Serie A has almost reached its business end and Inter Milan have been crowned the champions of Italy in an unprecedented and much entertaining season. The storyline didn’t align with what the Italian fans are used to, which made it even more interesting. Although the pandemic didn’t allow fans to come into stadiums, it couldn’t stop them from backing their favourite Serie A team in the challenging times.
Inter secured their 19th title swiftly, with a 10-point margin in a story that the Nerazzurri fans will cherish for years to come. It was their first title since 2010 when they won the historic treble, which ended arch-rivals Juventus 9-year streak.
It was a riveting season of Serie A that saw some of the most brilliant individual and team performances that kept us on the edge of our seats. A perfect mixture of youth and experience was on show during the course with seasoned players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Ciro Immobile and Henrikh Mkhitaryan making their presence felt among a set of new Serie A icons like Lautaro Martinez, Matthijs de Ligt and Federico Chiesa.
Many new transfers became instant fan favourites with their impacting performances which improved the clubs thoroughly. Incoming players such as Nicolo Barella, Achraf Hakimi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were some of the best signings for Serie A clubs.
As the teams start evaluating their performances in order to prepare for a better upcoming season, we, at FootTheBall, bring you the Serie A Team Of The Season 20/21.
SAMIR HANDANOVIC – Inter Milan
The veteran Slovenian shot-stopper gave a testament of his ability as he drove the Nerazzurri to glory saving everything that came in the way. He has kept 14 clean sheets from 37 appearances and leads the chart in that respect. Stopping 72.7% of the shots he faced, the Inter Milan number one conceded only 34 goals all season, the fewest in the league.
The 36-year old made his 500th Serie A appearance in his ninth season with Inter. He broke the record for most penalties saved in Serie A history with his 25th from Zlatan Ibrahimovic against AC Milan.
500 – Samir #Handanovic will play his 500th #SerieA game tonight, becoming the 15th player to reach this milestone and only the second foreign player, after Javier #Zanetti. Huge.#InterLazio pic.twitter.com/5wiwterVsy
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) February 14, 2021
Standing at 6’4”, Handanovic has a large stature and an imposing physique which make him effective at handling crosses and keeping strikers at bay in the box. Despite a tall body frame, the Slovenian is an extremely agile and athletic goalkeeper whose most important trait, in fact, are his reflexes. He is known for making acrobatic saves and his top-notch positioning sense apart from his leadership and organisational abilities.
JUAN CUADRADO – Juventus
The Colombian has been a silver lining in Juventus’ otherwise poor season, making 10 assists from the right-back position. His recent brace against Inter to secure a win made sure Pirlo’s men are still in the race for top-four.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 26, 2021
Originally a right midfielder or a right winger, the 32-year old has transformed into an attacking full-back during his time at Juventus to use his pace and crossing skills in a more fruitful manner. Cuadrado is a work horse who can run up and down the pitch with his speed helping him in creating both attacking and defensive transitions without any trouble.
His crossing ability has come handy for the Bianconeri with players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata in the middle to head them in. His performance will be crucial in the Coppa Italia final for Juventus which is the last hope for a silverware this season.
MILAN SKRINIAR – Inter Milan
The 26-year old Slovakian has been at the heart of Inter’s defensive structure that conceded the fewest goals while keeping the most clean sheets in the league. Alongside Dutch defender Stefan De Vrij and Italian youngster Alessandro Bastoni, he was part of a formidable trio for Conte’s backline.
Skriniar is widely regarded as one of the best centre-halves in the world right now and many top clubs are chasing him. He is best known for his accurate tackling and positional sense. His ability in the air, and in one on one situations is second to none.
Ever since his €20 million transfer from Sampdoria, the 6’2” defender has been a key figure at Inter as he solved a long standing problem of the inability to build from the back and losing possession in the defensive third. Skriniar is so good with the ball, whether its his passing or carrying the ball forward himself, that he can even play as a defensive midfielder when needed.
CRISTIAN ROMERO – Atalanta
Cristian Romero has played in the middle of a back three for Atalanta, leading the backline to 11 clean sheets in 37 games. Currently on loan from Juventus, the Argentine leads the charts in the number of tackles as well as pressures made per 90 among defenders while making the most interceptions in Europe. His leadership and defending has been pivotal for Atalanta as they secured the second position.
🥇 Atalanta's Cristian Romero is the top rated centre-back in both Serie A (7.17) and the Champions League (7.67) this season
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 13, 2021
The 23-year old is an old-school centre-back who’s game is based on one principle, to prevent the opponent from scoring. He tackles hard, reads the game quickly to intercept any opposition attack and pressurises on loose touches. He is a no-nonsense defender who prefers to clear the ball away from danger at the first opportunity, which helps Atalanta build quick counters as well.
THEO HERNANDEZ – AC Milan
The French full-back has been a crucial figure for the Rossoneri as they look close to qualifying for the Champions League after seven years. Currently fourth in the league, Milan scored 72 goals this season with Theo being involved in a sixth of them with seven goals and five assists for his team in the Serie A.
— Theo Hernandez (@TheoHernandez) May 12, 2021
The 23-year old likes to carry the ball forward and create goalscoring opportunities for himself as well as teammates in the final third. The former Real Madrid man is a prolific dribbler and has the highest dribble success rate amongst full backs in Europe.
A proper modern day full-back whose primary contribution lies in the attacking half, but can also tackle and win aerial duels when needed defensively. Theo is one of the most in-demand left backs in the world.
MANUEL LOCATELLI – SASSUOLO
The young Italian has been emerging as one of the best deep-lying central midfielders who can progress the game, create chances, control the tempo and win back possession in the middle of the pitch. A complete package in the midfield, the 23-year old has played an important part in Sassuolo’s possession based football.
A midfield engine, Manuel Locatelli ranks top five in both passing as well as tackling stats in this year’s Serie A. In fact, he ranks higher than the likes of Toni Kroos and Paul Pogba in terms of touches and passes per 90 in domestic leagues.
Manuel Locatelli has made more accurate passes (1670) than any other player in Serie A this season pic.twitter.com/uQiGeDkBgH
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 10, 2021
Locatelli possesses all the traits of an ideal number eight — a good vision, wide range of passes, dribbling, long range shooting and the ability to win the ball back with his top-notch game reading and tackling.
MARCELO BROZOVIC – Inter Milan
The Croatian has been at the heart of Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 setup with most of the plays going through him. In his sixth season, Brozovic has finally won his first trophy with the Nerazzurri and was an essential part of it too. The 28-year old has evolved into one of the best central midfielders under Conte since last season, as the Serie A champion team showed signs of progress.
Brozovic has the second most completed passes by a midfielder, second to only Locatelli, with a completion rate of 88%. His contribution to the team goes beyond goals and assists as he acts as the powerhouse of the team.
🎯 Best cross accuracy in Europe's top five leagues this season (50+ attempted):
🥇 Marcelo Brozovic – 39.2%
🥈 Kalvin Phillips – 37.1%
🥉 Gonzalo Castro – 36.5% pic.twitter.com/3dVKikpOWU
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 2, 2021
From defence to attack, his work-rate, energy and stamina allow him to be present wherever the team needs him, be it linking up with Skriniar in the defensive third or supporting Lukaku and Martinez up front.
RODRIGO DE PAUL – Udinese
Despite Udinese having a usual below average, currently 12th in the league, Rodrigo De Paul’s growth has been a plus for them. Having contributed to 18 of Udinese’s total 41 goals scored this season, the Argentine has undoubtedly been their best player. He has the third most number of assists and the highest number of key passes in the league this season.
18 – Rodrigo de Paul has been directly involved in 18 league goals this term (9 goals, 9 assists): his record in a single Italian top-flight campaign. Leader.#SerieATIM #napoliudinese pic.twitter.com/YQe1aZdp0c
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) May 11, 2021
Being a pacy dribbler, he likes to carry the ball forward and beat defenders with his quick feet. He has drawn the second most number of fouls as a result. He has the second most progressive passes in the league, only behind Lazio’s Luis Alberto
The 26-year old has outshined the struggling Udinese and might be on his way out as the summer transfer window approaches. He has a lot to offer on the offensive side with his acute passing, chance creation and dribbling ability.
RUSLEN MALINOVSKYI – Atalanta
The Ukrainian has been one of Atalanta’s best acquisition in their bid to win their first ever Scudetto. He leads the assists charts of this year’s Serie A with 12 assists while also scoring eight goals despite playing lesser minutes than any of his competitors, averaging around 50 minutes per appearance.
The 28-year old is surely one for the aesthetics, a left-footed at that. His work-rate is often criticised and is one of the reason he lacks minutes in Gasperini’s high-pressing system, but when on the ball, there are only a few better than him at creating goal-scoring opportunities. Apart from creating, the Ukrainian is capable of scoring all sorts of goals too, specially long range screamers.
His vision and the ability to convert ideas into accurate passes and through balls make him a special player. Despite being limited to an impact substitute for La Dea he could jump into the starting 11 of many top European clubs.
ROMELU LUKAKU – Inter Milan
One of the most complete forwards of his generation, the Belgian has quite rightly shut his critics up by showing what he’s capable of ever since his move to Italy in 2019. Big Rom is behind Cristiano in the goal tally with 23 goals but has shown another aspect of his game this season, raking up 11 assists in the league.
11 – Romelu #Lukaku has delivered 11 league assists this season, equalling Maicon (11 in 2009/10) as the Inter player with the most assists in a single Serie A season since Opta started to collect this data (2004/05). Generous.#InterRoma #SerieA
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) May 12, 2021
Often criticised for his first-touch and ball control, Lukaku under Conte has turned into a beast of a player who’s weaknesses are beautifully covered by tactical methods.
The 28-year old is used as a target-man in the attacking half as Inter uses quick attacking transitions to stun opponents. His hold-up play is supported by the likes of Brozovic, Hakimi and Nicolo Barella, who make sure the possession is secured and free-up spaces for Lukaku to pounce upon. His finishing was never a matter of doubt and he has proven his class time and again.
CRISTIANO RONALDO – JUVENTUS
Often regarded as the greatest player in the world, Cristiano has surely done enough to make it to our Serie A team of the season. Leading Serie A’s golden boot race with 29 goals, at the age of 36, he surely is giving his best in the unsuccessful campaign for the Bianconeri.
The Portuguese is world renowned for his goalscoring ability from either foot and his head as well. He has evolved his game with his growing age from an outright winger to a more central position and plays as a striker for Andrea Pirlo’s team alongside Kulusevski, Dybala or Morata in the Serie A.
Apart from goalscoring, the 36-year old’s major trait this season has been his ball carrying ability, with him making the second most progressive carries among strikers, just behind Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne. Although there are rumours that Cristiano might be on his way out this summer, he has shown that he is still capable of providing goals at the top level.
THE SERIE A TEAM OF THE SEASON
Formation: 4-4-2 (diamond)
Juan Cuadrado, Milan Skriniar, Cristian Romero, Theo Hernandez;
Marcelo Brozovic, Manuel Locatelli, Ruslen Malinovsyi, Rodrigo De Paul;
Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo
Honourable Mentions – Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Stefan De Vrij, Nicolo Barella, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Lorenzo Insigne, Luis Muriel