One Player to watch on every Serie A club for the 2020/21 season
The Serie A season is underway with the first matchday finishing up this past weekend. I decided to do something different from my usually season predictions for Serie A and try to find one player from every club to have a standout season in 2020/21 for their team. I will be watching a lot of Serie A games this season and I think the Italian league will be one of the most competitive leagues this season with seven teams having a realistic chance of winning the league and the relegation battle will also be super competitive.
US Salernitana: Simy (forward on loan from Crotone for the season)
The club is heading into their first Serie A season in 23 years after finishing second in Serie B last season with a 19-12-7 record. The team needed to add some Serie A experience and some goal scoring, because despite being promoted they struggled to score goals last year as they ranked 11th in Serie B for goals. The 29 year old Nigerian striker Simy scored 20 goals in 38 games last season for Crotone in the top league and although Crotone were relegated last season, Simy scored nearly 50% of the team's goals and was one of the few bright spots on the team.
Venezia FC: Arnor Sigurdsson (attacking midfielder on loan from CSKA Moscow for the season)
Newly promoted club Venezia finished 5th last season in Serie B with a 15-14-9 record but they were able to gain promotion through the playoffs. The rapid rise for the club from bankruptcy in 2015 while competing in Serie D to now earning promotion into the top flight in 2021 is simply amazing. The club was bought by an American businessman in 2015 and they have acquired two promising young American players from the MLS for the midfield with Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio. I think a player to watch though for this club is attacking midfielder Arnor Sigurdsson from Iceland as the 22 year old is on loan from CSKA Moscow for this season. He played 23 games last season with Moscow and he already has 14 international appearances for Iceland.
FC Empoli: Leonardo Mancuso (winger)
FC Empoli had a great season last year in Serie B as they finished with a 19-16-3 record to earn automatic promotion to the top league for this season. A lot of strong performances for Empoli that I think will transfer over into Serie A but i’m looking at Leonardo Mancuso as a main player to watch as the 29 year old had 20 goals in 37 games last season for Empoli and he needs to perform at a high level for this club to avoid relegation this season.
Spezia: Giulio Maggiore (midfielder)
It was a better than expected season last year for Spezia as they avoided relegation and finished 15th in the standings with a 9-12-17 record. Midfielder Guilio Maggiore was key to the teams success as he did a great job managing the game and contributing at both ends of the pitch. The 23 year old alternate captain is a key player to watch this season for this hopeful club.
Genoa: Zinho Vanheusden (Center-back on loan from Inter Milan for the season)
A solid season for Genoa last season as they finished in 11th place but only five points separated the 11th place team from 17th last season. The club has a very exciting goaltending battle with Salvatore Sirigu, Adrian Semper and Federico Marchetti all battling for that number one spot. Offensively 38 year old Goran Pandev is back for another season and he is joined by Mattia Destro and newly acquired forwards Aleksander Buksa and Caleb Ekuban. I think that a player to watch is defender Zinho Vanheusden as the Belgium defender is on loan from Inter Milan and he has a lot of potential but he would have struggled to find minutes at Inter Milan this season.
Udinese: Tolgay Arslan (midfielder)
Udinese finished 14th last season and the club lost a couple key players during this transfer window with goalkeeper Juan Musso transferring to Atalanta (22 million dollar fee) and star midfielder Rodrigo de Paul transferring to Atletico Madrid (38.5 million dollar fee). The club needs a midfielder to step up with the loss of Rodrigo de Paul and there are a couple of options to choose from but I think this season could show the strong leadership and abilities of 31 year old German midfielder Tolgay Arslan. He played in 30 league games last season and I expect him to become a key player this season for Udinese.
Hellas Verona: Ivan Ilic (midfielder)
Hellas Verona have put together a very talented squad with some solid depth and I’m excited to see what this smaller club can do this season. The midfield is probably their position with the most depth as they have Antonin Barak, Mattia Zaccagni, Davide Faraoni, Adrien Tameze and others but I’m looking forward to seeing the performance of 20 year old Serbian Ivan Ilic. Last season Ilic was on loan from Manchester City as he played in 29 Serie A games and 2 international games for Serbia but Hellas Verona made the move this summer with a 8.25 million dollar transfer fee to acquire the young talent.
Sampdoria: Mikkel Damsgaard (left winger)
Sampdoria finished 9th last season and the club is always a dangerous team to play against with a really balanced team lead by 38 year old Italian legend Fabio Quagliarella who scored 13 goals in 33 games last season. The player to watch on Sampdoria has to be Mikkel Damsgaard as the 21 year old Danish winger gained a lot of attention this summer with 4 goals in 7 games for Denmark. He played 35 games last season for Sampdoria with 2 goals and he has been at the center of transfer rumours for the past couple months. If Sampdoria keep him this season, Damsgaard will be a player to watch.
Cagliari: Sebastian Walukiewicz (Center-back)
Cagliari have a lot of exciting forward talent with Joao Pedro, Giovanni Simeone, Nahitan Nandez and Razvan Marin but I think the key to winning matches might depend on their success defensively this season. They were nearly relegated last season and they must do a better job of controlling games and getting results because this squad shouldn’t be in danger of relegation with their talent. I think Sebastian Walukiewicz is a player to watch for Cagliari as the 21 year Polish defender impressed me last season and I think he is going to continue improving with experience both at the club level and with international appearances for Poland.
Torino: Etrit Berisha (Goalkeeper)
The club was horrendous defensively last season as they conceded 69 goals and finished in 17th place and they could be in danger of relegation if their adjustments don’t work. They brought in a new head coach as Ivan Juric comes to the club after spending a couple seasons with Hellas Verona. The club has some talented players but how will the new goalkeeper Etrit Berisha perform as the 32 year old is making the move from SPAL in Serie B and he is expected to be the starter this season with the departure of Salvatore Sirigu. Berisha had 8 clean sheets in 25 games last season and he has experience in Serie A as he has played with Lazio and Atalanta.
Bologna: Takehiro Tomiyasu (Center-back)
The club has plenty of offensive talent this season with Musa Barrow, Marko Arnautovic, Riccardo Orsolini and Roberto Soriano among others leading the way. The player to watch for this club for me though is Japanese superstar defender Takehiro Tomiyasu. The 22 year old is entering his third season with the club and he has been so dynamic in Serie A since joining from Sint-Truiden in Belgium. He already has 23 appearances for Japan internationally and I think he is only just getting started.
Sassuolo: Hamed Junior Traore (attacking midfielder)
An eighth place finish last season was solid for Sassuolo as they really pushed against the top seven of the league with an 17-11-10 record. The transfer of star midfielder Manuel Locatelli to Juventus really hurts the club but they officially added 21 year old Ivory Coast midfielder Hamed Traore from recently promoted club Empoli. Traore had spend the past two seasons with Sassuolo and he was terrific playing in 66 games with 9 goals over that span and I think he is a great young superstar for this club.
Fiorentina: Nicolas Gonzalez (Left winger)
Fiorentina had a nice offseason with a couple key signings defensively as they added center-backs Igor and Matija Nastasic but the big move this summer was adding forward Nicolas Gonzalez from Stuttgart for 25 million. The 23 year old is becoming a regular for the Argentina national team with eight appearances since 2020 and he was big for Stuttgart last season with 6 goals and 2 assists in 15 appearances. Fiorentina struggled to find offense at points last season and they are hoping that Nicolas Gonzalez can add some help.
Lazio: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (midfielder)
Lazio are in a good position entering this season as they are once again title contenders in Serie A with a lot of top end talent. The player to watch this season has to be Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as the 26 year old Serbian is at the peak of his career and he has to be one of the key players this season for them if they hope to dethrone Inter Milan.
Atalanta: Robin Gosens (Left back)
The 2020 Euros was a big event for football fans as it was the biggest international football event since the COVID pandemic and Robin Gosens was one of the standout stars. I’m a major fan of the German national team and I’ve always watched the team and Robin Gosens impressed me a lot with Germany and the 27 year old is finally getting the recognition he deserves after a few solid seasons with Atalanta. Last season he had 11 goals and 8 assists in 32 games for Atalanta.
Roma: Tammy Abraham (Forward)
Roma really benefited from the Romelu Lukaku transfer to Chelsea this summer as the Serie A club were able to acquire Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham at a fair market price of 44 million dollars. The 23 year old would have struggled to find minutes on Chelsea this season and he enters Roma as the new number one forward option. Last season he had 6 goals in 22 premier league games and 1 goal in 5 Champions league appearances.
AC Milan: Fikayo Tomori (Center-back)
The Canadian born and English international defender Fikayo Tomori was acquired for 32 million dollars this summer from Chelsea. The 23 year old appeared in 17 games for AC Milan last season while on loan and the club is looking forward to a full season of Tomori knowing that he is a full time member of the club.
Napoli: Eljif Elmas (midfielder)
Napoli have so much talent upfront with Lorenzo Insigne, Victor Osimhen, Matteo Politano and Hirving Lozano and those four players will be super exciting to watch this season but the player on my radar is Eljif Elmas. The 21 year old North Macedonian midfielder already has 30 appearances for his national team and he played in 33 games for Napoli last season with 2 goals and 1 assist. He could be a superstar in the making for Napoli and I’m excited to see what this season brings for him.
Inter Milan: Nicolo Barella (midfielder)
Barella is just such a fun player to watch as he was terrific with Italy during the Euro tournament and he had 10 assists last season in 36 games for Inter Milan. Given the departure of Romelu Lukaku, Barella will have to be more creative to find openings for his new scoring options. The 24 year old is absolutely world class.
Juventus: Federico Chiesa (right winger)
Chiesa is such a dynamic winger and he has continued to impress during his young career. The 23 year old had 8 goals and 8 assists in 30 Serie A games last season with 4 goals and 1 assist in Champions league play.