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Serie A: Who Rules the Middle in Italy?

It is the league which has given us some of the ultimate midfield maestros.

These are players who have graced the game at the very highest level and football connoisseurs who have produced moments only humans with a special gift can deliver.

From Valentino Mazzola to Michel Platini, Diego Maradona to Roberto Baggio, Zinedine Zidane to Andrea Pirlo, some of the greatest names have plied their trade in Serie A.

For the moment, we have no football to enjoy and no SBOTOP Serie A predictions to tempt you with, just the memory of Serie A highlights to date.

While some of its league stars have educated us and led by example during the COVID-19 pandemic, the actual beautiful game is becoming a distant memory.

But it shouldn’t, for 2019/20 has involved some special moments and some fine midfielders in their own right.

However, for those who have jumped out for me, will they make your list?

 

Josip Ilicic – Atalanta

When the Slovenia international attacking midfielder scored four goals against Valencia in the Champions League last month, the whole of Europe sat up and took notice of what Atalanta fans had been saying for some time.

Having lived an enigmatic existence during his time in Serie A at the age of 32, he has now hit peak form by scoring 15 goals and contributing eight assists in 21 games for the Oribici – who sit fourth in the currently suspended 2019/20 season.

His first season in Bergamo had proved just how valuable an acquisition he had become, showing glimpses of his brilliance before this campaign saw a further improvement of last season – including two assists in their home win over Inter Milan and important goals against Juventus and former club Fiorentina.

 

Luis Alberto – Lazio

Any midfielder who has 11 assists to his name before Christmas deserves inclusion. Indeed, he has also created more chances than any other player in the league this term.

Here is a player who has shone in the ‘trequartista’ role behind leading scorer and lone striker Ciro Immobile. Yes, Luis Alberto has played a major role in Lazio’s rejuvenation.

That the Aquile have now beaten Juventus and Inter this term and briefly went top a month ago underlines that their threat is a genuine one and they will inarguably be the Scudetto’s challengers if the season resumes.

Over the past three seasons, he’s blossomed into a true star. And since the beginning of the 2017-18 season, only six players in Europe’s big five leagues have at least 30 assists which include Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller, Kevin De Bruyne, Alejandro Gomez, Jadon Sancho and Luis Alberto.

 

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Lazio

He is one of Europe’s hottest properties with Manchester United frequently linked to the midfielder and Lazio’s Serie A title rivals Juventus openly showing interest last summer. Milinkovic-Savic has just turned 25 and is fast approaching his peak.

Admirers say he has proven himself to be a perfect all-rounder, capable of defending and attacking in equal measure.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has made a name for himself this Serie A season with his exemplary form
                                                        Lazio’s Francesco Acerbi and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic celebrate after scoring a goal

Indeed, if it wasn’t for President Claudio Lotito playing hardball, he may already be playing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Maurizio Sarri. But the admirable refusal shows the extent of Lazio’s ambition.

There is no doubt behind Immobile. He and Alberto are leading Lazio’s surge as they have become the top team in Rome and are striving to be the top team in Italy.

 

Miralem Pjanic – Juventus

Now, this is a consistent and key presence in Juve’s title-winning side.

Deployed in more of a defensive role and forced to relinquish sole responsibility of free kicks to CR7, it has still proven to be a fruitful campaign for Pjanic.

 

He is one of the first names in the Bianconeri’s strongest lineup and has cemented his reputation as a mainstay, despite suggestions that the Bosnia-Herzegovina talisman has found life hard under Sarri since the Italian coach took over the reins last summer.

He has just turned 30 and is being linked with a move away from Turin this summer and his departure would certainly represent a loss to the side.

 

Papu Gomez – Atalanta

Fabian Ruiz of Napoli and Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini were pushing for a place in my top five, but my final place goes to Papu Gomez.

Another player in his 30’s, and a star for the Orobici, the diminutive Argentine embodies the spirited resolve that has seen Atalanta soar to new heights.

Technically a wonderful footballer, he can operate as a left-winger, as a No. 10, and is effective in either role with balance, flair, and vision.

With Alberto, he also shares the most assists from open play this season with nine.

A cult status and place among the Atalanta Hall of Fame awaits the 32-year-old who has found his own home away from home in Bergamo.

 

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