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Gareth Bale
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Serie A: Not the Season You Were Hoping For…

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There have been plenty of highs in this Serie A season, scintillating drama and breath-taking action, nowhere more so than in Naples, where I Partenopei won a first Scudetto since 1990.

Some players have had stunning campaigns, Napoli’s Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has burst onto the scene and has even been likened to the great Diego Maradona, and his team-mate Victor Osimhen is in target to win the Capocannoniere. Elsewhere, Rafael Leao has impressed again at AC Milan while Ademola Lookman has opened a few eyes with his performances at Atalanta.

But for every player who has enjoyed a fruitful campaign there is another who would love it to start all over again with a clean slate. So let’s take a look at SBOTOP’s selection of five high profile stars who hoped for better when the season kicked off last August.  

Two underwhelming returns 

Romelu Lukaku levels the scoreline with Napoli in Serie A
Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their first goal vs Napoli

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku both returned to the Italian top flight but neither really put in their fair share of Serie A 2023 highlights. Pogba came back to Juventus, six years after leaving for Manchester United for an eye-watering fee of 115m Euros. He never played consistently well at Old Trafford and so he headed back to Turin and signed a four year contract. But a knee injury kept him out until after the World Cup and he made a belated appearance, as a substitute in the 4-2 win over Torino in February. Pogba was dropped from the squad by Max Allegri for disciplinary reasons; apparently for turning up late to a team dinner and has, up to now, played six games.

Romelu Lukaku has been busier on his return to Inter Milan, making 23 appearances but he hasn’t really recaptured the form he showed during I Nerazzurri’s Scudetto winning campaign of 2021. He’s scored nine goals but has been overshadowed by his strike partner Lautaro Martinez, who has bagged 20 goals, 11 more than Lukaku. 37 year old Edin Dzeko has often been preferred to the Belgian and he too has scored nine. Not a disaster but a slightly underwhelming season for Lukaku.     

A loan which went wrong

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Harry Winks joined Sampdoria on loan for the 2022/23 season with an option of making the move permanent. The England International, now 27, is moving into the prime of his career but he hasn’t had the campaign he hoped for when he headed for sunnier climes. Winks has made 19 appearances without scoring a goal and La Samp have been relegated, stranded on 18 points. He was one of Spurs’ brightest prospects not so long ago and now he faces a decision whether to drop to Serie B (if Sampdoria want to pay his wages) or try his luck back at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

As a cultured defensive midfielder Winks is marketable, but he’s stood still this year.        

La Liga
Real Valladolid CF
1X2 Real Valladolid @ 3.70
Barcelona Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 2.00
Over 3.00 @ 2.16
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

And two hot shots a little off target  

Lazio have had a great season, second behind Napoli and with Champions League football already guaranteed but it hasn’t been such a spectacular campaign for the normally prolific Ciro Immobile. He is Lazio’s all time top scorer and has won a record four Capocannonieres, including one last year when he scored 27 goals in 31 games.

But this season he’s blown a little hot and cold, managing 12 goals and three assists and he has not been so far adrift from the league’s top scorer for a long time. No matter for Lazio, midfield recruit Mattia Zaccagagni has weighed in with 12 goals and I Biancoceleste have shown they can do the business even when Super Ciro is not quite on his game.     

And back in Turin Juventus hot shot Dusan Vlahovic has managed just ten goals this season. Again, it’s not a total washout but I Bianconeri may have hoped for more when they shelled out 70m Euros for the 23 year old Serb in January 2022. He had a one in two ratio as a young striker with Fiorentina and, with the better service he gets at Juventus he would hope for a bigger return.

But it’s been a difficult season for the Old Lady who suffered a 15 point deduction due to financial irregularities at the turn of the year. The penalty was recently overturned and the Serie A 2023 betting odds backed Juve for a top four place. But the club has been hit by a new 10 point deduction by an Italian court investigating their transfer dealings.

The latest development has dropped I Bianconeri from second place down to seventh and now Champions League football is off the agenda again. The decision was announced minutes before Juve faced Empoli, on Monday night, a game they lost 4-1 and, in addition to Vlahovic and Pogba there are few more unhappy players at the Juventus Stadium.         




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