenade onto a trampoline and hope it explodes midair’ move. Mourinho is a ticking time-bomb, and his fuse is getting shorter and shorter with each failed venture. Tottenham Hotspur fans suffered at his hand for around 18 months, but now it’s Roma’s turn.
The Giallorossi are desperate to return to the Champions League, while also competing to win a cup competition or two. The new owners believe Mourinho is the man to carry Roma back into the top four and then push even further up the table, with the right investment, of course.
It’s incredibly ambitious, but you don’t appoint Mourinho for his pretty football. You appoint him to win things – something Roma haven’t done for a very long time.
Success likelihood: 7.5/10 – In terms of a top-four finish, you wouldn’t doubt him bringing I Giallorossi back into the Champions League, and maybe even winning the inaugural Europa Conference League. But a Scudetto charge? We just can’t see it. Plus, he could implode after about two weeks and force his players to fight to the death with snooker cues.
Expectations: Win Serie A & finally win the Champions League
We’re allowed to feel sorry for Pirlo. It was harsh but also the right decision to sack him, and we can still back a rubbish Juve to reclaim the Italian throne all at the same time, right? I Bianconeri are not at the stage where a rookie can be handed the keys to the Fiat, and this bloated, average squad needs the leadership of a true managerial mastermind.
Allegri is that mastermind. He knows the club, he knows what needs to be done in order to wrestle back the power in Italy, and he has the ability to perform such tasks. It won’t be easy, but Conte’s departure from Inter has already swung the momentum in I Bianconeri’s favour.
Andrea Agnelli will have to support his new manager in the market, but one thing is for sure, he is the right man at the right time for this club.
Success likelihood: 7/10 – Genuinely, this appointment makes Juventus title favourites again, despite finishing last season in fourth position. Allegri is a serial winner and has clinched the Scudetto for the Old Lady before and will do so again – European glory remains a distant dream, however.
Expectations: Attempt to defend the title while working under restrictive financial conditions
This was the appointment none of us expected, purely because we never saw Conte actually leaving. But the financial issues must be so severe that the Italian didn’t even bother threatening his resignation – he simply accepted that he could not work in those conditions.
For Inter supporters, that is extremely ominous for the upcoming season. On a positive note, president Steven Zhang has pulled off a major coup in snapping up Lazio boss Inzaghi, and his love of a 3-5-2 system and ability to squeeze every drop out of a squad makes him the ideal man to succeed our departed Antonio.
He’ll be asked to defend the title, while possibly having to wave goodbye to some of his biggest and most important stars this summer, as the club aims to create €100m in transfers and slash the wage bill by 20%. It’s a tough ask, but not impossible.
Success likelihood: 6/10 – Stylistically, Inzaghi is the right appointment, and he is the man needed to keep Inter moving forward. However, the financial issues are a major cause for concern, and could derail their season no matter how hard he tries. No title, for me.
Expectations: Top-four finish & a trophy
You’ve got to feel for Gennaro Gattuso. The former Napoli boss gave his all and worked day to day at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, all the while watching the shiny blade of an axe dangle above his head.
President Aurelio De Laurentiis seemed to have made up his mind long ago, and even when I Partenopei appeared destined for a top-four finish, he did nothing to banish the executioner’s looming shadow.
In the end, Napoli finished fifth and Gattuso was sacked, meaning the arrival of Spalletti was guaranteed. Spalletti did wonderful things at Roma, and also set Inter on the journey they now found themselves on. The Italian is a forward thinker and a little bit mad, but he is the Sam Allardyce of the Serie A top-four world (minus the West Brom debacle). Bring him in, and he’ll do the job.
Success likelihood: 9/10 – If you want to finish in the top four and play some adventurous football, you hire Spalletti. That’s what Napoli have done, and with the talent they boast within their squad, we make them nailed on favourites for Champions League qualification.