What a miserable time to be a football fan. The sport has been brought to a halt (and rightly so) by the fast-spreading coronavirus, and one country which has been affected more than any other in Europe is Italy.
?Serie A supporters were settling in one of the tensest title races in recent memory, with Juventus, Lazio and Inter all in with a shot of winning the scudetto. ?
But with the league suspended until April 3 and the disease continuing to hit the nation hard, that return date seems very optimistic indeed.
But what if the Serie A officials were to end the season right now? Which players would make the cut for the prestigious team of the season? We at 90min have given our verdict.
Wojciech Szcz?sny (GK)
It’s not been a great year for Juve in terms of defensive stability thus far, but
Hans Hateboer (RB)
Hans Hateboer is a key component in Atalanta’s dynamic style of play. Slotting in as a right-wing back in Gian Piero Gasperini’s system, the Dutch defender flies up and down the flank, offering an extra body in the box for his teammates.
It’s not an empty threat, either. Hateboer has dished out three assists in Serie A this season, and he even scored twice in their incredible victory over Valencia in the Champions League.
The defender is slowly and quietly becoming one of the best full-backs in European football.
Francesco Acerbi (CB)
What a year it’s been for Francesco Acerbi. The Italian defender has gone from strength to strength since his move from Sassuolo to Lazio, and he has solidified his place in Roberto Mancini’s national setup with some solid displays for le Aquile.
A calming presence on a previously hapless defence, Acerbi has helped turn Lazio’s rearguard into one of the tightest and most impenetrable in Italy. Mr Consistent. ?
Chris Smalling (CB)
Who would have seen this coming at the start of the season? Chris Smalling was sent on loan to Roma at the start of the year with plenty to prove – and even more critics waiting to laugh at his impending failure.
But there have been no such struggles. Smalling has proved himself to be a strong, confident leader at the heart of I Giallorossi’s defence, and his aggressive, front-foot style of defending has made him the perfect fit for Paulo Fonseca’s attacking system.
The England defender has resurrected his career in Italy, and having deservedly earned the plaudits for his match-winning performances, a call-up to the Three Lions’ setup may not be far off. Bravo, Chris.
Theo Hernandez (LB)
One of the shining lights in another miserable season for ?Milan.
Although the Frenchman can be a tad erratic defensively, he loves bombing forward and chipping in with a goal or two – or five, actually. An exciting prospect with plenty more to offer, Hernandez has made a big impression in his Serie A debut season.
Josip Ilicic (RM)
The best player in the league. By a mile. Josip Ilicic has threatened to become a world class player for some years, but he’s finally demonstrating his gobsmacking capabilities – and on a weekly basis, too.
The Slovenian is so graceful on the ball, gliding past any opponent who dares stand in his way, but he possesses a thunderbolt of a finish to accompany his nimble footwork. And, oh, that left foot. Enough to make Lionel Messi stand up and take note.
It speaks volumes of his pedigree that 15 goals and eight assists don’t even tell the full story of what a brilliant season Ilicic is enjoying for Atalanta. A genuine pleasure to watch.
Radja Nainggolan (CM)
?It’s great to see Radja Nainggolan enjoying his football again. After a difficult year at Inter, Ninja’s career seemed to be on a downward trajectory. And that spiral seemed to be confirmed when he accepted a loan move back to mid-table Cagliari.
But the Belgian midfielder has been back at his devastating best as the captain of his new side, and he guided them through a sensational first few months in Serie A. Five goals and five assists sees Nainggolan slot into our midfield, and his ninja-like skills would be accommodated in any Serie A team.
Luis Alberto (CM)
Luis Alberto is a proper trequartista. Alongside Lucas Leiva and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, the Spanish midfielder has the freedom of the entire Stadio Olimpico – and he certainly makes the most of it.
The 27-year-old has struck up a formidable partnership with Ciro Immobile (more on him later), and he has laid on an unbelievable 13 goals over the course of the campaign. Alberto is not shy in front of goal either, notching four strikes, but it’s his selflessness which makes him a real stand-out player.
?This Lazio side is full of goals, and it’s all down to their midfield magician.
Alejandro Gomez (LM)
We’ve got to squeeze him in somewhere, haven’t we? Atalanta have been the stars of the Serie A season yet again, and they have even transformed their stellar displays onto the European scene. And it’s no surprise that Alejandro Gomez has been at the heart of everything good in Bergamo.
The pint-sized Argentine superstar is the orchestrator for la Dea, and so much of their success depends on how many cylinders their diminutive star is firing on. A typically electric season in terms of goals and assists gives Gomez a place in our side.
Ciro Immobile scores goals. Pass it on.
The Lazio forward is having the season of a lifetime, having bagged 27 goals in 26 matches. That’s more than one goal a game, for those of us who don’t particularly like maths.
The Italian striker has fired le Aquile to the brink of an unprecedented title success, but their hopes of winning their first scudetto since 2000 look to have been dashed. No matter how this campaign ends though, Immobile deserves to be recognised as one of the most ruthless strikers in world football – and a big game player, too.
Lautaro Martinez (ST)
?Martinez is a star in the making. His bullish strength allows him to hold up the ball and bring others into the game with some delicate flicks and excellent link up play, and he can win headers against any strapping defender in the league.
Oh yeah, and he is ridiculously clinical in front of goal – a marksman.
Inter will do very well to hold onto him.
Samir Handanovic (GK) – The giant goalkeeper has been sorely missed in recent weeks for ?Inter, having enjoyed another superb campaign at the top of European football.
Stefan de Vrij (CB) – Despite the talent of Milan Skriniar and Diego Godin surrounding him, De Vrij has been Antonio Conte’s star defender this season.
Robin Gosens (LB) – Another of Atalanta’s key figures this campaign, Robin Gosens has scored an incredible seven goals from full-back, and is an exciting talent to keep an eye on.
Stefano Sensi (CM) – The standout player in the opening months of the season – until injury robbed us (and Inter) of an absolute game-changer.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (CM) – Back to his very best this season. One to watch in the summer transfer window.
Paulo Dybala (RW) – The Argentine star would be a shoo-in for this team if Sarri trusted him more. A tough season in and out of the team for ?Paulo Dybala.
Cristiano Ronaldo (ST) – The Portuguese superstar has to settle for a place on the bench. Harsh, maybe. But his recent run of goals have masked what was a very poor first few months for ?Ronaldo. Still a wonderful option to have, though.