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Five Serie A gifts that keep on giving

Serie A saw an influx of talent over the summer, but which signings have proven the league’s top gifts thus far? A former Manchester City and Manchester United man features, along with a striker who nearly signed for Arsenal.

Edinson Cavani, Marquinhos, Erik Lamela and Stevan Jovetic may all have departed the peninsula in big money moves for new adventures abroad, yet Italian sides stumped up plenty of cash themselves to bring in reinforcements over the last transfer window.

A slew of these acquisitions have proven to be wise investments, running the gamut from blockbuster fees to more discounted rates, and paring down the register to just five was a task that has seen more than just a few deserving names be snubbed.

The final roll of five is dominated by just three clubs, league leaders Juventus claiming one spot whilst AS Roma and Napoli, second and third respectively on the table, each have their say with a duo of inductees.

As not to forget those lost in the harsh nature of a shortlist, an honourable mention ledger has been added to pay tribute where it is due.

1. Carlos Tevez – Manchester City to Juventus, £12 million

An overplayed subplot of the reigning champions’ summer was the hunt for a so-called ‘top striker’, and as such many surrounding the camp hailed the capture of the Argentine for a cut-rate fee as a wizardly piece of business from management that simultaneously filled a major need.

City were clearly keen to allow Tevez to move on as Alvaro Negredo and Jovetic were purchased to bolster their attacking ranks, though despite the 29-year-old having admitted he contemplated retirement ahead of moving to Turin, he’s shown that desire is still rife in his heart.

Splendid displays in Serie A have earned him 11 goals after only 17 rounds of play, the same number of strikes he totaled throughout the entirety of his final Premier League campaign, he’s added a much-needed clinical touch to Antonio Conte’s Bianconeri side and formed an ever-improving partnership with Fernando Llorente up front in the Italian’s 3-5-2 set up.

2. Gonzalo Higuain – Real Madrid to Napoli, £34.5 million

Constantly linked with Arsenal throughout a tempestuous summer at the Emirates, the Argentine was eventually netted by Napoli as the outgoing Cavani’s replacement.

Alleged to have been purchased for an inflated fee due to the machinations of the market and widespread knowledge of the gargantuan sum reaped from PSG for the services of his Uruguayan predecessor, Higuain came into the season with plenty to live up to at the San Paolo.

He’s simply put his head down and gone to work, however, rippling the net nine times on the domestic front whilst smashing home four in Napoli’s ill-fated Champions League run.

Caught by cameras in tears following the Partenopei’s heartbreaking elimination from Europe’s elite competition, some could’ve seen the moment as an exposure of weakness, but rather highlighted the Argentine’s will to compete at the highest level, and quite possibly burgeoning love for a shirt that is backed by some of the most passionate supporters in Europe.

3. Kevin Strootman – PSV Eindhoven to AS Roma, £17 million

Manchester United were believed to be poised to get the Dutchman’s signature at the outset of the previous transfer campaign, only for Roma to snatch him away with conviction in what’s turned out to be one of the most astute deals in recent memory.

Strootman has made the Red Devils rue the day he arrived at the Stadio Olimpico, as his unique blend of power and elegance in midfield has been a major reason for the success of Rudi Garcia’s unbeaten Giallorossi following three years of chopping and changing at the helm in the Italian capital.

A true box-to-box presence in the centre of the park, the 23-year-old’s four goals and six assists have shown his credentials in the attacking third, whilst his defensive solidity has contributed heavily to Roma’s league-leading record of only seven goals conceded.

His agent has stated that the Netherlands international is happy with his current employers, and whilst the climate of the market means anything remains possible despite such a contention, Roma will have been pleased to hear this and can be counted upon to do everything in their power to retain Strootman’s services for an extended period going forward.

4. Mehdi Benatia – Udinese to AS Roma, £11 million

For years one of the most criminally underrated defenders in Europe as part of a Udinese side that annually punched well above their weight in Serie A, Benatia finally received his chance for full recognition when Roma came knocking in July.

The Moroccan settled quickly in southern Italy and has teamed up with Leandro Castan to form a near impenetrable barrier at the back for i Lupi, exuding the versatile qualities of a modern centre-back with pace, sure feet, a scrutinising tactical mind and aerial prowess to boot.

Coach Garcia has repeatedly praised his abilities in attack as well, which have seen the Marseille youth product net a headed brace against Catania and two other sensational strikes that the globe’s top strikers would be proud of.

Now an object of envy from elsewhere, other clubs will be kicking themselves for not having seen in the ex-Udinese defender what the Giallorossi did.

5. Jose Callejon – Real Madrid to Napoli, £8.5 million

Crossing the divide from Real Madrid to the San Paolo alongside Higuain and countryman Raul Albiol, Callejon has shone for Napoli this term after never reaching his true potential in the Spanish capital.

A menace to defenders out wide, the Spaniard has profited from plying his trade alongside Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne, and Dries Mertens in an attacking midfield trident in support of Higuain under former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez.

Callejon has reeled off 10 goals in 23 appearances across all competitions in his first months in an Azzurri shirt, ranking in the top ten in Serie A in scoring.

Considering his price, the return from the 26-year-old has been prolific, seeing him pip some of the other highly qualified candidates for this list.

Honourable Mention:

Gervinho – Arsenal to AS Roma, £6.7 million

Hugo Campagnaro – Napoli to Inter, free transfer

Fernando Llorente – Athletic Bilbao to Juventus, free transfer

Luca Toni – Fiorentina to Hellas Verona, free transfer

Ciro Immobile – Geona to Torino, £2.3 million (co-ownership with Juventus)

Kaka – Real Madrid to AC Milan, free transfer

Juan Iturbe – Porto to Hellas Verona, loan

image: © ell-r-brown

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