With several big stories in Serie A this summer, we asked James Horncastle to survey the state of Italian football heading into 2016-17.
Pogboom? No, ZZ Top
For the second time this century, Juventus have commanded a world-record transfer fee for one of their players. While it was Zinedine Zidane in 2001, see his fellow Frenchman Paul Pogba in 2016. The transfer deal with Manchester United amounts to €110 million including add-on, but Juve will not receive it in its entirety. As was revealed in their statement announcing Pogba's sale on Tuesday, "the economic effect is positive for about €72.6m, net of solidarity subsidy and auxiliary expenses."
A cause of great speculation is just what has happened to the other €32.4m and how much has ended up in the pocket of Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola. For the latter, the papers in Italy insist as much as €25m. Today's Gazzetta dello Sport also claims United will pay Raiola an additional €10m in commission. We won't get a better idea of Juventus' side of things until their next set of accounts are published.
Make no mistake -- it's still a huge profit on a player they picked up practically for nothing four years ago, but it doesn't look quite as good as expected. In fact, as Marco Iaria has found, the fee Real Madrid paid for Zidane in '01, when adjusted for inflation, is worth €95m in today's money, €89m in profit. Historically speaking, it still remains the best business Juventus have done.
Inter's "I-Kia" catalogue business
On Wednesday morning, Inter trained in Iesi, Roberto Mancini's hometown. That must have been awkward. Dismissed from his head-coaching job at Inter on Monday, less than a fortnight before the beginning of the season, he had a year left on his contract and turned down an extension when it became clear he would have less of a say about who Inter signed and would be entitled to less if Inter decided to part company with him early.
Much intrigue, however, surrounds agent Kia Joorabchian. He is an advisor to Inter's new owners, Suning. He was involved as an intermediary in the deals that took Alex Teixeira, Ramires and Jo to Suning's Chinese Super League club Jiangsu in January. How, you ask, might all this have impacted Mancini? Well, you may recall the circumstances by which Mancini replaced Joorabchian's client, Mark Hughes, at Manchester City and how Mancini fell out with Carlos Tevez, also one of Joorabchian's clients.
It just so happens that Inter's new coach, Frank de Boer, comes represented by Joorabchian too, and interest in midfielder Joao Mario -- hazard a guess at who his agent is? -- has returned since Mancini's departure. When it comes to the interior design of their football clubs, Suning appear to like the "I-Kia" catalogue.
Milan in need of medicine
While Inter's new owners are limited in what they can do in the transfer market by the voluntary agreement the previous regime entered into with UEFA in relation to FFP, Milan's new owners are not. However, the late summer timing and its preliminary status -- the takeover isn't due to be completed until the end of the year -- means, unless things change, we shouldn't expect a spree this window.
Former Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi has sold the club to a Chinese ownership group, which includes a state investment fund, and the new owners have committed to investing €350m into the club over the next three years. For now, a €15m downpayment has been made and another €85m is scheduled to follow 35 days after the signature of the preliminary agreement. Unfortunately, that falls outside the window.
It's been speculated that Milan could still line up a number of big deals and structure them initially as loans with an option to buy next summer. But remember, they got their fingers burned last year spending €90m they expected to recoup from Bee Taechaubol once the takeover he spearheaded was finalised, only for it to collapse. Understandably, they don't want to make the same mistake twice. Instead, Berlusconi has pumped another €15m into the club to help get new manager Vincenzo Montella the midfielder he needs to make his style of football work. It could be Berlusconi's and chief executive Adriano Galliani's final act at Milan.
Berlusconi believes he is leaving the club in the right hands. To pass judgment on that, we'll have to wait. In the short term, however, Milan need reinforcements; otherwise, they risk throwing yet another season away. This should be impressed on the new owners.
Sign Insigne, Sign!
This summer has been a restless one for Napoli. Kalidou Koulibaly, the team's star centre-back, has been agitating for a move amid interest from Chelsea. Gonzalo Higuain, the league's history-making top scorer, has joined their biggest rivals. Now Lorenzo Insigne's nose is out of joint.
Insigne has been after a new deal for a while and it's not hard to see why. The contract he inked two years ago, tying him to the club until 2019, earns him €1.1m a season. That makes him Napoli's 10th-highest-paid player. As with Koulibaly, who takes home €800,000, Insigne is entitled to more, particularly if last season's performances are anything to go by. The winger got into double figures in goals and assists and was the best Italian player to watch in the league.
Meanwhile, Napoli have just given captain Marek Hamsik a pay rise and are willing to pay Inter striker Mauro Icardi more than Higuain. This isn't lost on Insigne, who has symbolic value for the club as well.
"[Napoli owner Aurelio] De Laurentiis has always eulogised Insigne as Napoli's Totti," Insigne's agent, Fabio Andreotti, told Radio CrC, "but we didn't appreciate some of the answers we got in our last meeting. Napoli don't want to sell Lorenzo, but the contract they have offered us isn't to our satisfaction because we have better offers. There are at least three clubs, among whom there are some of the richest in Europe, who want Lorenzo."
Napoli fans are panicking again. A compromise needs to be reached and fast. De Laurentiis might want to rethink his approach. He upset Higuain -- "I couldn't stand to be with him another minute" -- and although it's right not to be held to ransom, an unhappy camp is not good for business on the pitch.
Lazio, Moritz Leitner and a plate of Bresaola
Just when you thought things couldn't get any more ridiculous at Lazio after Marcelo Bielsa resigned last month as manager after just two days in charge, leaving them in the lurch, we get the case of Moritz Leitner and his decision not to join the club from Borussia Dortmund.
While the paperwork on the deal was still being finalised, Leitner trailed his new teammates at Lazio's training ground at Formello. Lunching with them in the canteen one day, he witnessed quite the scene.
At another table, Lazio general secretary Armando Calveri was attempting to persuade owner Claudio Lotito to give in and allow Antonio Candreva to move to Inter. "Come on, president," he said. "They're going to give us more than €20m." At which point, La Repubblica reports that Lotito lost it, and a plate of bresaola and salad Calveri was eating hit the floor and shattered. Silence descended on the canteen. Apparently shocked by what he saw, Leitner called his agent, decided against going through with the move, and is now back at Dortmund.