With clubs now making moves in the transfer market, we take a look at five lesser known Serie A players who could come under the radar of Premier League sides this summer.
This Premier League season has been a strange but exciting one. Players like Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante have risen from almost anonymity to stratospheric heights.
The Italian game, although perhaps not considered the most entertaining league in the world, is crawling with talented players who could take the next step.
With that said, here are our top five alternative players who Premier League sides could do worse than take a look at this summer.
5. Domenico Berardi – US Sassuolo
Domenico Berardi is an outstanding player with lots of potential, having helped guide Sassuolo towards the top end of the table with his performances for the club over the past four seasons.
The Neroverdi got Juventus’ half of the co-ownership agreement after a complex case, for what now looks like a bargain €10million. But now it appears Juve want Berardi back, and with good reason, but Premier League teams should be keeping tabs too.
A right-winger predominantly, the 21-year-old has seven goals and six assists this campaign. Having burst onto the scene in 2012/13 when he scored 11 goals in Serie B at just 18-years-old, the Italian U21 international has not relinquished his presence, scoring 16 in 2013/14 and 15 last season.
With pace, vision, passing and a deadly left-foot, clubs should be queueing up to sign Domenico Berardi. In all honesty, he may be a Juventus player next season due to a buy-back clause in his co-ownership settlement, but Tottenham have reportedly expressed an interest in rivalling the Bianconeri.
For me, he would be perfectly suited to a team like Spurs, who like to play quick and clever football – mostly on the ground – under Pochettino. Daniel Levy, get your wallet out…
4. Keita Baldé Diao – SS Lazio
Another exciting young winger – this time on the left side – Keita is a former Barcelona youth product who has all the potential to one day make it back to the elite level.
He left the club somewhat unceremoniously though, being sent on loan to satellite side Cornella in the fourth tier as punishment for playing a prank on a team-mate – believed to be putting an ice cube in his bed – before leaving for Italy.
Despite only coming onto the scene for the Roman club in 2013, the Senegalese international has already made 102 appearances for the club, with 30 of those coming in the league this season. With four goals and seven Serie A assists to his name, Keita Balde is the sort of player that plenty of Premier League clubs could use.
A right-footed player, he likes to cut inside and shoot with power, but can also beat his full-back to the byline with breathtaking speed. He can be erratic and is not the finished and polished product by any means, but there is serious potential for Keita to make a difference when given the chance.
I feel a team like West Ham could really use Keita. His speed and effectiveness down the flanks is perfect for the Bilic style, and his ability to whip in dangerous balls but also cut inside renders him perfect for the crop of players they have.
3. Daniele Rugani – Empoli
Quite simply put, Daniele Rugani is one of the hottest defensive prospects in world football at the moment, and Juventus have a superb player on their hands.
However, what they also have is a load of other quality defenders such as Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzaglo, Leonardo Bonucci, Patrice Evra, Stephan Lichsteiner et al., meaning that the 21-year-old has seen his playing time severely limited.
Rugani was instrumental in getting Empoli promoted from Serie B in 2013/14, playing 40 games in the league that season, under a co-ownership agreement with Juventus (notice a theme here?).
Arsenal and Manchester United have already been linked with a move for the central defender, who is adaptable to a three man or four man defensive line. Rugani possesses great positioning, awareness, moderate pace and a good temperament that allows him to avoid silly challenges and bookings.
I don’t however think a move to Arsenal or United would be the best as he already has limited opportunities and needs to play and grow as a player. Judging what Southampton did with the development of Toby Alderweireld I am tempted to say there – especially with Ronald Koeman – but I believe Everton could also be a good destination due to the possible outgoing of John Stones.
2. Godfred Donsah – Bologna
Despite being just 19 years old, Godfred Donsah has the elite clubs in Europe turning their heads towards one of the best midfield prospects in the world.
A Ghana U20 international, Donsah has appeared 20 times for newly-promoted Bologna this season, having made a move from Cagliari worth around £3million.
He can play defensive midfield or central midfield, and I feel the latter suits his ability better. The idea that he could become one of the best is fully justified – Donsah is a player with tremendous power, a lightning shot and great dribbling ability.
Bologna have benefitted a lot from having his skillset, but his build helps also, as a strong combative midfielder who isn’t frightened of doing dirty work.
A lot of teams could use Godfred in all honesty, but I think a team like Arsenal or Manchester City should take a punt on him. With a couple of loan spells to aid development, he could really be an elite player. He could slot nicely into teams like Crystal Palace already though, in my honest opinion…
1. M’Baye Niang – AC Milan
M’Baye Niang is a player who has often been touted as one of the next big things, and the Frenchman is starting to realise his potential.
Before the start of the 2012/13 season, it was reported that Niang had gone on trial with English clubs Arsenal, Everton, and Tottenham Hotspur, but signed for Milan in the end from SM Caen for an undisclosed fee.
During that first season for Milan he made 20 appearances, having big shoes to fill as Zlatan Ibrahimovic had departed for Paris in the same window. After then struggling for game time, he spent a loan spell at Montpellier during 2013/14, and went to Genoa last season, where he impressed by amassing eight combined goals and assists.
In 2015/16 he has set about establishing himself as a key Rossoneri player, and the way he has partnered marksman Carlos Bacca has been one of few bright sparks of an otherwise disappointing campaign for the seven time European Cup winners.
Despite injury issues, the 21-year-old has five goals and five assists this season, a notable one coming in Milan’s 3-0 win over Inter at the start of the year, something which has put him in the hearts of the fans.
A versatile player, Niang can play as an out-and-out striker or on the wing. He has pace, dribbling and a good shot on him, and only really the mental aspects of his game need working on, but those will come over time.
Seeing the way he has partnered Bacca, it leads me to believe he would be perfectly suited playing just off the striker. Leicester City has shown interest already, and I think that would be an ideal destination. Expectations would be high – but if you can do it at the San Siro, the King Power should be fine for M’Baye.
I will wrap up the list by giving honourable mentions to three players, Fiorentina winger Fernando Bernardeschi, AC Milan centre-back Alessio Romagnoli and Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin.
All the aforementioned players would be good buys for Premier League clubs. And who knows, if there are clubs reading this it might just start an Italian invasion…