Ben Darvill profiles his top five Serie A players turning out for their national sides at the 2018 World Cup and discusses just how much of a difference they can make to their teams.
The World Cup is creeping closer with each passing moment, and with it the excitement builds. Nothing can quite match the moment a World Cup is officially opened, while the first match of the tournament is only topped by the next game.
The tournament itself will see a number of talented players missing out, but the majority of the very best will get minutes in Russia. While everyone knows about the Premier League and La Liga’s exports, Serie A’s world-class talent may go under the radar somewhat. However, if these five players can hit the heights they have threatened, there will be very few people that will need help remembering their names.
Pace, trickery and an eye for goal, what more could you ask for in a winger? Douglas Costa was shipped out from Bayern Munich to Juventus after struggling to really make his mark in the Bundesliga, and the switch has seen him continue his improvement.
Four goals in the league may not sound like the most outrageous total, but he brings an incredible threat out-wide with skills that have adorned more than one YouTube compilation. If the forward can add regular goalscoring to his list of talents then he could be the next big thing. Perhaps the World Cup in Russia is his chance to shine.
A player touted with a move to the Premier League and Liverpool, Alisson is a goalkeeper that seems to get better with every game he plays. The Brazilian was one of the main reasons why Roma were so strong at the back of last season, highlighted by the 17 clean sheets they recorded in the league.
He may have been picking the ball out of the back of the net often against Liverpool in the Champions League, but the score would have been higher if not for him, with his reflexes, decision-making and impressive play with the ball at his feet. If you don’t agree with Alisson being in this list, just remember that he has been keeping Manchester City’s Ederson out of the Brazil team.
Club: Inter Milan
Courted by Manchester United last summer, Ivan Perisic is a marksman on the wing. Not blessed with blistering pace, the Croatian instead utilises trickery when on the ball, intelligent running and, most importantly, accurate passing.
The winger is lethal from dead-ball situations, while his crossing is pinpoint, which explains the nine assists he notched along with 11 goals in the league this season. With both Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic playing in the midfield with Perisic, the three can easily run riot against a side not able to stop them from keeping possession. If he has a standout tournament, expect the rumours about United knocking on his door to resurface.
When you play for the same nation and in a similar position to Eden Hazard, you will likely have to take a backseat quite a lot, after all, the Chelsea man is a supreme talent. However, away from the Blues’ forward, Dries Mertens has been shining.
Napoli’s star man is incredibly quick, has supreme footwork, and is intelligent on and off the ball. Merge this with an insatiable appetite for goal – with 18 goals and six assists in the league – and you have got one of the most exciting players in world football. This World Cup has come at the perfect time for Mertens, and perhaps Russia will be one that he is not a sideshow for Hazard, but he instead features as the main attraction alongside the Chelsea star.
Position: Attacking midfielder
What a talent, what a prospect, what a player. Paulo Dybala has courted clubs including Real Madrid and Barcelona recently and, after watching him for even as little as five minutes, it is easy to see why.
While there are a glut of players in Serie A that score goals, have a book full of tricks, can pick a pass, or can get out of the tightest of spaces, none are as good as Dybala. Juventus’ crown jewel and a man that might one day win a Ballon d’Or, Dybala is Serie A’s best player, and if he brings his A game in Russia, Argentina might finally come good on all their attacking talent and win the World Cup.
Follow Ben on Twitter at @BenjaminDarvill