Having already clinched the Serie A title and Coppa Italia, it’s been a big season for Juventus. It could get even bigger if they beat Barcelona in the Champions League final. The best team in Italy by a long shot, the Old Lady has already re-staked her claim to continental greatness just by making it into the final against Barça. Should they actually pull off a win, it might force fans and pundits alike to have a serious rethink about Serie A and Italian football in general.
Although the problem for Serie A currently is that Juve are establishing Bayern Munich-like dominance over the rest of the league. A full 16 points ahead of Roma in the standings, no one has come that close to challenging the Turin outfit for the past couple seasons. Looking ahead to next season, let’s run down a few of the teams who might be capable of wresting the Scudetto from Juve’s grip.
We’ve been hearing that Roma are Juve’s most legitimate challengers for the past couple seasons now. Unfortunately, this season as last, the Giallorossi have proved incapable of sustaining a title challenge over the course of an entire campaign. While they got off to a strong start as they did last season, Rudi Garcia’s team seems to have run out of steam somewhere around the turn of the year.
After winning 11 of their first 16 Serie A matches prior to the winter break, Roma went on to draw 10 of their next 16. Of those draws, seven were 1-1 and two were scoreless. A lack of goals has become a big issue for this Roma team. With Francesco Totti not getting any younger and without a single player who’s broken into double-digits in scoring this season, the capital club are in need of a prolific striker if they are to come anywhere near Juve next season. That, and they must keep hold of midfielder Radja Nainggolan who is rumored to be a transfer target for Manchester United and Liverpool.
Napoli are another team we’ve been hearing could challenge for the title for a number of years now, without much actually happening to support that. Although the Neapolitan outfit is undoubtedly one of the better sides in Italy, it hasn’t mounted anything like a sustained title challenge in recent seasons. Currently sitting fourth, Napoli still maintains a slight chance of making it into the Champions League next season.
This could be a factor in being able to attract players, and possibly a new manager, capable of taking the club to the next level. With a pair of ex-Real Madrid players up top in Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon, Napoli are well appointed in the striker department. However with manager Rafa Benitez considered a strong possibility to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, Napoli may need a manager. And if Benitez does indeed leave, it may also prove difficult to hold on to top stars like Higuain, Callejon and Marek Hamsik.
It seems absurd to put AC Milan on this list based on the evidence of the past two seasons. But this is AC Milan we are talking about, a club that one must never entirely count out. The Rossoneri success or failure next season hinges upon the ability of club president, Silvio Berlusconi to attract investment in the team. Recently, it was reported that the former Italian Prime Minister was on the verge of a deal with Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol amidst plans to lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlo Ancelotti back to the club.
That deal has yet to come off although, Milan’s general manager Adriano Galliani insists the club are set to make a splash in the transfer market this summer. If Milan can find the money to attract a manager of Ancelotti’s stature and a player like Ibra, a return to the top wouldn’t be out of the question. Even with the clubs’ current crop of players, Milan should be a better side than their current mid-table position suggests. But significant investment is essential if Milan are serious about returning to the top.
The rebuilding project is already well underway at Milan’s city rivals, Internazionale. Although the return of manager Roberto Mancini to the club has yet to spark a return to the top, the former Manchester City manager has presided over improved results. He’s also made a number of eye-catching additions to the team like Xherdan Shaqiri and Lukas Podolski. Currently rumors continue to swirl about Yaya Toure potentially joining his former manager at the club. If Inter can continue to attract top talent like Toure, and see off reported interest in leading scorer Mauro Icardi from the likes of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, the Nerrazzuri could potentially mount a title challenge next season.