Cwin Serie A with reheated soup? A common Italian idiom supports this hot soups it never tastes as good as you hope. However, Internazionale and Juventus have been pulling Tupperware containers out of their freezers this summer, looking for recipes that have won them titles before.
The Nerazzurri there was no need to dig far. They finished last season just two points behind Milan and knew exactly which ingredient was left out of the champions dish. Romelu Lukaku was the scorer and leading assistant of “Inter” in the 2020-21 season. It was a sensational coup to secure him back on loan from Chelsea less than 12 months after selling him for €115m.
He received a mixed reception, with Ultras from Curva Nord warning in a written statement that he could no longer be celebrated as the “king” he once was. The frenzied crowd to welcome him disagrees, as do the thousands who shared a video of his coronation outside the San Siro in a viral edit of The Return of the King from The Lord of the Rings.
Will Lukaku crush the enemies of “Inter” for the second time? His season at Chelsea has been hopelessly disappointing, with eight goals in 25 Premier League appearances, but he still returns to a team that contains most of the pieces that allowed him to thrive before.
Inter still have Lukaku up front with Lautaro Martinez and Hakan Calhanoglu and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in midfield alongside Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic. Ivan Perisic and Achraf Hakimi have left the flanks, but Denzel Dumfries starred on the right last season and Robin Goossens has previously shown quality at Atalanta and in Germany.
The biggest difference is the manager. It was Antonio Conte who got the best out of Lukaku two years ago. Simone Inzaghi hasn’t reinvented the wheel since replacing him, but has tried to make Inter more unpredictable by relying less on pre-rehearsed moves.
Lukaku expressed interest in his approach last summer before Chelsea came in with an offer too big to ignore. With reports that either Dumfries or Milan Skriniar could leave to balance the books at the end of this window, Inter may be forced to make another reluctant sale, but for now optimism prevails.
The same may not happen in “Juventus”. Paul Pogba’s return initially ignited fantasies and reminded supporters of a time when his team won titles and played in European finals.
No-one was kidding himself that he would be the one to leave in 2016, but even six frustrating years at Manchester United have had flashes, chances, moments to at least throw you off your feet. Meanwhile, Juventus’ midfield had become a football void, a moving place that would go to die. Adrien Rabiot, the man expected to fill Pogba’s role, had two assists and no goals in 32 appearances last season.
At least the last player was reliably available. After missing 80 games in the last three seasons, will anyone at Juventus be shocked when Pogba picks up a knee injury that will keep him out for at least the first month of the new campaign?
The Bianconeri they made other additions. Ángel Di María will bring experience to the attack, while Gleison Bremer will be a great signing in defence, albeit with big shoes to fill following the departures of Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt. It will be interesting to see how Filip Kostic fares in Serie A after a year after his proposed move to Lazio collapsed amid angry counter-claims over a misspelled email address.
It was Pogba whose arrival should have changed the dynamic of this team the most, not least because of the close relationship he developed with manager Massimiliano Allegri. When they used to work together in Turin, they would stay after practice, challenge each other to shooting contests and basketball games.
Last time, the point difference with “Milan” was 16 and the champions got stronger. Where “Inter” and “Juventus” heat up the old soup Rossoneri returned from the market with something new: 21-year-old Charles De Ketelaere. A 6ft 4in 10 with extensive playing experience, he scored 14 goals for Club Brugge last season and was billed as Belgium’s next big thing.
Divock Origi and Yacine Adli offer further options up front. If 35-year-old Olivier Giroud can’t replicate his goalscoring prowess in all the big games last season, questions remain over who will score, but Milan will feel confident above all else as they retain the core of a young squad. Should continue to improve under Stefano Pioli.
Any other title claims to consider? Napoli finished third in May but have since said goodbye to captain Lorenzo Insigne, deputy Kalidou Koulibaly and fan favorite Dries Mertens.
The mood around the club is toxic with ongoing protests against owner Aurelio De Laurentiis. Napoli continue to be linked with Sassuolo’s Giacomo Raspadori and Verona’s Giovanni Simeone, and new arrival Khvicha Kvaratshelia has impressed in pre-season, but the hole left by Koulibaly in particular will not be easily filled.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is Roma, who have not yet lost the glow of winning the European Cup. About 10,000 fans came to Paulo Dybala’s presentation ceremony, even comedically awful corner Seeing the former Serie A MVP integrated into an attack that already includes Tammy Abraham, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolò Zaniolo could dampen enthusiasm. Andrea Belotti could add more depth.
With Georginio Wijnaldum strengthening the midfield, is it inconceivable that Roma emerge as dark horses for the Scudetto? At least a top four finish should be the goal. For that, they can also compete with Fiorentina, who have made strides to finish seventh under Vincenzo Italiano and are eager to go one step further by getting Luka Jovic back to the player he was.
Lazio and Atalanta have had very poor summers, but they will also be fighting for Europe. Behind them, the likes of Sassuolo, Torino and Verona must try to reinvent themselves without Gianluca Scamacca, Bremer and Simeone respectively (if he leaves, as expected). Bologna are hoping to keep hold of Marko Arnautovic after Manchester United’s interest cooled.
A relegation battle could clearly be on, with the two promoted clubs making interesting moves. Cremonese have snapped up Cyriel Dessers, the 10-goal hero of Feyenoord’s run to the Conference League final, and Venetian David Okereke.
With Matteo Pessina, Stefano Sensi, Andrea Petagna and Gianluca Caprari as well as a new defense with top level experience – Marlon Santos, Andrea Ranocchia and Andrea Carboni – Monza’s moves are still eye-catching. The Biancorossi In 2017, it was in Serie D.
They are owned by Silvio Berlusconi and vice president is Adriano Galliani, a partnership that has led Milan to 29 trophies in 31 years. They can’t afford the same quality ingredients they used to, but the thrill of seeing what they cook remains the same.