It has been a truly sensational season of Calcio, once again. A turbulent season that has seen Inter crash, Fiorentina fly, Milan fire all their hairdressers and hire Conte’s. Fiorentina had the Della Valle tantrums echoed by De Laurentiis’ theatrics and Zamparini managed to somehow fire the entire population of Palermo.
You can’t start a season review without mentioning Antonio Conte’s successful second stint. (Damn – alliteration, haven’t seen it used since I was a young, youthful, yabbering kid. I think I did it again.) Conte’s Juventus enjoyed a consecutive spell atop the Serie A charts, impressively remaining first in the league for 46 consecutive football weeks (1 year, 1 month and 12 days). Despite Conte’s success, the season started off with Conte being banned after Omessa Denuncia, or in English, “FIGC’s hatred towards Juventus”. Conte’s no.3 and then no.2 had no trouble keeping the team atop the table; Massimo Carrera and Angelo Alessio both doing admirably well in the troubled circumstances.
Juventus season was marred by a streak-ending loss to Inter, then dubbed “l’anti Juve”, at the Juventus Stadium followed by a defeat to Milan in the following weeks, but overall managed a steady and consistent season. Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal had strong seasons in the middle, while Andrea Pirlo and Andrea Barzagli consolidated their positions as “not old and overweight”.
Napoli finished second, mostly thanks to Blerim Džemaili. The Swiss midfielder bossed the mid… So back on planet Earth, Edison Cavani was out of this World, carrying a heavy load on his back - mostly Salvatore Aronica until he left – scoring the most goals in Serie A with 29, 6 more than anyone else. Unfortunately, while he could score on the pitch, apparently he wasn’t scoring as well with his wife.
Midfielder Marek Hamšík had a strong input in Napoli’s strong showing, despite Cavani taking the spotlight; the Slovak midfielder had a Serie A leading 14 assists to show for his efforts. Hugo Campagnaro also had a season as successful as Scorsese’s Hugo. The 32-year-old defender was rejuvenated, likely from tips given by Silvio Berlusconi, helping Napoli to the league’s second best defense with 36 goals conceded. While the defender’s surname suggests otherwise, he made the team look anything but a provinciale. (Campagna translates from Italian to country-side, and provinciale if you hadn’t already inferred means provincial).
Milan and Fiorentina were toe-to-toe up until the final match day. It had seemed as if the Florentines had managed to nab that final Champions League spot before top player, and winter signing Mauro Bergonzi gave the Milanese side their Champions League berth. Joking aside, Milan had a momentous second half of the season; propelled by Mario Balotelli’s incumbent arrival. The rossoneri amassed 45 points after the Christmas break, losing just one game while averaging 2.25 points per game. They only managed 1.5 points per game prior, and were even more unimpressive before November.
The young trio of Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy and M’Baye Niang took the league by storm, gelling together immediately – some say through their hair gel – combining for one of the youngest and most explosive forward trios in the league. El Shaarawy led the league in scoring before the winter break, still finishing with 16 goals despite cooling off after the winter. Despite the good overall season, Massimo Allegri was under scrutiny all season long, with cries of “Vai, vai, vai” directed towards him.
He used to celebrate with the famous “flying” celebration, and how Vincenzo Montella took flight with his Fiorentina side. The viola almost managed the unthinkable – a champions league spot – but were dumbfounded by Milan on the last corner. The Tuscans can still be proud of a great season, but ultimately were halted by their inconsistencies – Montella’s side were as unstable as the Tower of Pisa.
Their season was also heavily surrounded around star forward Stevan Jovetić, the Montenegrin will now likely cross the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and hope that it will all be Acqua Sotto il Ponte, or “water under the bridge”. Fiorentina’s new boys Borja Valero, Gonzalo Rodríguez and Juan Cuadrado had strong seasons, all three having great shouts for team of the season. Adem Ljajić arguably outshined Jovetić, with 11 goals and 8 assists.
Udinese won its last 8 games, helping them finish strongly in 4th with evergreen Toto’ Di Natale scoring 20 or more goals once again. The two Roman sides started well but fell off towards the end – the only consistent facet of their season being their inconsistencies. Francesco Totti proved why he’s Serie A’s 2nd top scorer with 227 goals. We can expect him to play until about 2025 as he announced (jokingly) he’ll only retire when he reaches Piola’s 274.
Revelation of the season, no not Mattia De Sciglio or Balotelli’s twitter account, has to go to Lazio’s coach Vladimir Petković. The Lazio coach led them to a Coppa Italia triumph against rivals Roma in his first season in a top league. Inter finished in 9th, Andrea Stramaccioni now dubbed “the Special None” but will relish in... Actually, they have nothing to relish about.
Palermo, Siena and Pescara were all relegated, losing more games to end the season than a Poker player would, while Parma, Cagliari, Chievo, Bologna, Sampdoria, Atalanta, Torino and Genoa had nothing really noteworthy about their season other than all having better defensive records than Inter. Well, maybe Panagiotis Kone would have an objection.
Goal of the Season
Signing of the Season
€7m. That’s the price Fiorentina paid for Borja Valero in the summer of 2012, that’s cheaper than Berlusconi’s worst and oldest escort – who still happens to be younger than Borja Valero, 27.
Young Player of the Season
He was costless, he was French and he most certainly wasn’t François Hollande, the Best Young Player was Paul Pogba. The now 20-year-old midfielder burst onto the scene like a pimple, with a vital goal against Napoli, and went on to score a few more crackers (Udinese) while matching Alessandro Del Piero as the last 19-year-old to score 5 goals for Juventus.
Goalkeeper of the Season
My award goes to Lazio’s Federico Marchetti. A long discussion on Twitter tried to sway me towards popular choice Samir Handanović, who was the only bright spot and relatively good performer for a lousy Inter side, but while Inter finished 9th and conceded 57 goals, Lazio only conceded 42 while finishing 7th but winning the Coppa Italia.
Marchetti also conceded a goal every 3.72 shots, second to only Buffon while Handanović conceded a goal every 3.11 shots. Though in reality, Marchetti gets the award because I was tired of copy-pasting the accent on the “C” for the Slovenian keeper, Handanović. Oh.
Defender of the Season
This is a tossup between Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli. Ultimately, I went with the consistent rock in the back 3 of Conte’s Juventus. The 32-year-old had another great season, amassing 2.1 tackles a game, 2.6 interceptions, 5.4 clearances while completing 90.4% of his passes, 4.6 of which were long balls. (*all stats via WhoScored.com)
He also has a mohawk, while aged 32, which is always something that should be respected. Expect Prandelli to have one soon too, if all goes to plan and Italy win the World Cup in Brazil.
Midfielder of the Season
While Arturo Vidal had a stellar season in a team that plays without stars, Marek Hamšík was the best midfielder in Serie A. This could easily be a full-on Juventus award ceremony, but the Slovak was far more consistent also having favourable statistics. He had 11 goals and a league-leading 14 assists against Vidal’s 10 goals and 8 assists. The two midfielders were very similar, though Vidal’s hair was far nicer than Hamšík’s thing he had on his head.
Striker of the Season
Well, the Player of the Season is a striker named Cavani, so it only makes sense for the best striker to be named, Francesco Totti! While Totti was incredible, Edison Cavani’s performances would make Ron Jeremy proud. Cavani’s goals were hard hitting, penetrating, huge & even from behind.
Here’s a friendly reminder – never bring up Ron Jeremy, things just go south when he cum-comes.
Player of the Season
The award undoubtedly goes to Edison Cavani. The Uruguayan striker has carried Napoli, not only consistently playing at incredible levels but also maintaining Napoli’s position high up the table. While players like Vidal, too inconsistent, and Totti who couldn’t guide his talented team into a European spot, Cavani pushed Napoli to a second place. He also finished the season with 29 goals, 6 more than Di Natale. But that’s no big deal. Though, the buyout clause on his head is a pretty big deal. Literally.
Coach of the Season
Vincenzo Montella, Antonio Conte, Vladimir Petković all deserve a shout. But the award goes to Francesco Guidolin. How he continues to find ways to improve the squad despite selling every season, and continues to achieve a European position versus the likes of Roma, Lazio and Inter shows how incredible Guidolin has been. While players have left, Udinese have continued to win and Guidolin is the tying factor; he had his team working as smoothly as Mayonese. Udinese, Mayonese. That just makes sense.
Team of the Season
Coach: Francesco Guidolin (Udinese).
(3-4-3) Marchetti; Barzagli, Rodríguez, Chiellini; Vidal, Valero, Hamšík, Lulić; Totti, Cavani, Di Natale.
Goalkeepers: Federico Marchetti (Lazio), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Samir Handanović (Inter).
Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Gonzalo Rodríguez (Fiorentina), Hugo Campagnaro (Napoli), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina).
Midfielders: Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Borja Valero (Fiorentina), Marek Hamšík (Napoli), Erik Lamela (Roma), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), Senad Lulić (Lazio), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari).
Strikers: Edison Cavani (Napoli), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Francesco Totti (Roma), Germán Denis (Atalanta), Stevan Jovetić (Fiorentina), Stephan El Shaarawy (Milan).
I wish to conclude the season review, on a slightly sour note. While Serie A has been great this season, we've had another season of Taddei's ridiculous hair and even a Mexes beauty bicyle kick in the Champions League, but the season was in large part tainted by ceaseless and nonsensical choruses of racism throughout. Juventus were hit heavily with fines - leading Serie A - but along with Lazio made admirable efforts to eradicate racism from football.
It's sad, it really is. Calcio is, to me, the best league out there. Maybe we're behind on infrastructure, our youth system isn't the best and hell, some of the better players prefer going to different leagues, but this league has a passion, flair and a penchant for theatrical drama which is unmatched. It's sad to see emptier stadiums, filled with individuals (it's important to note, that in all cases there were a small percentage of fans - not all) that don't deserve to be at the stadium.
This season of Calcio has been great, as I said in the opening paragraph, it has been truly sensational. However, this season will always have this blemish, and until a solution is found, no one must stop fighting for this cause. Not the fans at the stadium, those at home, the players, the coaches, the teams, the presidents. I love Calcio, but sometimes I'd rather not believe this was Calcio, not like this anyways.
Enough with the negativity now, I already can't wait for the 2013/14 season to begin!
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